Asif J Khawaja, a Founding Member of ARUP (Association of Road Users of Pakistan) is a retired naval officer from Pakistan Navy having Masters in Management and a very long administrative and organizational experience. He has been teaching as a supervising director or instructor at Training Directorate at NHQ, Tactical School and Staff College for ten years. Since 1995 he has participated in many environment-related courses, workshops and seminars. Joined international environment related associations of Australia & USA. Organized Pakistan’s first road sector association named ARUP. In just two years he organized and established offices in ten cities of Pakistan and after series of activities the association is now being recognized by government agencies and financial institutions as a true representative body of road users of Pakistan having websites: www.pakroadusers.com and www.pakroadusers.org. Following are the excerpts from his exclusive interview with MOBILE WORLD.
MOBILE WORLD: Would you like to tell about your fields of interest after leaving Pakistan Navy?
ASIF J. KHAWAJA: In 1995 I opted for retirement from Pakistan Navy service. At that time environment was an important subject and I started to work on the same and established the first center for information on environment in Pakistan. Its one branch was working in Karachi and the other in Islamabad. We collected information from world over on this subject. For a long time ‘Environment’ was a mere lip service in Pakistan. In this regard we also started work on occupational health. At the same time “Association of Road Users of Pakistan” was established, and I joined it as founder member. The provision of data on any subject in our country is a very difficult task. We don’t have exact statistics about our roads, vehicles on road and other related things. In this regard when I saw “MOBILE WORLD” magazine I came to know that you were doing very well in this direction and we could have benefited from the statistics that you have published.
MW: Do you find any difference between marine traffic and the road traffic culture?
AJK: When I was in navy service we were regularly reading a book ‘Rules of the road’ which was about the roads and routes in the open seas, how to give and get ways in the sea traffic. But after entering into the civil life I came to know that there were a very few rules about road traffic on the land and moreover that there were much lesser efforts to teach about those rules of the roads. This has resulted in lack of implementation of such rules in daily life of the citizens. This state of affairs compelled me to seriously work for implementation of rules on these lines. Main purpose of such rules is always ‘safety’ making sure that you may travel from one place to other very safely and in time, whether it is road, rail, air or sea.
MW: How do you see the environmental situation in the country and what was the ratio of success for you?
AJK: The ratio of my success in the field of environment was that I had collected all related information from world over and communicated to our people but the pace of implementation on those vital subjects was very slow. Therefore due to various reasons later all the information, books, magazines and related data that I had collected, was donated by me to the EPA’s Green Library and the NUST Institute of Environmental Sciences. Though environment is still my subject of interest and I am working with various institutions but in our country this sector is still not working up to the mark. Awareness to general public on environment is still mostly missing.
MW: What were the main reasons for this failure?
AJK: Reason is that we have set very huge targets, for example sometime back there was a debate that shall we install incinerators or not? What are their health effects? The question of health effect rises when you have installed the incinerators. During briefing and introduction phase about installation of such incinerators we told the people that there were five different types of incinerator in the world; choice is ours that what type of product we want to buy. We were not selling the equipment but providing the services to help them to reach on correct decision. But at this stage a lobby was created which started highlighting the negative effects of incinerators. Yes, there are some negative effects of incinerator but the damage of its non-existence is much more than those effects. In a country like ours more than half of the hospital waste is being recycled and sold in open market. This is definitely more damaging to our health and environment compared to those gases being generated through burning of plastic waste. But the creation of two different and parallel lobbies made a bad impact and the people interested in that subject were disheartened. In addition to this most of our government circles are always interested to enlarge any project while in my opinion it was better that initially one incinerator in each province should be installed and after the success of this experiment we should go ahead. But our bureaucrats were stressing for not less than 200 pieces to begin. Such mega projects do not succeed without any ground or any base.
MW: What would you suggest for getting a neat and clean environment?
AJK: To get a success in any sector, especially for the betterment of our environment first of all we should change our habits. we should change our habits within and outside our homes, on streets, roads and city and then on country level. We can’t have a clean country without cleaning our homes and streets.
MW: What are the main objectives of ARUP?
AJK: With reference to ARUP our main priorities are to collect data and bring safety to our roads. For example our policeman in uniform exercises his authority to book any driver for a violation but he does not teach people what are the rules. Therefore, to make our roads safe and to educate people about rules is the first and foremost task for ARUP. In this regard we are working with Motorway Police and a large number of brochures, leaflets and other guiding material has been published and distributed by us. There is a need that other departments related with traffic and safety should also teach the people about basic rules and regulations. Along with this exercise we have also started printing of maps to tell people about location of various places and roads where they were going. Normally our national roads are silent about their directions and locations. These roads must talk to drivers by telling them from where they were coming and how to go to other places.
MW: What is the impact of these efforts?
AJK: Trend is changing and in my opinion we have started our journey with ten to twenty percent change visible while eighty percent job is yet to be done in this regard. Problems are enormous but incidentally solution is very simple. We need only two things; first is the “Will,” from top to bottom, as a nation we should decide that we have to make our traveling safe. And the other is to change our “Attitude”; if we will decide to change our attitude, things would automatically start getting resolved. Without these two changes; occupational health, environment and safety could not improve.
MW: Are you satisfied with the results, what happened to Varan Bus Service?
AJK: In this regard I am satisfied but not relaxed. People have started listening to us, and this is being taken as a subject. Now people have realized that “Traffic Safety” is a subject. Our universities are teaching this as a subject in their faculties, but the pace is little slow. Failure of ‘Varan Bus Service’ in twin cities of Islamabad and Rawalpindi was an example of lacking in will and attitude. It was done with proper planning by some vicious circles. Now people have realized that it was a good service, because wagon culture has returned. Traffic in these two cities is gravely mismanaged but we don’t take lesson from countries like Malaysia, Singapore and other neighboring countries that were successfully developing their own systems. We areworking at various levels to develop a better workable “our own Pakisatani” system of public transport. Let us see what happens.
MW: Do you think that a separate Transport Ministry is essential to sort out big problems?
AJK: There is a need to establish a separate transport ministry in the govt. that should look after the roads, its maintenance and centralize the whole system including road users facilities and the transport. Presently, each road is being handled by five different departments owner of the road is one department, traffic lights are installed by other, traffic equipments belong to another, operation is being run by someone else and finally it is being ruled by a traffic officer. Vehicle production is a subject of Ministry of Industries and Production, which is interested to expand growth of vehicles in the country. They don’t work for improving condition of the roads, traffic problems and environmental hazards. Until these issues are brought under one umbrella a real solution is impossible.
MW: How do you see the role of Insurance Companies in the country?
AJK: Defective Insurance system in the country has been a major topic in our discussions, for which our insurance companies are equally responsible. A vehicle worth millions of rupees is supported by mere fake insurance document of those companies, which mostly dont exist, just to fulfill a legal requirement. But this is not a true or genuine insurance. In this regard there is a need to bring awareness among people that having a true insurance is beneficial to them. Although they have to bear some initial cost but in the long run there is a great benefit. Govt. should take responsibility to end the menace of fake insurance documents. Insurance companies should also bring their data in public. There are lots of complaints against their attitude and mismanagement.
MW: Do you think we are a frustrated nation?
AJK: In my opinion the main reason for our frustration is that we have lost the habit of dreaming, any good work starts from good dreams. Allama IQBAL had a dream of Pakistan that was fulfilled by Quaid-e-Azam. We often quote that Quaid had said unity, faith and discipline, which is not correct. It was faith, unity and discipline. Without faith you can’t have unity and neither discipline. We have changed the sequence that made our targets difficult. And without dreaming you can’t get anything. For example ten years back nobody was able to think about reaching Islamabad from Lahore within three hours only. This was a dream of someone and later it was executed. It was a dream that made Karakorum Highway, it was a dream that made Motorway We don’t have any dream. For that purpose we must come back to have Faith, Unity and Discipline. Serious efforts are needed to inculcate discipline in the nation through Civic sense and Road Sense. Road sense is a part and parcel of civic sense and not vice versa.
MW: Is there any proper system for training the drivers of heavy and light commercial vehicles in the country?
AJK: We are contiously increasing the number of vehicles and motorcycles every year but we don’t have trained drivers for these vehicles. And in the whole country we don’t have even a single proper driving school. When we do not provide the driving learning facilities then why we should blame our licensing system. Ultimately that system would be running on the bases of request, resources or with the backing of money. Driving is not meant for moving a vehicle; this requires knowing the sense of road, knowledge of traffic rules, vehicle problems and driving emergencies. But without caring such necessities we hand over the steering of a vehicle to our brother, son, friend or a neighbor and say now you are a driver; go and get license. It results in more and more fatal accidents. Therefore, my urge is to create awareness among all circles of society. It took us three years to convince govt. that in case of any accident rescuing the person should be top priority instead of insisting on FIR. In developed countries “Save the witness” is a prime rule but we had a law that first to record FIR. Doctors say that initial forty minutes are most vital for rescuing any injured but in our society FIR takes not less than two hours if you know the whereabouts of the concerned police station. But now the law is changed through National Assembly in the regime of Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain. Now the law is that in case of any accident each citizen and doctor is responsible to save life of the injured without any discrimination.
-Published on pages#-34-35-36 September-2005 issue of MOBILE WORLD Magazine