RAWALPINDI, June 29: The long forgotten Leh Expressway project has come to life again, it has been learnt.
The multi-billion project approved in the regime of former President Gen (retired) Pervez Musharraf that was abandoned by PML-N government in 2008 reappeared out of the blue as Punjab government allocated Rs250 million in the annual development programme (ADP) for it.
According to sources, the provincial government estimated the cost of the project at about Rs5, 000 million without preparing any feasibility report and allocated the nominal amount to what engineers feared could only be a political stunt as the allocated amount was too small to start work on it.
The project that was earlier named as Sheikh Rashid Expressway had been approved by Executive Committee of National Economic Council (Ecnec) carrying a cost of Rs18 billion until PML-N regime shelved it.
Commissioner Rawalpindi Imdadullah Bosal has called a meeting of experts of Rawalpindi Development Authority (RDA), Frontier Works Organisation (FWO) and the state-run Nespak on Friday to discuss strategy in this regard.
Official sources said the provincial government had put the estimated cost at Rs5 billion as projects bearing cost beyond that amount needed approval of federal government adding that the completion of the project seemed a distant dream.
According to the initial feasibility report prepared in 2007, the 11-km long project on both sides of the natural drain, starting from Ammar Chowk to Katarian Bridge near I. J. Principal Road, needed two years for completion.
“The Punjab government has allocated Rs250 million for the project. Engineers from some government departments will meet at commissioner’s office for evolving strategy for the project,” Director General RDA Chaudhary Naseer Ahmed who is also civil engineer told Dawn on Thursday.
It is to mention here that earlier provincial government had to pay Rs212 million to FWO as mobilisation cost before the project was abandoned, officially.
Insiders told Dawn that MNA Shakil Awan during his recent meeting with PML-N chief Nawaz Sharif had requested restarting work on the project, who, according to sources, directed Punjab government to allocate some funds for the expressway project.
“The project will really have changed the look of Rawalpindi but now the time is over. I wish the project were completed and continued by the incumbent provincial regime.
“It is election year and the politicians just want to score political points by dumping machinery on the site,” a senior bridge expert at Nespak told Dawn seeking anonymity.
Another official said it would be impossible to start work on the project at a time when Leh Nullah could overflow with rain water during the approaching monsoon. He said that after the construction of flyover at Chandni Chowk, the provincial government should continue building similar projects on Benazir Bhutto Road that would resolve the traffic issue permanently.
MNA Shakil Awan was not available for comments over the development.