KARACHI: Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif on Wednesday laid the foundation stone of a motorway between Karachi and Lahore which will be completed in four phases.

The first phase that comprises the construction of a 139-km-long six-lane motorway between Karachi and Hyderabad replacing the Superhighway will be completed in 30 months at a cost of Rs36 billion.

The second phase of the M-9 project will link Hyderabad and Sukkur and the third phase will reduce travel time between Sukkur and Multan, while the last phase of the project will bring Multan and Lahore closer.

At the foundation stone laying ceremony held near Nooriabad, an accord was signed for the construction of the M-9 project between the National Highway Authority and the Frontiers Works Organisation in the presence of Sindh Governor Dr Ishratul Ibad, Chief Minister Syed Qaim Ali Shah, NHA chairman Shahid Ashraf Tarar, FWO director general Maj Gen Mohammad Afzal and other high-ranking officials concerned.

Highlighting the importance of the project, the prime minister said the motorway would prove a milestone in the progress of Pakistan. He said a network of motorways across the country would reduce travel time between provinces, facilitating trade and interaction between the people.

Along with the construction of Karachi-Hyderabad phase, work on the 42-km-long Malir Expressway would begin, linking it to the motorway, Mr Sharif said, expressing the hope that it would facilitate swift cargo transportation.

The prime minister said resources were being arranged to start the construction of its second phase from Hyderabad to Sukkur. He said the motorway between Sukkur and Multan would be completed under the Pakistan-China economic corridor. The FWO would build the motorway between Multan and Lahore, he added.

Lauding the FWO services for the construction of highways, he said that a number of people were killed during the construction of highways in Balochistan but despite all the hardships the FWO completed the projects on time.

He said Pakistan would complete projects with its own resources and the day was not far when it would be among the developed countries of the world.

Mr Sharif said besides the Karachi-Lahore motorway, there was a plan for the construction of a motorway from Khunjerab to Gwadar and from Peshawar to Kabul that could link central Asian countries through motorways.

He said the secret of progress was availability of modern infrastructure facilities in the developed countries. “We also had started construction of motorway in 1991 and it was built from Peshawar to Islamabad and from Islamabad to Lahore. What happened in 1997 is no more a secret, everyone is aware that after the removal of our government all these projects were abandoned.”

The prime minister said the country could not make progress because of the obstacles created in the way of democracy. “We have to learn a lesson from our past mistakes. We have to reform ourselves,” he said.

He said Afghan President Ashraf Ghani had given his consent to the government plan of the Peshawar-Kabul motorway. He said the project would benefit three billion people living in the central Asian region.

Expressing gratitude to the prime minister for launching the motorway project, Chief Minister Syed Qaim Ali Shah said economic activities would increase and number of accidents between Karachi and Hyderabad would be reduced with the completion of the first phase of the motorway.

The prime minister promised that the federal government would extend every possible help to the Sindh chief minister in setting up industrial zones in the province.

FWO Director General Maj Gen Mohammad Afzal said the M-9 motorway would have six lanes with service lanes along it while two trauma centres would also be built along the motorway. He said the project would be completed with the cooperation of local banks and the loan would be repaid through the income of toll plaza.

Published in Dawn, March 12th, 2015

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