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MURREE: The provincial authorities have stopped a construction company from widening the Murree-Kohala Road.

According to sources, Habib Construction Company was assigned the job to renovate the 23 km portion of the road from Lower Topa to Dewal, the native village of Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi. But the company has stopped work following directives from the Punjab Communication and Works Department.

The Islamabad-Murree-Kashmir Highway connecting Islamabad and Punjab with Azad Jammu and Kashmir (AJK) caters to heavy traffic of tourists, locals and people commuting between Punjab and AJK. The road has not been repaired for about 28 years. The sources said the highway was being widened to 36ft. According to the work plan, the construction company was also to eliminate blind sharp bends which were causing accidents.

“The authorities have stopped us from widening the road as per the work order,” a source in the company told Dawn.

Shakeel Abbasi, a local resident, said the authorities were using delaying tactics in rehabilitating the road.

The local residents had recently demanded that those whose land was being used for the project should be paid compensation. According to rules, Mr Abbasi said, the government is bound to compensate the owners of land affected by the widening of the road.

During the construction of Islamabad-Lower Topa Expressway, hefty amounts were given to the affected people, he said. The authorities should announce compensation for the affected land owners, he added.

Sorab Abbasi, another resident, said the authorities remained silent while illegal construction continued alongside the road. According to the law any type of construction is banned along both sides of the highway. When contacted, Executive Engineer Murree Saad Sadiq said so far only Rs100 million had been transferred to his department out of the total allocated Rs1.08 billion and the department had paid Rs100 million to the construction company.

The company has already carried out work worth more than the amount it has received.

He said it was expected that more funds would be transferred to the department so that the work would be restarted.

Mr Sadiq said when the road was first constructed some 30 years ago it was 18 to 20ft wide.

Published in Dawn, April 17th, 2018