IT seems a penchant to surround all our highways with shops and buildings is embedded in our DNA. Pakistan is continually fighting its development wars and infrastructural development is one of the most important wars amongst those, as more roads and highways are being built to improve connectivity.
After development come the shylocks whose actions threaten to undo all the gains of development. To frame the issue in correct perspective, the National Highway Authority is supposed to be the custodian of right of way for national highways. One marvels how it could allow business projects like supermarkets and schools bang on Grand Trunk road without getting an impact analysis of the traffic rush in the absence of adequate parking arrangements.
We may be one of the few nations in the world that allow their national highways to be choked by such greedy businessmen who use contacts and unfair means to get NOCs from departments and regulating agencies that collude with them to choke the highways.
In Islamabad it is the Capital Development Authority that is supposed to issue an NOC for such ventures and logically it should not issue an NOC without ascertaining that a business venture has adequate parking space. When police and district administrations try and take action against such public nuisances the tycoons get relief from courts in shape of stay orders.
From Sawan Bridge in Rawalpindi to Rawat in Islamabad Capital Territory, the national highway (GT Road) has been turned into a continual bottleneck where ambulances get stuck at all hours of the day.
There is a need to save our highways by marking right of way and setting up service lanes separated from national highways by steel railings/fences. All encroachments should be demolished, right of way clearance enforced and action taken against unscrupulous regulators who granted NOCs. The government should take action on priority before the highways are gobbled up by greedy carpetbaggers.
Brig(r) Raashid Wali Janjua
Published in Dawn, September 22nd, 2020