RAWALPINDI: The federal government is seeking foreign investors for the Rawalpindi Ring Road and Economic Corridor project while Punjab government has failed to appoint a consultant to conduct a third-party validation for determination of an optimal route for the corridor.

A senior official of the Punjab Planning and Development Department told Dawn that after Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif’s visit to UAE, the federal government had enlisted five main projects to fetch foreign investment.

These projects are: Parco coastal refinery Phase-I oil import terminal, Kharian-Rawalpindi Motorway, Rawalpindi Ring Road, Karachi Circular Railway and Rail Connectivity of Thar Block-II with railway network.

He said the government wanted to involve foreign investment instead of executing the mega Ring Road project under the annual development programme (ADP) or through local investors.

Punjab still hasn’t appointed consultant to conduct third-party validation of optimal route, says official

“As it is a key project, foreign investment is necessary so that they (foreigners) could build, operate and transfer it like the Lahore-Islamabad Motorway project,” he said.

The official said on the directives of the federal government, the Punjab government had asked the RDA to appoint a focal person so he would contact the federal government and Foreign Office for the project.

Upon this, he said, Commissioner Noorul Amin Mengal appointed RDA Chief Engineer Dr Habibul Haq Randhawa as the focal person.

On the other hand, after a new inquiry report on the Ring Road scandal, which came to light during the tenure of PTI government, the provincial government has not yet decided to restore any of the alignments made in 2020 and 2021.

As per the alignment of 2021, the Rs64 billion road was 66.3 kilometres long from Radio Pakistan Rawat to Thalian and from Thalian to Sangjani.

However, the previous PTI government canceled the alignment and formed a new alignment from Rawat to the motorway measuring 38 km.

In March 19, the then prime minister Imran Khan inaugurated the project and awarded the contract to Frontier Works Organisation (FWO).

In the new alignment, the Ring Road would be a 38.3-km-long controlled access road which would originate at National Highway (N-5) at Baanth, cross through Chakbeli Road, Adiala Road, Chakri Road and terminate at M-2 at Thallian Interchange.

The total cost of the project was Rs33.7 billion - Rs27 billion for construction and Rs6.7 billion for the acquisition of land.

After quashing the alleged corruption charges against former commissioner Mohammad Mehmood, the Establishment Division last weekdirected the Punjab government to conduct a third-party validation for determination of the optimal route for the project.

A senior official of RDA told Dawn that there were two issues: “One is which alignment will be functional and second the previous government of PTI had awarded the contract to FWO and it has not been canceled.”

He said though the federal government had asked the provincial authority to revive the old alignment canceled in April 2021, no decision was made yet in this regard.

On the other hand, sources said foreign investors would not accept the route of the Ring Road and would choose their own plan after conducting a survey of the area.

When contacted, a spokesman for the RDA said work on Ring Road and Leh Expressway was under progress and the government would make necessary decisions in this regard soon.

Published in Dawn, July 24th, 2022

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