Missing link

Published February 27, 2024

WITH most of Punjab and KP now accessible via motorways, which have greatly eased road travel for the bulk of the citizenry, it is a shame that the fate of the M-6 Hyderabad-Sukkur Motorway — a major bottleneck in seamless north-south connectivity — still remains uncertain. Progress on this missing link seems to be stuck in a start-stop-rewind loop since 2016, with the latest setback dealt by the recent termination of a contract given to TECMC — a joint venture of local and international companies — to build the 306km motorway. The contract was terminated last month over the contracted parties’ inability to demonstrate they had sufficient funding by an extended deadline. The NHA’s revised estimates place the cost of the project at considerably more than what the tender originally given to TECMC was for. It may be recalled that TECMC had been one of only two bidders for the project in January 2022. It was reported in local media last year that the Italian partner in the joint venture had been greatly disturbed after the surfacing of a multibillion-rupee scam in land acquisition for the project, following which the process had been suspended. It seems it never resumed.

The opportunity cost of the PML-N’s various motorway projects can be debated, but it cannot be denied that they have thrown open myriad opportunities for trade, commerce and tourism that had existed at a much more restricted scale before. Apart from their logistical utility, the motorways have also had a significant sociocultural impact: they have made travel between different parts of the country much quicker, safer, easier and, in some respects, affordable than before. It is unfortunate, however, that the building of these motorways was not pursued under a consistent, long-term policy — if it were, the country’s largest city and economic engine would have been connected to other urban centres via a motorway long ago. Still, we are now at a stage where one last connection is all that is left. The foundation stone of the Sukkur-Hyderabad portion was laid by Shehbaz Sharif during his last stint as prime minister. Now that he is expected to return to that position soon, it is hoped that he will push to have the project resumed at the earliest. There is no justification for stakeholders to continue dragging their feet and delaying it further.

Published in Dawn, February 27th, 2024

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