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The 12-km-long strip of Kashmir Highway from Peshawar Mor to G.T. Road will be the future lifeline for Islamabad and the under-construction Benazir International Airport at Fatehjang, which is scheduled to be completed in 2013. Right from the presidency to the Capital Development Authority (CDA), government departments like the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) are giving much importance to the Rs3 billion highway project as they consider it a gateway to progress and development not only in Islamabad and northern region but also for the whole country.

The future charm, utility and effectiveness of the new airport lie on Kashmir Highway which after reconstruction will cut the total distance from Zero Point to the airport to just 15 minutes’ drive instead of 45 minutes which it currently takes to reach there through the narrow and zigzag Fatehjang Road starting from G. T. Road near Tarnol.

A proposed wholesale market will also be established at Sangjani near the airport in the near future to cater to the business and trade activities in the northern region and Punjab, further enhancing the importance of the Kashmir Highway.

In view of the prevailing financial crunch, the CDA has, however, reduced the volume of the project by cutting its proposed lanes from 10 to eight though the CAA has expressed some reservations against the decision.

Under the plan, an interchange will be constructed at the Kashmir Highway-G. T. Road junction to divert traffic to the motorway and G. T. Road coming from Kashmir Highway. A slip line will be established on the motorway near Fatehjang to give an access to the new airport.

The Rs50 billion international airport, which is being constructed on a fast track, will accommodate 25 million passengers a year - equal to that at Dubai airport. The completion time for the Kashmir Highway project, recently divided into two components and awarded to two firms, is also 2013.

A visit to the site of the under-construction airport showed that one of the two runways had been completed while other segments were being constructed by both local and foreign firms.

“More than 23 per cent work has been done and we are hopeful that the entire project will be completed within the scheduled time,” said Sumair Saeed, the general manager (E&M) of Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) working at the site.

Earth-moving machines were seen everywhere while cutting, digging, levelling and compaction of vast land also continued at the site in the west of Islamabad, some 35 km from Zero Point.

The need for the new state-of-the art airport in Islamabad, equipped with all modern facilities, was felt for quite some time as the existing one has become unable to meet the growing passenger and cargo load.

The official said the new airport would be the first in the country that would facilitate operation of A-380 flight, currently the biggest passenger plane.

It has been learnt that some sort of slackness was being shown by the CDA in taking off the road project and if any further delay was made, the authority will be in a difficult situation to meet the deadline of 2013.

Some of the officials in CDA said the old PC-I of the project was required to be revised and till then it cannot be commissioned. However, others said the authority should initiate the project and simultaneously send it to the higher authorities to avoid difficulties in the release of fund.

The Kashmir Highway reconstruction is a public sector development project; therefore, 50 per cent of its total cost will be provided by the federal government. The CDA has allocated Rs241 million for the project in its current budget.

The project remained in the doldrums for over three years when in 2009 the award of its contract was abolished after manipulation was found in it. Later, it was awarded again in September 2010.