PESHAWAR, Nov 19: President Asif Zardari on Monday launched the reconstruction of Peshawar-Torkham Highway, which serves as a major trade route with neighbouring Afghanistan.
US Consul General Robert Reed, whose country is providing up to $70 million to reconstruct the 46km road over the next two years, joined the president in the launch.
The launching ceremony was held at the Governor’s House in Peshawar instead of Torkham apparently for security reasons.
In a statement issued here, the US Consulate in Peshawar said the Fata Secretariat would manage the project, with oversight from the National Highway Authority.
“We feel that this is the most significant donor contribution project in the region and it is an important boost and linkage to other projects in Fata,” said Dr Tashfeen Khan, Additional Chief Secretary of the Fata Secretariat.
The Peshawar-Torkham Highway remains the shortest route to Afghanistan and Central Asia. However, it is outdated and has sustained substantial wear and tear over the years.
The new design will widen the roadbed, straighten sharp turns, reduce steep gradients, and rebuild bridges and culverts to make it an all-weather road.
Media reports in the aftermath of Pakistan’s decision to reopen the Ground Line of Communication to allow Nato supplies to Afghanistan through Pakistan, had indicated that the US might agree to reconstruct the run-down road to Torkham that passes through the historic Khyber Pass after Islamabad agreed to drop its demand for a high transit fee.
“The Peshawar-Torkham Highway is a gateway to increased trade and economic development in the region,” said the US consul general.
“Emperor Sher Shah of Sur recognised its economic potential when he built the road nearly 500 years ago. To connect communities and facilitate trade, the United States is helping to build more than 1,000 km of roads in Fata, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Balochistan,” the U.S diplomat said.
Since 2009, the US has helped build over 650km roads in Fata and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, including the recently inaugurated Tank-Makin and Kaur-Wana roads in South Waziristan.
The Peshawar-Torkham Highway and other the US-funded road projects will add over 400km of additional roads in the coming years, the statement said.
The statement added that the Narcotics Affairs Section was already funding the Work on Torkham highway opens multibillion snail-paced reconstruction of Peshawar Ring Road.
The reconstruction has dragged on for too long to become a traffic nightmare.
APP ADDS: President Zardari on Monday attended a briefing on Fata Reforms Programme by the Ministry of Safron at the Governor’s House and said the government was committed to bringing the people of Fata into the national mainstream by socioeconomic and political reforms in the region.
Provincial Governor Masood Kausar, Safron Minister Shaukatullah Khan, presidential spokesman Farhatullah Babar, Safron Secretary Habibullah Khan, the provincial chief secretary and Additional Chief Secretary of Fata Secretariat Dr Tashfeen Khan were also in attendance.
The Safron secretary briefed the president on the progress in development projects in tribal areas and in the Fata Reforms process.
The president praised the law-enforcement agencies, civil administration and the people of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Fata over their sacrifices in the fight against extremism and said their sacrifices would not be in vain.
He said the extension of Political Parties Order, 2002 to Fata in 2011 enabled the people of the region to carry out normal political activities within the ambit of the code of conduct prepared by the Election Commission and the tribal administration.He pushed political parties to freely carry out pre-election campaigns in a smooth and peaceful atmosphere.
Mr Zardari ordered foolproof security arrangements in Fata for Muharram and the coming elections.
He said the government would provide all-out support and cooperation to the Fata Secretariat for successful execution of development projects and political reforms.