Published Sep 11, 2018 06:39am

Re-start of work on construction of highway demanded

Abid Fazil Abbasi

MURREE: Work on Rawalpindi-Murree-Kashmir Road has been stopped after digging was done in some places, creating hardships for commuters.

The road connecting Punjab with Azad Jammu and Kashmir (AJK) has been in a dilapidated condition for over 15 years.

After mounting public pressure and protests, the previous government allocated an amount of Rs2.12 billion for the reconstruction of the road in 2016.

Last year, a firm started work on the road but after digging at various points, disappeared from the site reportedly due to nonpayment of dues by the highway department.

Rs2.12bn were allocated for repair of Rawalpindi-Murree-Kashmir Road by previous govt but the contractor left the project incomplete

On the directives of former prime minister Nawaz Sharif, the National Highway Authority (NHA) had handed over the control of the 48 km portion of the road from Lower Topa to Kohala to the Punjab government.

The Murree-Kohala Road (MKR) was built in the colonial period for transportation purpose from Srinagar to Rawalpindi.

Six surveys were conducted for extension of the Islamabad-Murree dual carriageway to Kohala during the government t of the PPP.

“In 2010, Japan International Development Cooperation Agency (JICA) had offered its financial assistance for widening of the MKR but we couldn’t reply it due to non-cooperative approach of the then provincial authorities,” sources in the NHA told this correspondent.

The renovation of the MKR was carried out in the late 80s but since then no repair work has been done.

In 2012, on the intervention of former prime minister Nawaz Sharif, the Punjab government allocated Rs40 million for the renovation of the road which could not be utilised efficiently as the contractor left the work midway.

The provincial highway department had sought expressions of interest from construction firms for the renovation of the 48 km road. The renovation would be completed in two phases. The first phase would cover 31 km and the remaining 17 km would be repaired in the second phase. Sufyan Abbasi, former member district council, said even after the change of government no attention was being paid to the hardships of thousands of people who commute on the depilated road.

If work on the project is not restarted, a public protest would be launched, he said.

Shakil Abbasi, Waqas Abbasi, Humayoon Abbasi, Taimoor Abbasi and other commuters said after repeated appeals and protests the previous government had started the reconstruction work but after digging at different points the project was abandoned which added to the miseries of the people.

When contacted, Taimoor Ahmad, a sub-engineer of the highway department in Murree, said work on the road was stopped due to non-release of funds by the Punjab government.

He said out of the Rs2.11billion allocated for the project, only Rs150 million were transferred to the highway department.

He said Rs25 million were still to be paid to the construction firm.

Published in Dawn, September 11th, 2018

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