Opening of tunnel: Federal govt throws ball into KPK's court

ISLAMABAD, Dec 10: The federal government has linked the three-day a week opening of Lowari Tunnel with the approval of a standard operating procedure (SOP) by the provincial government of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, it has been learnt. In cold storageWell-placed sources on condition of anonymity told ChitralToday here on Tuesday that the SOP, prepared by additional secretary for ministry of communication, had been sent to the provincial government to indemnify the federal government in case of any untoward incident/casualty with passengers crossing the tunnel. The SOP stated that the federal government wanted to open the tunnel two days on a fortnightly basis only. The sources said chief secretary KP Arbab Shehzad on Tuesday held a meeting in Peshawar in which secretaries C&W, Utility Stores Corporation (USC), Food, PSO etc., participated to take stock of the situation in the aftermath of the Lowari top road closure. The meeting also discussed the SOP of the federal government. They said if the SOP prepared by the federal communications ministry was approved by the provincial government, indemnifying the federal government and payment of the hydel charges to the contractor of SAMBU, the tunnel would be opened for the passengers for three days a week. The sources further said that there was no meeting scheduled between Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and any elected representative from Chitral on December 10 in Islamabad regarding the opening of tunnel o other issues of Chitral. However, the chairman National Highway Authority (NHA) and the federal secretary communication might hold a meeting with Nawaz Sharif within a day or two. The sources said that the federal government was not ready to take any sort of risk by opening the tunnel on its own as in case of any casualty inside the tunnel, the provincial will be asked to take the responsibility. “The federal government through ministry of communication has made it crystal clear to the provincial government that it will not be responsible for any sort of mishap while going through the tunnel from one end to another”, said a senior official privy to the development. Abdus Samad, the General Manager National Highway Authority (NHA) KPK, told ChitralToday on phone from Peshawar that the NHA was reluctant to open the tunnel due to technical difficulties, including lack of ventilation, lightning and rescue services. There is also the risk of boulder falling inside the tunnel, he added. Mr Samad said Chief Minister Perevz Khattak and the chief secretary were trying hard to get the tunnel open for three days a week to resolve the suffering of the people of Chitral.]]>

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