CHITRAL, Jan 20: Though the people of Chitral are expecting that the Lowari tunnel would be completed by 2017, current circumstances show that the project would take an unbelievably long time – or may never complete at all.
At present, work on the much important project progresses at a snail’s pace. The project needs Rs.16 billion for completion within about two years but the federal government is allocating only Rs.1 billion annually. So, if the allocation of funds remained at the same pace, the Lowari tunnel would be completed in 16 years notwithstanding the cost escalation to incur as the work gets delayed.
Reliable sources in the National Highway Authority (NHA) confirmed to ChitralToday that if the present ratio of financial allocation continued, the project would not be completed even in the next 16 years as by then its cost would jump to over Rs.50 billion. The sources also confirmed that if the government allocated Rs.2 billion per year the project would be ready in eight years, with the allocation of Rs.4 billion per year the mega project would take four years for completion. But seeing the inflation and fluctuation in the rate of the national currency, it is estimated that during this four or eight years the project cost would also escalate and reach the mark of 20 to 22 billion rupees. All these facts are indeed totally frustrating and disappointing as many people also fear that the project would not be completed at all.
The Lowari tunnel project was not only aimed at facilitating the people of Chitral but is of great national and strategic interest. Pakistan can easily be connected to Central Asian states through this easily accessible, comparatively safe and less time consuming road. The people of Gilgilt-Baltistan now prefer to use this road instead of the Karakorum Highway and after the completion of the Lowari tunnel commuters would always prefer to use it. Though the project would be a lifeline for Chitrali people, its importance for the national interest cannot be ignored.
It was disappointing fact that despite repeated announcements to increase the allocation for the project the federal government did not fulfill its own promises. On the other hand, the federal government released funds to different projects of its own interest. It seems that Islamabad is not interested in the completion of the mega project initiated by former president Pervez Musharraf. Lack of commitment from the policy and decision makers has always left a negative impact on the country’s economy. It was the need of time that the government should allocate maximum funds, at least Rs.5 billion a year, to complete the project as soon as possible.
The federal government started different projects, released heavy amount for even insignificant schemes but this mega national project could not get its proper attention. The allocation of Rs.1 billion rupees per year would only go to the Korean construction company against the escalation on the original cost and other charges while there would be only 15-20 per cent work on the site.
Last year, the PTI-led provincial government had announced to allocate Rs.3 billion from its share of the public sector development prgramme (PSDP) but this was also not fulfilled. All these facts have created frustration and annoyance among the peace-loving and patriotic people of Chitral.
Talking to ChitralToday, religious and social circles in Chitral demanded that the federal government should release the required funds for the Lowari tunnel project without any further delay. They also reminded the provincial government of its commitment for allocating Rs.3 billion.
Qari Jamal Abdul Nasir, Zahir Khan, Qari Mubarak, Khosh Nawaz, Qari Fazal Haq, Haji Sher Wali Khan, Abdul Bari and others reminded the government that the people of Chitral would not tolerate the delaying tactics and would launch a strong protest moment if the allocations were not increased. They said that the people of Chitral, particularly women and children, faced humiliation at both sides of the tunnel which was shameful.]]>