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Chakdara-Chitral Expressway project put on back burner

ISLAMABAD: Delay in the launch of work on the Chakdara-Chitral Expressway, a project included in the Public Sector Development Programme (PSDP) since 1916, has created anger not only in Chitral but also among the people of Lower and Upper Dir districts.

The issue emerged after the Executive Committee of National Economic Council (ECNEC) on July 16 approved Swat Motorway Phase-2 at a cost of Rs20 billion.

This showed the government’s lack of interest in launching the Chakdara-Chitral Expressway project which had been approved by ECNEC in 2016. The PTI government has now decided to go ahead with the construction of the phase II of Swat Motorway instead.

Under the newly approved project, a four-lane 80-km-long motorway will be constructed from Chakdara to Fatehpur in Swat.

Another mega project approved by ECNEC is Khyber Pass Economic Corridor which will be constructed with the financial support of the World Bank and would cost an estimated $460 million. Under this project, a four-lane, 48 kilometre-long highway would be constructed from Peshawar to Khyber Pass.

When contacted, former MNA from Chitral Shahzada Iftikharuddin told ChitralToday that Chakdara-Chitral Expressway is a PSDP project already in the federal budget since Aug 2016 as it was approved by ECNEC on Aug 22, 2016.
He said former prime minister Nawaz Sharif had announced the mega project during a visit to Chitral following the devastating floods on July 22, 2015.
He said the project was being funded by South Korean Exim Bank and was to be completed in three phases. The first phase would stretch from Kalkatak to Chitral town at a cost of Rs10.3 billion and already approved by the Exim Bank. The second phase included Chakdara Akhagram and the third phase from Akhagram to Dir.
It is Chitral’s only PSDP project for which funds were approved prior to its survey which got delayed owing to the South Koreans saying they and not the NHA would carry out the survey the project site and then finance it as well as it has to be executed by South Korean construction firms.
The route from Chakdara to Gilgit is declared an alternative CPEC route but the Chakdara Chitral portion is to be funded, surveyed and then executed by South Koreans.

Social media users launched a campaign asking the government to restore Chakdara-Chitral Expressway project.

They said the vital expressway, also to be used as an alternative CPEC route was of national importance but the PTI leaders, especially KP Chief Minister Memhood Khan and Federal Minister for Communications Murad Saeed, were hell-bent on diverting the funds to the Swat Motorway Phase 2 project which would serve to their area only.

Meanwhile, political leaders from Lower and Upper Dir warned that they would hold a long march to Islamabad if the government did not launch the Chakdara-Chitral Expressway project.

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