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March 25, 2015

Taunsa-Musakhel Road, an orphan venture


March 25, 2015

DERA GHAZI KHAN: The government has spent 10 years and over three-fourths of the total estimated cost to build hardly six kilometre of the 35-km long inter-provincial Taunsa Sharif-Musakhel Road.
It is yet to be seen how many more years it needs to complete this project to connect Punjab with Balochistan through the Sulaiman Range (Tuman Buzdar tribal belt). This inter-provincial road project was approved during the Musharraf regime in April 2005. Beginning from Gulki and culminating at Lal Shah Pir, it was supposed to be completed in three years (by 2008) at an estimated cost of Rs 505 million. The Pakistan Public Works Department (Pak PWD) Quetta through a contractor started work on the road in 2006-07. The contractor did cutting work on about 10 kilometre track in six years, received Rs 210 million and then abandoned the project. The work remained suspended for two years. The tribesmen moved the Balochistan High Court for resuming work and early completion of the project. The court accepted their plea and ordered early completion of the road.
The Pak PWD director general, keeping in view the poor execution through its monitoring from Quetta, ordered shifting the responsibilities of this project to its office at Muzaffargarh in DG Khan Division. So the construction work was given to another contractor, who so far has done cutting work on about two kilometre portion and received about Rs 189 million against that.
Local tribesmen told The News that so far, Rs 399 million have been spent and only five to six kilometre portion of the road is made usable. The work on the road is very slow-paced, they alleged, adding that with this pace, its completion seems to be impossible in near future. They demanded the government audit the fund utilisation on the project and assign the task to either FWO and NLC or National Highways Authority.
They said that they were in high hopes back in 2005 when the road was approved after their years’ long struggle but now

deeply disappointed with its slow construction work and lack of interest of government functionaries in its speedy completion.
Interestingly, the locals had also approached the Public Accounts Committee during the PPP government through the then MNA Khawaja Sheeraz Mehmood but failed to get a positive response. This inter-provincial road passes through Tuman Buzdar in the tribal area including Gulki, Kadka, Fazla Kachh, Kalemaar, Qutva and ends at Lal Shah Pir Mandi, Karkna Union Council, for its further link with Musakhel district of Balochistan.
The road when completed will play an important role in the economic development of the Tuman Buzdar tribal belt and boost trade and business activities between Punjab, Balochistan and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. It will also shorten road distance between Lahore and Quetta as well as Quetta and Peshawar. The distance between Taunsa Sharif and Zhob will be reduced to 220 km while the existing route is around 500 km for which nowadays the passengers have to travel via Dera Ismail Khan to reach Zhob in Balochistan.
When contacted, site engineer Rasheed Baloch told The News on telephone that the delay in road construction is mainly due to poor funding for the each fiscal year. He claimed that 12 km road has almost been made jeepable. He said that the first phase of the project was about cutting of the vast mountainous region that took too much time when the project was being implemented by PWD Quetta. He said that now the work is being done by the PWD Muzaffargarh. He admitted that the survey of six kilometre portion of the first phase is yet to be done while funds have not been released for the second phase of the project.

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