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February 18, 2020

Lahore-Sialkot motorway being opened piecemeal

Top Story

February 18, 2020

ISLAMABAD: The under-construction Sialkot-Lahore motorway, launched by the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) regime, is being inaugurated piecemeal by the present government.

The project is at least two years behind its scheduled completion. Before the Nawaz Sharif administration considerably changed the project and started its physical work in 2016, it had been planned by Pervez Elahi as the Punjab chief minister 10 years ago in 2006.

The Frontier Works Organisation (FWO) is building the motorway, a deal which was concluded during the term of the Nawaz Sharif government. The FWO arranged part funding and part financing was done by the Pakistan government. It willcollect toll till recovery of its investment.

“It was a very innovative model and financing arrangement,” a top official, who was involved in the project, told The News. The Federal Minister for Education and Professional Training, Shafqat Mahmood, inaugurated the Sialkot-Lahore Motorway Eastern Bypass Section on Feb 8. The 16.58km long bypass cost Rs11 billion. It comprised two phases. The bypass has six lines, nine bridges and eight underpasses. It was completed by the National Highways Authority (NHA).

Last month, it was announced that the first section of the Sialkot-Lahore motorway has been opened for public traffic. The operative section of 22 kilometers runs between Kala Shah Kaku and Muridke-Narowal Road. The remaining portion of 69km will be completed in the next few months, it said.

It is said that the FWO is working on the 91km long motorway and hoped that its completion will reduce the rush on GT Road and M2. According to a report, the motorway will be fully opened in the next couple of months as its construction is in final stages. It would connect Sialkot and Lahore through eastern parts of Punjab —cutting down the travel time between the two cities to only 41 minutes.

It has four lanes, nine interchanges, 20 bridges, eight flyovers, and 18 underpasses. Three industrial zones in addition to two universities along the motorway are planned. It would run parallel to the GT Road, passing from east of Kamoki, Gujranwala, Daska, and Sambrial.

The then Prime Minister, Nawaz Sharif, had in August 2016 performed the ground breaking of the project near Sambrial. It was planned to be built in around 24 months. The motorway was one of the flagship projects of the previous government. No foreign loan or funding was involved. PML-N leader Khawaja M Asif and its other lawmakers from Sialkot pushed the government to build the motorway to facilitate the travel of businessmen and the people at large between Sialkot and Lahore to save their time and money.

The groundwork was also done by the Pervez Elahi government. He had stated after the groundbreaking by Nawaz Sharif that the project was planned by his government in 2006 and was going to be completed in 2010 at a cost of Rs23 billion, but the PML-N wasted eight years and added additional Rs20.85 billion just for rivalry with the PML-Q.

“The rulers first stop projects of our tenure and then after making some changes here and there re-start them at much higher cost only to put up plaques of their names. Work on construction of Lahore-Sialkot project started in 2007 after formal inauguration. The motorway was to start from Sambrial on Sialkot-Wazirabad Road and go straight to Lahore.

It would have been connected with Gujrat through construction of bridge on river Chenab near Shehbazpur. It included establishment of three industrial zones with the Chinese cooperation and setting up of two international technical universities with the help of Sweden and Austria, but due to its blocking on the excuse of unavailability of funds both these universities went to India. Special enmity was shown to Gujrat. Sixty thousands of people were denied the opportunity of new employment,” Pervez Elahi said.