CHAKWAL: It seems the sufferings of thousands of commuters in Chakwal have no end in sight as road projects costing Rs18 billion remain far from completion even after over five years.
The fresh setback emerged recently when the National Logistics Cell (NLC) was left with no other option but to slow down the pace of work due to the paucity of funds. It has been learnt that the federal government has come under heavy debt as it could not release the funds to the NLC which is executing the construction work on the two major roads which connect Chakwal with Jhelum and Rawalpindi/Islamabad.
“We continued the construction work as the government officials kept on assuring us that the funds would be released soon. But we did not receive a single penny for this year,” an official of the NLC told Dawn.
Federal govt owes Rs3 billion to NLC and is not ready to release funds for projects, says official
“Currently, the government owes Rs3 billion to us but it is not ready to release the funds,” he added.
Work on making the Mandra-Chakwal Road (63km) and Chakwal-Sohawa Road (70km) dual carriageways was first launched on September 6, 2012, by the then prime minister Raja Pervez Ashraf. Both the projects were supposed to be completed by June 2014 at a cost of Rs8 billion. However, due to some legal hitches the work was stopped at the initial stage by the Islamabad High Court. On July 16, the projects were re-launched by former prime minister Nawaz Sharif who also ordered for the construction of a bypass so that the Chakwal city could be saved from the influx of heavy traffic which the two major roads would attract once they were made dual carriageways.
Mr Sharif also ordered to increase the approved width of 6.1 metres to 7.3 metres and complete the projects within one year. His order invited a host of impediments such as electric polls, gas pipelines, PTCL optical fibre line, trees etc., came in the way of the roads after their width was increased. The removal of these impediments took a long time and some utilities are still left to be removed. “Still a sewerage line has not been shifted near Thanil Phatak in Chakwal city due to which we are unable to start the construction work on that patch of the road. The local administration was given Rs4.2 million for shifting the line,” the NLC official added.
“Had we been given a clear passage, work on both the roads and the northern bypass would have been completed by now but under the existing situation work on Chakwal-Sohawa Road is unlikely to be completed by December 2018 while it would take about four months to complete the Mandra-Chakwal Road,” he added.
The Executive Committee of the National Economic Council (Ecnec) approved the Chakwal-Sohawa Road project on July 26 this year but so far not a single penny has been released.
An official of the Public Works Department (PWD) told Dawn that funds for the roads were first released due to the personal efforts of the prime minister’s military secretary Brigadier Akmal Aziz who also belonged to Chakwal. But a few days ago Mr Aziz was transferred to Sialkot as the brigade commander.
“The continued flow of cash is necessary for the smooth continuation of any construction work but unfortunately the government did not release funds regularly due to which the work has been delayed,” the official said.
When contacted, PWD’s Executive Engineer Mohammad Irshad admitted that his organisation had to pay a heavy amount to the NLC. “The funds would be released soon,” he claimed.
MNA from Chakwal Tahir Iqbal also claimed that funds for the road projects would be released soon. “I am trying my best to get the funds released,” he added.
Published in Dawn, October 7th, 2017