Key highway dualisation remains halted for 3 years
JALALABAD (PAN): Dualisation work on the Torkham-Jalalabad highway has been halted for the past three years due to negligence of the Pakistani contractor, Afghan officials said on Tuesday. Pakistanis have yet to honour their promise of resuming work on the road, Deputy Minister of Public Works Ahmad Waheed told Pajhwok Afghan News. "We are perplexed what to do, because we can't award the contract to another company until the Pakistan officials walk out of the agreement," he said. Nearly 70 percent reconstruction work on the 75-kilomentre road has been completed. If Pakistan doesn’t want to complete the project, it should hand the road over to the Afghan government, he added. The ministry has repeatedly contacted Pakistan's National Highway Authority (NHA), foreign ministry and embassy on a timeframe for executing the road project, Director of Public Works Fazal Rabbi said. “They have been cheating us, setting one deadline after another. They claimed releasing money for the construction of the road,” he added. Fifty of the road stretch that has already been constructed might be damaged by monsoon rains, he feared. If Pakistan refuses to construct the remaining part, Afghanistan is ready to build it with financial support from the Ministry of Public Works, he said. After the inauguration of the first lane in 2007, former Pakistan prime minister Shaukat Aziz opened construction work on the second 13-metre wide road. The project was to be completed in a year, said ex-director of public works, Eng. Mohammad Arif. He traveled to Islamabad along with public works ministry officials in May 2009, where Pakistani authorities pledged launching the reconstruction work in the near future, he said. In 2010, the Pakistani government transferred 30 mixers to Jalalabad, but practical work has not begun so far. In July 2011, the contractor renewed their pledge at a meeting with officials from Afghan interior, defence and finance ministries. The single road has been a key factor behind delays in transportation of trade goods and fares, said the deputy head of traders’ association, Najibullah Sahibzada. The road for the eastern Torkham dry-port should be constructed to international standards for transportation of transit goods, said the traffic department head, Col. Ghulam Dastagir Rahimi. myn/mud
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