ISLAMABAD: A parliamentary panel on Friday observed that the government has ignored the western route of China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) by not earmarking any amount for the project, and is declaring old road projects funded by other international financial institutions as its part.

The western route must be constructed on the pattern of eastern route, demanded the committee chairman Dawood Khan Achakzai. He further said that due to non-representation from Balochistan, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and FATA in the Pakistan-China Joint Coordination Committee (JCC), western route and FATA projects have not been included in CPEC.

The Senate Standing Committee on Communi-cations met under the chairmanship of Senator Dawood Khan Achakzai to review progress on road projects currently underway in Balochistan. He further said that western route is limited to paper work only.

Senator Usman Kakar said that NHA gave the same briefing in every meeting but work on ground has not yet been started.

Chairman National Highway Authority Shahid Ashraf Tarar said that China EXIM Bank is funding CPEC projects @ 1.6percent mark up. He further said that Lyari Expressway would be opened by November-December of the current year.

Tarar said that federal cabinet has approved the framework agreement for construction of DI Khan-Zhob (N-50) and Khuzdar-Basima (N-30) highway projects and work on them would soon commence as the formal agreement between Pakistan and China comes into effect.

The chairman informed the meeting that both the projects were included in the CPEC during the meeting of JCC held in Beijing in December 2016 which also recommended its financing. He said 210km DIKhan-Zhob and Khuzdar-Basima (110km) would cost around Rs 81 billion and Rs 20 billion respectively. The Executive Committee of National Economic Council (ECNEC) approved PC-1 for the projects in April 2017 and currently the process of land acquisition is in progress.

He also informed the meeting that the CPEC’s Joint Working Group on Transport, in its meeting in September in Karachi, also approved two more projects for Balochistan including the dualization of Zhob-Kuchlak (western corridor) and construction of Naukundi-Mashkel-Panjgur Road for inclusion in CPEC and recommended their financing. Zhob-Kuchlak (305km) would cost around Rs20 billion. Its detailed design is completed while the land acquisition is underway. Similarly, Naukundi-Panjgur (290km) Road would cost around Rs20 billion. Pre-feasibility study of the project is completed while detailed design is in progress. It will connect national highway N-40 with CPEC route N-85 and shorten the route by 772km, thus saving almost 10 hours travel time. The chairman said development of Balochistan is NHA’s top priority and out of six CPEC projects in Balochistan, four projects namely Zhob-Quetta (331km), Quetta-Sorab (211km), Sorab-Hoshab (449km) and Hoshab-Gwadar (149km) were already completed successfully. Work on Zhob-Mughalkot (81km) was in full progress and hopefully this would be completed by December 2018, he said.

Tarar said construction and extension of highways in Balochistan stands among the priorities of the NHA and all-out efforts are being made for earlier completion of the highway schemes in Balochistan.

He further said special attention was also paid to revive those projects that were initiated long ago but were stalled midway because of fund shortage, security issues and other reasons. These projects were not only revived but also successfully completed. These included the all important Lowari Tunnel, Lyari Expressway, Turbat-Hoshab and Hoshab-Sorab road projects.

Inspector General National Highway and Motorway Police (NH&MP) Kaleem Imam said that due to 38 percent budget shortfall, the department is confronted with various problems including personnel shortage. It was further informed that 35th Division of Pak Army comprising 9,292 personnel has been set up to protect the CPEC.