ISLAMABAD: President General Pervez Musharraf on Saturday said that the extensive project of Karakoram Highway would boost the trade and tourism with Middle East and China. Addressing a foundation laying ceremony of the expansion of Karakoram highway here at Convention Centre, he said “ communication infrastructure was a pre-requisite for economic development of the country and said that in view of Pakistan’s geo-strategic location these need to be optimised to help the country serve as a true hub for trade and communication. The President said, the expansion and upgradation of 335km of road from Raikot to Khunjerab will complete by 2011. The project will improve the grades, construct snow galleries, improve 27 bridges, add 480m long tunnels, 18 open cut tunnels (1975 m), besides constructing 1050 culverts, 5 aqueducts and retaining walls. He recalled his meeting with President Hu Jintao in which he had proposed to add a rail link, an oil pipeline and fibre optic cable to the KKH to make it the ninth wonder of the world. He said the Karakoram Highway, built along the historic Silk Route, will serve as a trade corridor not only with China, but also through it to the Central Asian Republics, while providing it access to the Arabian Sea. “The project will reaffirm the long-term, broad-based friendship between the two countries and serve as another landmark of Sino-Pak relationship,” President Musharraf said. He said China was cooperating with Pakistan in several areas, including defence, communication, education, infrastructure development besides enjoying deep political, diplomatic and people to people contacts. He said the Free Trade Agreement with China has increased the potential of trade between the two countries and both their people will benefit from it. President Pervez Musharraf said under the Vision 2030 the National Trade Corridor improvement Programme several communication projects will complete in the next seven years.
He said deepening of Karachi Port at a cost of Rs 1.2 billion dollars will allow the future mother container ships to dock at the port and will be one of the few ports of the world. The President said the country’s north-south road linkages were being improved, while there was a need to improve the east-west linkages. He said in 2008 the focus will be on creating, improving and upgrading road links with Afghanistan, Iran, India and China. He pointed at the projects aimed at improving the sea ports, airports and railways. President Pervez Musharraf said several Chinese companies were investing in Pakistan and pointed that China Mobile, which has already invested US $ 500 million in the country, was investing another US $ 800 million. The President earlier unveiled the plaque to launch the project. Caretaker Minister for Communication Barrister Habibur Rehman hoped the project will go a long way in bringing the two countries closer and strengthening their bonds.
Nazir Ahmad Bulbul’s expression of the KKH inaugration
Chinese ambassador to Pakistan Luo Zhao Hui said hundreds of Chinese and their Pakistani brothers laid down their lives during the construction of the strategic road linking the two countries. He said, “We will not allow the Karakoram Highway to be damaged as we will never allow the Sino-Pak friendship to be dented.” He said a stable and prosperous Pakistan was of great importance for China. “We cherish our all weather friendship and all dimensional relationship,” he added. The Ambassador said the ties between the two countries were based on four pillars of economic and defence cooperation, similarity of views on regional and international issues and people to people contacts. He said the two-way trade has surged to US $ 6.5 billion, while the Chinese FDI has gone up to one billion dollars. He mentioned the Gwadar Port, Chashma I and II, engineering university besides exchange of youth delegations. The ambassador said his country was optimistic about Pakistan’s bright future and expressed satisfaction over the progress of their ties.
Chairman National Highway Authority Maj Gen Imtiaz Ahmed said the road will be upgraded to an all-weather link traversing through world’s most difficult terrain. He said the KKH will link with China, Tajikistan and Afghanistan and form an integral artery of National Trade Corridor and component of the Asian Highway Network. He said the carriageway will be widened to 7.3 meters with a gradient of 4 per cent and will be made safe for long and wide-bodied freight carriers. He said all potential land slide areas will be addressed to minimise maintenance while it will be ensured that all structures are safe against seismic activity. The Chairman said the NHA will spend Rs 300 billion on road linkages in next seven years and will soon launch Hasanabdal-Mansehra expressway, improvement fo road from Mansehra to Bhasha Diamer Dam, Thakot bridge and relocation of KKH in the dam area. (Courtesy: GEO)