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Convoy system along KKH ends

By Shabbir Mir
The convoy system on Karakoram Highway (KKH) was finally scrapped on Tuesday, putting an end to the travel woes of passengers who frequently take the route. Under the system, which existed since 2012, 50 to 100 vehicles were required to move in groups from Gilgit-Baltistan’s Diamer district till Besham, Shangla in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa. The convoy was escorted by K-P’s law-enforcement agencies.

“The decision was taken at a meeting chaired by the Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa chief secretary in Peshawar on Tuesday,” Usman Ahmad, the DC of Diamer, told The Express Tribune. “It was taken in light of recommendations put forward during a two-day apex committee meeting held in December, 2015.”The decision to end the convoy system would come into effect on Wednesday (today).

Security tightened

According to Ahmad, who was also part of Tuesday’s meeting, security will be tightened along KKH after the system is ended. “Additional security personnel will be deployed on KKH instead of shepherding convoys.”

The convoy system created countless challenges for passengers—including prolonging their journey. The decision to scrap the arrangement has been hailed by a large number of residents. “Thank God, [the convoy system] has finally ended,” said Mujeeb Khan, a resident of Chilas.

Patrolling force

After the convoy system was scrapped, Hazara DIG Akhtar Hayat Gandapur inaugurated the first check post of Karakoram Patrolling Force (KPF) at Datta, Mansehra along KKH. KPF would ensure security to passengers from Datta Barrier to Bhasha – the entry point to GB.

Speaking on the occasion, the DIG said the government had approved KPF to ensure the safety of passengers travelling along KKH.“At least 200 personnel have been hired initially,” he said. “It would be increased with time and as per the force’s requirements.” About the duties of KPF personnel, Gandapur said check posts would be established after every 10 kilometres.

“KPF will patrol areas between the check posts from Datta village in Mansehra to Bhasha,” he said. “The force will start its operations from Wednesday (today).”

Travel restrictions

KKH is the only route that connects G-B with the rest of the country. However, the dilapidated highway and the convoy-system caused the 15-hour Gilgit and Rawalpindi journey to stretch for 22 hours. Many believe the system—which was introduced after repeated attacks on passenger buses and incidents of targeted killings—was not passenger-friendly.

In April 2015, transporters in Gilgit and Kohistan protested against the convoy system. Following the protests, the G-B government said it was willing to end the convoy system but could not do so as the K-P government was reluctant to cooperate due to security threats to their territory.

Published in The Express Tribune, February 3rd,  2016.

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