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Paving the way: FWO bags tender to build Skardu-Jaglote road

GILGIT: The Gilgit-Baltistan government has tasked the Frontier Works Organisation (FWO) to build the much-awaited Skardu-Jaglot road, officials said on Monday.

The road, which is expected to be completed at a cost of Rs46 billion, is the only route connecting Baltistan to the rest of G-B and the country. The road is also significant for defence standpoint as the Kargil, Siachin, Batalik and the Chourbat borders fall in this region. Thousands of security forces are deployed in these areas.

“The tender bid was held in Islamabad recently and awarded to FWO,” G-B government spokesman Faizullah Faraq said on Monday.

The existing 250-kilometre road, passing through the towering the Himalayan mountain range, is narrow and dilapidated, causing immense problems for travellers. There are accidents aplenty on this road which was initially built in the late 1960s and early 1970s. Over the years, landslides triggered by rains and earthquakes have left the route extremely precarious.

“This was one of the promises [made by the government] and we are happy things are moving in the right direction,” Faraq told The Express Tribune. He was referring to Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s announcement which was made soon after elections in G-B last year.

According to officials, no other local company bid for the project as most of them are too small to complete this mega project.

“FWO is an expert at completing road networks through mountains and local contractors are only good at making small roads in the city,” said an official of the FWO. The organisation was created in 1966 to tackle the virtually impossible task of constructing the Karakoram Highway (KKH).

The KKH, also called the eighth wonder of the world, was said to be unprecedented as it required various technical skills. These included a geological survey, while concrete, masonry and design works were also involved in addition to use of explosives, and developing drilling and blasting techniques. Over 15,000 personnel spread over a harsh terrain of more than 800 kilometres to build the road.

Back in Baltistan, the news of the Skardu-Jaglote road’s construction was met positively by locals.

It is believed that the previous government of Mehdi Shah lost out in the 2015 election because it could do nothing about the vital road.

Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz upstaged him by sweeping the elections after it promised to construct the road.

G-B Chief minister Hafeezur Rehman, during his visit to Skadu last month, announced the construction of five bridges on the road. These bridges include the main Alam bridge, Sassi Nullah bridge, Brumdoor Nullah bridge, Tungush Nullah bridge and Sapper Shaheed Bridge.

Published in The Express Tribune, November 8th, 2016.

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