Islamabad - American Ambassador to Pakistan, David Hale along with Chairman National Highway Authority, Shahid Ashraf Tarar and Director Frontier Works Organisation, Major General Muhammad Afzal yesterday opened an exhibition displaying photos of the recently rehabilitated section of National Highway connecting Chaman to Kalat through Quetta, Balochistan. 

At the exhibition, which commemorates the recent completion of American-funded improvements on the road, attendees viewed many photos of Pakistani life on and around the new highway.

The United States, through the US Agency for International Development, funded the construction of the 111 kilometres needed to complete the N-25 highway, in cooperation with the Frontier Works Organisation, the prime contractor, and the National Highway Authority. 

USAID provided $ 63 million to rehabilitate the highway and has committed an additional $27 million for further improvements including a bypass road at Kuchlak, four bridges, two weighing stations, and three toll plazas.

The newly-restored N-25 highway will increase trade and economic integration by linking Pakistan with Afghanistan and its Central Asian neighbours.

The road, which stretches from Chaman on the border with Afghanistan to Karachi, will also improve the lives of the people of Balochistan by expanding access to basic healthcare, education, and other social services.  The Frontier Works Organisation began construction in October 2014.

“This road is a concrete demonstration of America’s commitment to help bring peace, stability, and prosperity to Pakistan. It is a testament to the far-reaching benefits of our partnership, as it will serve the people of Pakistan for generations to come,” Ambassador Hale said at the inauguration.

The funding for this highway is one element of USAID’s $ 681.5 million FATA Infrastructure Programme, which has restored essential public infrastructure in remote communities. 

To date, USAID has funded the construction and rehabilitation of more than 1,100 kilometres of roads in Pakistan, including the four major trade routes between Pakistan and Afghanistan.

Meanwhile US Ambassador David Hale also met with approximately 25 Pakistani disability rights advocates to discuss the achievements of individuals with disabilities in Pakistan, America, and elsewhere around the world. 

The group also discussed the means to address challenges that individuals with disabilities still face in society today, such as difficulty accessing mainstream education and health services.

“At the State Department, led by our Special Advisor for International Disability Rights, Judith Heumann, we campaign to raise awareness of the challenges faced by people with disabilities,” said Ambassador Hale. 

He added, “Earlier this year in conjunction with the Paralympics, we started a campaign called ‘Without Limits.’  This campaign focuses on ensuring that persons with disabilities are employed on an equal basis with others.”

The American Embassy recently concluded a one-year $375,000 programme, managed by the Special Talent Exchange Programme (STEP), to support Pakistani women with disabilities. 

Through this program, STEP organised more than 90 training sessions, TV talk show discussions, and provincial workshops to increase public and Pakistani government awareness about the rights of women with disabilities and to provide livelihood training for women with disabilities, said a statement.

“While we observe and celebrate the International Day of Persons with Disabilities, we also need to commit ourselves to the 17 Sustainable Development Goals, which can create a more inclusive and equitable world for persons with disabilities,” said STEP President Atif Sheikh.

Now, the American embassy, Mobility International, and STEP are beginning collaboration on a new programme to empower Pakistanis with disabilities and their allies. 

The American embassy also supports the rights of individuals with disabilities through exchange programmes and other activities, such as the International Visitor Leadership Programme.