KARACHI - Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif on Wednesday said a network of motorways would be stretched across the country to inter-connect all the provinces.

He was performing the ground-breaking of M-9 Karachi-Hyderabad motorway, the first phase of Lahore-Karachi motorway.

He said, “We want to bring hearts of people, living across the country, closer and linking of provinces through motorways will develop such a close bond between them.”

The Karachi-Hyderabad section would be completed in two-and-a-half years with a cost of Rs36 billion of the total Rs361 billion expenditure. Frontier Works Organisation (FWO) and National Highway Authority (NHA) will jointly carry out the project. Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif said the modern road network would not only boost national economy, but also help generate employment and end poverty. He said the project would eventually benefit billions of people across the region and help create a positive image of Pakistan. He said it would also help increase the agricultural production and industries.

He said materialisation of Lahore-Karachi motorway project was one of his biggest dreams. He said the road would be constructed in sections including Hyderabad-Sukkur, Sukkur-Multan, Multan-Lahore that would link the country from Peshawar to Karachi through a fast road network.

The Prime Minister regretted that Pakistan has failed to be part of the developed countries of the world by not constructing vital communication networks. He stressed the need to learn from the past mistakes and undertake mega projects at fast pace. He said Pakistan had talented youth that can play an important role in national development. He said the government, in around 20 months time, had initiated a number of mega projects and M-9 was part of his vision.

He mentioned the 42-kilometre-long Malir Expressway that would link Karachi port to M-9 so that commuters do not experience any delays. He said Sukkur-Multan road would be part of Pakistan-China Trade corridor and play a key role in national economy. He said with completion of modern road network, people would prefer travelling by road, rather than by air.

He particularly appreciated FWO Director General Major General M Afzal and his role in construction of roads in Balochistan. He paid rich tributes to the officers and jawans of FWO who laid down their lives for linking strategic areas of the country. He asked Major General Afzal to complete the project within the shortest possible time.

Nawaz also lauded the Pakistan Army for waging a tough war against terrorists and their efforts to eliminate all forms of sectarianism and terrorism. He prayed for success in the war against terrorism. He said measures were also afoot to rid the country of loadshedding. He claimed that 10,000MW would be added to the national grid before the end of his government’s tenure. He mentioned work on various ongoing projects including Thar Coal, saying Pakistan would soon be self-sufficient in coal production. The PM said quality work would be ensured on the newly-reconstructed road and it would be one of the best roads of international standard.

He said the road network would be extended to Kabul for which he had already talked to Afghan President Ashraf Ghani. He said soon Pakistan’s road network would connect Karachi and Gwadar Ports to Khunjerab and Central Asian Republics.

FWO Director General Major General M Afzal termed the project launching an important day in Pakistan’s road network history. He said the 136-km long two-way road would have eight interchanges and would be constructed under public-private partnership as FWO would get funding from Pakistani banks.

Highlighting salient features of M-9, Major General Afzal said the existing road would be expanded to six lanes and every kilometre of road would be planted with 8,000 to 10,000 trees including Corno Corpus, species of Mangrove family, which has been especially chosen to cool the area during the summers. He said barbed wire fence would be erected on either side of the road by utilising new technology, as was done for the construction of M2 motorway.

He said two trauma centres and modern service areas would be constructed at different locations, besides providing a dedicated radio network to inform and entertain the road users. He said the selection of FWO for the upgradation and reconstruction of the road was a matter of pride for the organization. He assured that it would ensure provision of a quality road network.