PESHAWAR  -   Expressways play a pivotal role in economic and tourism development of a country. Moreover, these provide an easy access to isolated and less visited destinations of tourism, heritage and archeological sites in order to generate substantial revenue for the national kitty. Like most of the developing countries, tourism industry is underperforming since long in Pakistan despite its enormous potential primarily due to poor transportation system and lack of roads to interlink tourists’ destinations through enhanced motorways’ network.

To take full advantage of the rich tourism potential of Khyber Pakthunkhwa, including seven districts of Malakand Division, the former PTI Government had taken a principled decision to construct state-of-the-art 81 kilometers long Swat Expressway to explore the hidden treasures of Swat, Chitral, Dir Upper, Dir Lower, Kohistan, Shangla, Buner, Mohmand and Bajaur districts before the world.

The Swat Expressway commences from Karnal Sher Interchange in Swabi district on Peshawar-Islamabad Motorway and concludes at Chakdara in Dir Lower district after passing through 21 bridges and 1300 meters twin tunnels on the National Highway N-45. Former KP chief minister Pervez Khattak had performed the ground-breaking of four-lane 120 kilometers high speed fenced Swat Expressway on August 25, 2016 to provide an extra and fast track communication facilities to thousands of travelers visiting this part of the country on daily basis. The long awaited project passed through difficult phases of tunneling, construction and land leveling, and finally its 51 kilometers patch from Karnal Sher Khan Swabi Interchange up to Katlang Mardan was opened for vehicular traffic on May 21, 2018.

Engineer Barkatullah Khan, Project Director, Swat Expressway told APP that work on the second phase from Katlang Mardan to Chakdara Lower Dir district had entered into last stage of completion and as per the directives of Prime Minister Imran Khan, the entire expressway would be opened for vehicular traffic on May 25, 2019.

“The Prime Minister has given clear instructions for its opening on May 25 to facilitate the people of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, including Malakand Division. We are working against the time to complete it,” he said.

The construction work on 1.2 kilometers twin tunnels, besides 21 bridges and 25 acres service area on each side of the expressway, have been completed. “The Swat Expressway is presently four lanes that will be later converted into a six- lane motorway,” Barkatullah said, adding the KP Government has planned to extend this project up to Mingora, Swat, for which feasibility study had been completed.