ISLAMABAD - Pakistan is putting up with heavy losses due to the extensive use of national highways network by NATO vehicles taking supplies to Afghanistan and local overloaded trucks against the laid down rules.

The Pakistani government is spending Rs27 billion annually on the maintenance of highways against the total required sum of around Rs75 billion, The Nation learnt reliably.

The estimated gap of Rs48 billion between the spending and the total requirement is further growing with each passing day and it seems that no proper measures were being taken to reduce such costs and losses to the national kitty.

The country’s most strained road network in terms of heavy loads include GT Road (N-5) and most stressed sections include Karachi-Khuzdar-Quetta-Chaman, 813-kilometre, Karachi-Hyderabad (M-9) 136-kilometre, Islamabad-Peshawar-Torkham (N-5) 204-kilometre and Lahore-Islamabad (M-2) 350-kilometre.

The overloaded NATO supplies’ trucks, damaging the national highways, have been operating under ‘American Transit Freight’ to Afghanistan since 2002.

When contacted, Minister for Communications Hafiz Abdul Karim admitted that overloaded trucks and heavy vehicles for NATO supplies were badly damaging the national highway network.

NATO supplies’ trucks, the minister said, carrying heavy loads pass through important highways before entering Afghanistan.

“US President Trump has mentioned $33 billion aid to Pakistan but he did not talk about the losses incurred by the Pakistan government due to the overloaded NATO trucks,” said Karim.  He said that the most significant factor was overloading causing severe damages to national highways.

Sources in the ministry said that the Highway Research and Training Centre (HTRC) is also currently carrying out a study to determine the exact damage the overloaded commercial vehicles were causing to the national highways.

Pakistan has also reportedly deliberated upon blocking supplies to NATO and US forces in Afghanistan through Pak-Afghan border in retaliation to the US’s hostile attitude.

Pakistan has rejected the US allegations that it was not taking action against all terror networks and questioned Trump’s claim of giving $33 billion to Pakistan in security assistance.

Deliberations to block the NATO supply line were discussed at the top level after Trump’s tweet. In his tweet, Trump had said: “The United States has foolishly given Pakistan more than 33 billion dollars in aid over the last 15 years, and they have given us nothing but lies & deceit, thinking of our leaders as fools. They give safe haven to the terrorists we hunt in Afghanistan, with little help. No more!”.

Pakistan had also reportedly planned to levy special toll tax on NATO/ISAF trucks that were causing heavy losses to the national exchequer by damaging the national highway network.

The idea to impose special toll tax on these freight trucks at Chaman and Torkham border posts could not be materialized, however.

During the PPP government’s tenure, the country had also shared a document with Friends of Democratic Pakistan about the country’s network situation with this particular reference.

The average road damages being caused by NATO/ISAF freight is estimated at 19 percent of the total expenditure of repair and maintenance of the road infrastructure. Roads in Pakistan are mostly designed for a service life of 10 to 15 years.