Prime Minister Muhammad Nawaz Sharif has had a vision of a developed and progressive Pakistan ever since he conceived the first motorway of Pakistan that connected Lahore and Islamabad. Since then, Pakistan has been able to develop a vast network of motorways, roadways and bridges to link the entire country. In this current phase, the PML-N led government is once again concentrating on infrastructure projects worth billions of rupees, not just for national needs but also keeping in mind the requirements of China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC).

Pakistan is now embarking on the biggest road-building programme in its history, with projects worth $11.5 billion under way. After the completion of these projects, the total length of new motorways will reach 2,000 kilometres. Pakistan’s national network of highways to date, stretches to about 12,000 kilometres, according to the National Highway Authority (NHA). Punjab, Sindh, Balochistan, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Gilgit-Baltistan and Azad Kashmir are being connected through a network of high-quality roads and highways to accelerate socio-economic development in the country. On the instructions of Prime Minister Muhammad Nawaz Sharif, NHA is developing infrastructure projects through the private sector on Build-Own-Operate (BOO) and Build-Operate-Transfer (BOT) basis. A number of road connectivity projects have also been launched to reap maximum economic and social benefits. A 136 kilometre-long Karachi-Hyderabad motorway with 16 exits is being constructed with Rs 24 billion. The Sialkot-Lahore Motorway Project, Karachi-Hyderabad Motorway and Khanewal-Lahore Motorway will also be completed soon. Not only that, but more than 5,000 kilometres of rural roads have been constructed and revamped on modern lines at a cost of Rs 51 billion.

All provinces are being connected to others through multiple road corridors, cutting down on travel time, with huge savings on fuel, time and costs. Pakistan’s communication network is changing, as apart from motorways, four-lane highways are also being built in different areas of the country; for example, the federal government is to finance the dual 126 kilometres long Jamshoro road. Also, the project of re-carpeting and renovating the Lahore-Islamabad Motorway launched in 2014 has already been completed

Among the under-construction projects according to NHA there is 59 kilometre Burhan-Havelian Motorway also known as Hazara Motorway which should be completed by end of 2017. Similarly, work on 120 kilometre Havelian-Thakot section of China-Pakistan Economic Corridor is ongoing and it will cost Rs 136 billion. Work on the Hakla-D I Khan section of CPEC started last year, and the 285 kilometre project costing Rs 129 billion will be completed in 2018. PC-I of 210 Kilometre D I Khan-Zhob section of N-50 has been prepared and its work is likely to start this year. Many other projects are also underway, such as 230 kilometre Lahore-Multan Motorway that will cost Rs 148 billion. The under-construction 62 kilometre Gojra-Shorkot section of Faisalabad-Multan Motorway (M-4) should cost Rs 17.5 billion while its 64 kilometre Shorkot-Khanewal section is also planned. About 89 kilometers of the Sialkot-Lahore motorway will cost Rs 44 billion and its work started last year.

At procurement stage is the Hyderabad-Sukkur Motorway project (M-6), 296 kilometre long, and it would cost Rs 163 billion and the Jaglot-Skardu Highway (S-1), 164 kilometres long, will cost Rs 32 billion. Balance work of the 135 kilometre Raikot-Thakot (N-35) is at the planning stage and would cost Rs 8 billion. According to the NHA, under construction projects include Zhob-Mughalkot (N-50) and Qila Saifullah motorway while the 200 kilometre Yakilometreach-Kharan highway is another important under construction road which would cost 13.76 billion. Khuzdar-Basima Highway, forming part of the CPEC would be 110 kilometre long and cost Rs 19.76 billion.

There has also been some excellent progress with regards to government collaboration with the United Kingdom’s Department for International Development (DFID) and Asian Development Bank (ADB), which has kicked-off a two-year project to formulate the National Transport Policy.

The comprehensive national transport policy and master plan will help cut travel time and boost the country’s economic outlook, while positioning it as a regional trade and business hub. It also seeks a safe, efficient, and sustainable transport system to realise Pakistan’s Vision 2025. At the project inception workshop held in Islamabad recently, Joanna Reid, head of Department for International Development Pakistan, Werner E Liepach, Asian Development Bank’s country director for Pakistan, and Ahsan Iqbal, Minister of Planning, Development and Reform, underscored the importance of an effective transport policy that not only creates more jobs but also spurs economic growth. This policy will upgrade the country’s transport sector, offering long-term opportunities for all transport modes in Pakistan, including railways, roads, ports and shipping, aviation, and logistics services. Improvement of road safety programmes, road asset management systems, scaling up resources for better road design, and supporting multimodal transport to facilitate trade within Pakistan and with its neighbouring countries are other key targets.

The government has started large scale infrastructure development projects to boost economy and to ensure provision of basic facilities at the grassroots level and also to open new vistas of opportunities for the people. Hopefully, all this will come together in a comprehensive manner to allow Pakistan to prosper and thrive as befitting a nation of its stature.