ISLAMABAD - The much-needed extension of Islamabad Expressway from Koral to G.T. Road would be delayed further as the federal government has decided to allocate only a token amount of Rs.05 billion against the total cost of Rs10.7 billion in PSDP 2019-20.

The previous government of Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) had allocated Rs7 billion in Public Sector Development Programme 2018-19 for the project. However, it was the incumbent government which excluded the project while revising the PSDP.

The said portion of Islamabad Expressway is a picture of neglect and poor performance of government due to its dilapidated condition. A series of potholes and craters has turned the road into a permanent nuisance for commuters while daily traffic congestion is a mental torture for routine travellers.

Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf government was widely criticised for excluding this project and a campaign was also underway to convince the government to start it again on social media.

Though, the National Economic Council gave a go ahead for the project on Wednesday and it would be included in the next PSDP but according to sources, only an amount of Rs.05 billion would be allocated as token and the project would not be initiated on ground with such nominal allocation.

When contacted, Prime Minister’s Special Assistant on Capital Development Authority MNA Ali Awan criticised the previous government for preparing fabricated budget and alleged that the extension of Expressway was made its part just to gain political mileage.

“Our government approves Rs25 billion package for capital city out of which Rs10 billion would be spent during next year”, he explained, adding: “We are prioritising the projects according to their need and we are trying to compensate all areas equally.”

In the first phase, the Expressway was made signal free and widened from Zero Point to Koral with the Capital Development Authority’s own funding but when it came to executing it up to the GT Road, the civic body backtracked and excused to further fund the project.

The financial managers of the Capital Development Authority were against the idea to launch the project with indigenous funding with an argument that the said road was being used as a bypass to Rawalpindi city for inter-provincial traffic so the federal government should fund the project instead of the Capital Development Authority.

According to an approved plan, in the second phase, the highway was to be expanded from Koral to Naval Anchorage – a 5-kilometre stretch in first package – while the 7 kilometres distance from Naval Anchorage to GT Road in Rawat in the second package.

It was decided that existing 4 lanes from Koral Interchange to GT Road would be increased up to 8 lanes by adding two rigid lanes and rehabilitating the flexible lanes. Three bridges – at Korang, Bhinder and the Railway stop – were also a part of the approved project in addition to the service roads.

The federal government in general while the Capital Development Authority in particular are under fire on social media as well as on Prime Minister’s portal where most of the people are criticising them for shelving this important project. Sources informed that Capital Development Authority receives hundreds of complaints regarding Islamabad Express Highway each month.

Most of the commuters whom this scribe spoke demanded from the government to provide adequate funds to gear up the project, which would provide ease to thousands of people.