ECNEC defers approval after Sindh’s objection

Lahore-Bahawalnagar Motorway

ISLAMABAD    -  The Executive Committee of the National Economic Council has deferred the approval of Lahore-Sahiwal-Bahawalnagar motorway after the representative of Sindh province objected over this multi-billion project. 
ECNEC is the highest forum in the country for giving final nod to mega development projects and it is chaired by the Prime Minister while deputy prime minister, minister for finance, minister for planning and one minister from all four provinces are its members.  
The Central Development Working Party of the Planning Commission on June 26, 2024 had recommended a 295km long motorway project at a revised cost of Rs435.7 billion for the further consideration and approval of the ECNEC.  
Well placed sources informed that in a recent meeting held on Tuesday, the representative minister of Sindh has objected over the construction of a new green field motorway in Punjab. He argued that instead of making concrete efforts for the construction of the last missing link of motorways between Peshawar to Karachi, the Sukkur-Hyderabad Motorway, the federal government wants to approve a project worth billions of rupees for Punjab again. 
He questioned why Sukkur-Hyderabad Motorway is not being constructed with government’s funding and left for public private mode when the federal government is willing to build another motorway in Punjab province.  
As per a senior officer present in the meeting, the member from Sindh demanded that if a full-fledged motorway is going to be given to Punjab then a similar motorway project should be given to Sindh. 
However, the Deputy Prime Minister Senator Ishaq Dar to avoid a direct political clash has directed to defer the agenda item till a political consensus is reached over the project.      
It is pertinent to mention here that the said project was personally announced by the Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif in his last stay in the government and his party tried to take political mileage in the general elections as well. 
The project envisages construction of two motorway sections. The first section consists of 06 lanes motorway having a length of 220km, which  will starts from Lahore Ring Road near Haloki Interchange and passes near various towns like Jedu, Watna, Rao Khan Wala, Bhimke, Chunian, Allahabad, Shergarh, Hujra Shah Muqeem, Depalpur, Okara, Sahiwal, Chichawatni, Harapa and finally terminates on National Highway N-5 near Kassuwal. 
The second section of the motorway having 04 lanes with a length of 75km offshoots from the first motorway section near Depalpur and passes near Pakpattan, Arifwala and further crosses river Sutlej and terminates on Minchinabad-Bahawalnagar road near Bahawalnagar. 
CDWP recommended the revised project for the consideration of the ECNEC but with certain conditions that includes that the 51.5 kilometer long package-I of the phase I starting from Lahore Ring road to Bimke-Chunian Road at the cost of Rs.74.9 billion will be executed by Korean EXIM Bank’s funding.
CDWP directed that the Land Acquisition will be carried out by the NHA to the extent of Package 1 prior to start of the procurement and the authorization of the project will be issued upon receipt of after getting a certificate from the Ministry of Communications that the Right of Way (RoW) for the construction of the instant project is available and there will be no delay in execution of the project till its completion due to non-availability of ROW.

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