For putting an end to the seven decades long negligence, the merged areas of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (the erstwhile FATA) have witnessed substantial development works under the Federal government’s public sector development program (PSDP) to facilitate over five million tribal people.

Expediting pace on infrastructure, digitization, education, health and other socioeconomic projects after successful completion of KP-Fata merger process, the Federal government has approved Khyber Pass Economic Corridor (KPEC) project to accelerate pace of economic development and bolster industrialization in the once hitherto neglected tribal region.

Following abolishment of draconian frontier crimes regulations (FCRs), granting of constitutional rights, extension of local government, police and judicial systems; the government has also approved KPEC to link Peshawar with Torkhum Khyber tribal district.

The construction of 47.5 kilometer four lane expressway would connect Pakistan with Afghanistan and Central Asian Republics (CARs) , making positive economic impact on merged areas. “KPEC, a three year project for which the Federal Government would provide USD 385.6 million with KP government’s share of USD 75 million would be completed by 2025,” Fayaz Ahmad, Director Coordination, National Highway Authority (NHA) KP told APP.

He said the loan agreement was signed with the World Bank for construction of KPEC, adding the expressway would start from Tarnab Peshawar and will bypass Peshawar City, Cantonment and onwards connect Jamrud, Landi Kotal and Torkhum of Khyber tribal district. It would have 22 bridges and flyovers, 139 culverts and two major interchanges and service areas besides others facilities.

“This PSDP project is currently in the designed preparation stage and hopefully practical work would start on it in February next year,” he said, adding with Torkhum border now open 24/7, traffic volume would further increase between Peshawar and Torkhum.

Following completion of KPEC and construction of additional carriageway of Torkhum- Jalalabad road project costing Rs7344 million, the tribal people and local communities on both sides of the western borders would benefit from roads connecting them to the expressways besides giving impetus to development in merged areas.

The project would make positive impact on commercial infrastructure, medium enterprises including marble and freight sectors and revitalization of industrial estates in merged areas. He said an estimated about 100,000 new jobs would be created for tribal people under KPEC.

To link North Waziristan and South Waziristan tribal districts with KP’s southern districts through enhanced roads connectivity, he said that 89pc work on 60 kilometers long Sarai Gambila-Karak section (package-) has been completed.

Similarly, he said that 85 percent of its package-II (Karak-Kohat section of 72 kilometers length) completed, adding total cost of the project is Rs30, 130 million including an allocation of Rs3,500 million in PSDP of the last fiscal year.

First package would be completed with an estimated cost of Rs1.22 billion and second package would cost Rs1.78 billion connecting Lower and Upper Chitral districts with Dir and Bajaur tribal districts.

Likewise, Chitral-Booni-Mastoj-Shandor road Chitral having a bid cost of over Rs2.6 billion with Rs2,000 million PSDP’s allocation would be widened and improved and to be completed by November 2023.

Besides construction work of Kurram-Tangi Dam in North Waziristan and completion of Gomal Zam dam of 17.4 MW in South Waziristan, the Federal Government expedited work on Mohmand dam costing Rs309.6 billion with capacity to produce 800MW electricity and gross storage capacity is 1.293 million acres feet (MAF), according to Wapda official.

Besides supplementing 160,000 acres of existing land and about 18,237acres of new land would be irrigated while its annual benefits are estimated Rs 2.23 billion. The project would help protect Peshawar, Charsadda and Nowshera from floods with annual Rs45.76 billion revenue in terms of flood mitigation. The overall benefits of the project stand at Rs51 billion.

The official said about 20 percent work on Mohmand dam being constructed upstream of River Swabi in Mohmand tribal district has been completed while the remaining work would be completed by 2026.

He said over 300 million gallons of water per day would be provided to Peshawar from Mohmand dam for drinking purposes with Rs957 million benefits. The project would provide 2.86 billion units of environment friendly electricity to the national grid every year.

Umair Khattak, senior research officer, Planning and Development Department KP told the news agency that special priority in PSDP 2022-23 has been accorded to education, vocational training, roads infrastructure and health projects under accelerated implementation program for merged areas. He said the Prime Minister’s education and skills enhancement for all programs for promotion of technical and vocational education and training development was underway in merged areas costing Rs 9,880 million.

He said Rs2053 million were being spent on construction of Institute of Petroleum Technology Karak where students of tribal districts would also be enrolled. Khyber Institute of Child Health & Children Hospital Peshawar was being constructed with an estimated cost of Rs 7955.334 million that would also benefit patients of merged areas.

Umair said Rs25,000 million were earmarked for development of merged areas in PSDP 2022-23 and Rs30,000 million for 10 years development program of the tribal districts. He said Rs 3213. 217 million would be spent on construction of Zyra-Daboori road in Oakzai Agency.

Under Economic Development Plan (EDP) focusing on 113 initiatives for development of merged areas, he said that 55 projects worth Rs 16 billion would be completed in North Waziristan in next three years and 57 projects worth Rs 24 billion in South Waziristan.

Ikhtair Wali, PMLN Spokesman and Member Provincial Assembly said that Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif soon after assuming power had visited North Waziristan where he announced construction of a medical college, Danish schools system and university.

Terming KP-Fata merger a great achievement of the PML-N government, he said these projects would usher a new era of prosperity and development in merged areas besides addressing the sense of deprivation of tribal people.