KHANEWAL - ANJUM BASHIR/SYED HAMMAD SHAH - Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif yesterday inaugurated M-4 section of Khanewal-Multan four-lane motorway at Shamkot Interchange about 6km from here.

Addressing the ceremony, the prime minister said after his government was toppled in 1999, progress in Pakistan came to a standstill. If dictatorship had continued and democracy had not returned to the country, the country would have been in dire straits. The prime minister said once completed, the motorway would reduce traffic pressure in Multan city as the heavy vehicles would be using the motorway instead of passing through the city. He added the country was holding those responsible for halting progress accountable.

Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif mentioned other development projects currently underway and those planned for the future as well. He pointed out that Lowari Tunnel would be completed next year in March this year. He laid the foundation stone of a motorway project between Karachi and Lahore, which would be completed in four phases. “In the first phase, a 139-km-long six-lane motorway between Karachi and Hyderabad is being constructed at a cost of Rs 36 billion. The project, expected to be completed in 30 months, would replace the Superhighway. The second phase of the M-9 project will link Hyderabad and Sukkur and the third phase will reduce travel time between Sukkur and Multan while the last phase of the project will link Multan to Lahore,” he said.

The M-4 section, a part of Karachi-Lahore Motorway project, was completed at a cost of about Rs 12 billion. NHA saved Rs 0.937 billion as its estimated cost was Rs 12.937 billion. It will benefit the economy in terms of surge in employment and business opportunities.

The prime minister directed all the chief ministers to fix and ensure minimum price of sugarcane at Rs 180 per 40kg. He said mega power projects were being launched to end loadshedding in the country, adding there would be no outages after two and a half years. The PM said: “We have taken serious steps to eliminate terrorism because development of the country has beenbadly affected by this menace.

Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif also paid a surprise visit to village Shamkot, which was not in his schedule earlier.

National Highway Authority (NHA) Chairman Shahid Ashraf Tarar who is also the federal communications secretary, while addressing the participants of the inaugural ceremony, said the new motorway section would drastically reduce the traffic congestion, particularly heavy vehicular traffic in Multan city and serve as a bypass in the city. “The proposed facility will also facilitate traffic in Balochistan commuting through the National Highway. The M4 is being constructed in four stages: (i) Faisalabad-Gojra (58km), (ii) Gojra-Shorkot (61km), (iii) Shorkot-Dinpur-Khanewal (64km) and (iv) Khanewal-Multan (56km). Total length of this project is 240km while two large bridges will be constructed on the River Ravi and Mailsi-Sidhnai link Channel. Moreover, 15 interchanges and 23 flyovers/underpasses, 11 bridges, 19 underpasses, 191 pipe culverts and 55 WCC box and gas culverts will be part of the project,” the NHA chief said.

“Initially, the estimated cost was USD 601 million, equivalent to Rs 61 billion. National Highway Authority (NHA) has spent Rs 12 billion on the construction of Khanewal-Multan section of Faisalabad-Multan Motorway. 56Km is being financed by Islamic Development Bank (IDB) as per approval of PC-I from Executive Committee of the National Economic Council (ECNEC). This 56km project will also form part of National Trade Corridor (NTC) Programme. The NHA has saved Rs 0.937 billion, which shows transparency. In this portion of M-4 (Khanewal-Multan), there are four interchanges, 17 bridges, 44 underpasses and 27 subways,” the NHA chief asserted/

While addressing the gathering, former provincial minister and PML-N leader Haji Irfan Ahmad Khan Daha said: “We all as residents of Khanewal district are very thankful to the prime minister for his visit of the area to inaugurate the project.” He welcomed all the VIPs and Punjab Governor Malik Rafique Rajwana.

Haji Irfan Daha appreciated the mega development projects of the PML-N government. He requested the prime minister to announce ownership rights to the tenants of seed corporation villages of Khanewal, upgradation of industrial state, improvement of cotton seed quality and import of new cotton seed varieties for maximum yield per acre. Irfan Daha demanded urgent measures to reduce unemployment in the area.

Punjab Governor Malik Rafique Rajwana, while addressing the ceremony, said he was thankful to the prime minster and the chief minister for his appointment as the governor of the province. H also thanked them for policies and development projects for the residents of South Punjab. He said law and order situation in the port city had improved and now investors were rushing back to the country with new projects. He dismissed the claims of those who were saying the government had been unable to make any significant progress and cited various development projects. A large number of politicians, including Federal Minister for Agriculture Skindar Bosan, MNAs, barrister Raza Hayat, Muhammad Khan Daha, Pir Muhammad Aslam Bodla, MPAs, Nishat Ahmad Khan Daha, Ch Fazlur Rehman, Rana Baber Hussain, Aamir Hiraj, Hussain Jahanian Gerdezi, Rana Mehmoodul Hassan, former MNA Majeeda Wyne, IG Punjab Mushtaq Sukhera, Khanewal DPO Jahanzeb Nazir, DCO Khalid Mehmood Shah and others were present on this mega event.