PESHAWAR: Infrastructure and communication play a vital role in development, improving living standards and bringing people from different regions closer to each other. However, lack of communication, exacerbated by the dilapidated condition of roads, is considered a major reason behind ‘backwardness’ in many regions, especially the northern areas of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa.
Known to be one of the most beautiful valleys of the subcontinent, Swat was an independent princely state, along with Dir and Chital, until it was merged in Pakistan.
With the passage of time, successive rulers made the area attractive which gave a boost to tourism.
A film, Road to Swat, which was produced by Malik Niazi, played a key role in further enhancing popularity of the region. A late actor, Waheed Murad, played the leading role, alongside Zeba, in the film. One of its famous songs Ye ada ye naaz ye andaaz apka, dheeray dheeray pyar ka bahana ban gaya sung by Ahmad Rushdi and Mala is still hummed by people.
The movie became an impetus to tourist influx in Swat.
However, after merger of three independent states in 1969, successive rulers failed in framing ways to not only maintain the natural beauty of this particular region, but also to exploit mineral resources and the tourism sector.
Lack of rulers’ interests gradually fuelled a sense of deprivation among people and an alarming increase in unemployment and poverty in the region.
Finally, the region attracted attention from all over the world when militants tried to make it a hub of their nefarious designs. Unprecedented violence and terror forced not only rulers but even international donors to realise their responsibility regarding addressing genuine needs of the people of Malakand. And now efforts are under way to address grievances of people of Malakand, especially Swat.
Ray of hope
Few days back, Chief Minister Pervez Khattak along with Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf Chairperson Imran Khan laid the foundation stone of Swat Motorway. The project will be linked with Islamabad-Peshawar Motorway, while Captain Karnal Sher Khan Shaheed Interchange will be directly linked to Chakdara.
The project will be completed by Frontier Works Organization by December 2017 and will cost Rs40 billion. It will be a four-lane motorway which could be extended to six lanes in future. The 81-kilometre-long motorway starts from Captain Karnal Sher Khan Interchange at M-1 and will pass through Swabi and Mardan before reaching Chakdara.
According to Khattak, the government had already purchased land worth Rs5 billion for the project last year. “We will provide Rs11.5 billion to FWO this year and Rs6 billion will be provided next year,” he had said. “The remaining amount will be generated from the toll tax, while FWO will carry out maintenance of the road for 25 years.”
Both Imran and Khattak called the initiative a milestone for progress and prosperity of the region.
One has the right to differ with the policy and views of any political party, but its endeavor in resolving the problems faced by the public and improving their living standards could not be neglected. The PTI leadership is also striving to help people of the province.
Published in The Express Tribune, August 29th, 2016.