Commuters and motorists run the risk of accidents while travelling on Khanpur Road due to its deteriorating condition. This reflects poorly on the elected representatives and respective governments.
The 36.53 km road was built during the Sikh era, according to official sources. It was carpeted about three decades back. However, no maintenance seems to have been carried out since, despite the fact that the families of Raja Sikandar Zaman and Field Marshal Ayub Khan were in power at both, provincial and federal levels for a long time.
Deep ditches are visible throughout the road, right from the T&T Colony barrier to Jandial, a village on the border of Haripur District, from where the road enters into the territorial jurisdiction of Punjab.
These ditches are getting deeper and wider with the passage of time, as the Communications and Works (C&W) authorities only make temporary arrangements by filling them with dirt, sources said.
“They do that whenever some dignitaries are about to use the road” said Raja Tahir, a shopkeeper in Khanpur Bazaar. He added, that the earth-filled trenches get exposed even after a slight drizzle. Moreover, he lamented the lack of implementation of development projects in the district. Sources said that the C&W Department has funds of up to Rs20 million at its annual disposal for maintenance and repair of roads, but due to the lack of interest and political score-settling by the elected representatives, the authorities managed to spend only about Rs17 million on road repairs from 2004 to 2008.
The quality of reconstruction was so poor that the patchwork washed away in the subsequent rainstorm, making the journey more difficult for those travelling by public transport to use the road as a shortcut to Taxila Bypass. A number of fatal accidents have claimed the lives of over two dozen passengers on this road during the last five years.
“[The government] collects billions in taxes in from the district, but not a single road has been improved. This reflects the discrimination exercised by the government,” said Naveed Khan, a local who works for a state body, adding that, Haripur industrial Estate alone contributes Rs20 billion annually to the national and provincial exchequers, but the state of civic amenities is quite pathetic.
The condition of the road was further aggravated during the 2010 floods, despite the fact the district received Rs110 million for road repairs from the province. Khanpur road has some industrial units including a subsidiary of the defence department near Jolian, Khanpur Dam, and tourist areas of Buddhist archeological sites on the sides from Darra Dada Shaheed up to Jandial.
However, it was observed that most of the motorists avoid travelling on this bumpy road, and if someone ventures to use it under compulsion, the traveller ends up with hefty bills from mechanics for repairs on the vehicle.”It is sheer disrespect to the 500,000 voters of Haripur who have four MPAs, including one in the provincial cabinet. Yet, the condition of civic services is deplorable” said Imran Gul, a local businessman.
Meanwhile, an official source at the C&W Department said that the Khanpur Road has been taken over by the National Highway Authority, which will soon start reconstruction.
However, he did not confirm when the formal handover of the rights of road was to take place. When contacted, PPP MPA Dr Faiza Rasheed said that she has taken up the matter with Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani, who has approved the project, while adding that funds would be allocated during the fiscal year 2012-13.
Published in The Express Tribune, August 6th, 2011.