In March this year, US journalist and political commentator Nicholas Kristof famously stated that “America is not made for people who pee”. Borrowing from him, it can safely be stated that the Lahore-Sialkot Motorway is not built for the people who pee.
The Public Accounts Committee (PAC) heard on Friday that there is no fuel station and service area on the motorway – the road where two accused had gang-raped a woman last year – and the lack of public toilets forces people to lose their dignity when they go for open defecation on the roadside.
“There is no fuel and rest area on the Sialkot motorway,” PML-N’s Khawaja Asif lamented, adding “it’s the same road where motorway gang rape took place.”
The PML-N stalwart, who belongs to Sialkot, regretted that there are no washrooms on the motorway and “it’s painful to see people, especially children, peeing while standing on the roadside.
PAC Chairman Rana Tanveer Hussain while examining the Ministry of Communication’s audit report for the year 2019-20 pertaining to the National Highway Authority (NHA) and the Pakistan Post Office Department enquired from the officials about the reasons for not providing such basic facilities to the people.
An official from NHA revealed that the highway authority had a meeting with the Frontier Works Organization (FWO) and the latter had assured them that rest areas would soon be established on the motorway.
When Hussain insisted for a timeline, the NHA official replied that it won’t take long. “Now you are talking like a politician,” Asif quipped, adding that the politicians keep saying such things to the voters for even the whole five-year tenure.
Hussain incorporated that PAC would summon DG FWO when it takes up the audit paras of the communication ministry.
At one point, PTI’s Munaza Hassan pushed the officials concerned to explain what do they mean when they say that something was “under process”, saying “there can’t be an easier answer than that.”
She questioned the delay in establishing the rest area and asked if such things weren’t marked when such huge projects are designed.
To this, the officials tried to give her standard definition of the words “under process”. However, soon they admitted the delay and accepted that the fuel stations and rest areas are always a part of such project and that they would be established without any further delay.
Among other things, PAC members also regretted that there was no motorway police on the Lahore-Sialkot motorway yet even after the gruesome incident of gang rape last year. “Local police is deployed there which remains busy in making money,” Asif lamented.
When grilled further, Inspector General National Highways and Motorway Police Dr Syed Kaleem Imam informed the PAC members that the Motorway Police would be deployed from the next week on the motorway and the prerequisites have recently been completed.
The committee, however, expressed that it should have already been deployed, especially, after the motorway rape case.
During the meeting, PAC members expressed displeasure at the dilapidated condition of several highways and roads that are in a state of disrepair or ruin as a result of neglect; lack rest areas and considered dangerous for travelling during rain.
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