The Islamabad-Haripur tunnel would not only reduce the travel time between the two cities but also help alleviate poverty in Khanpur. The government needs to approve the tunnel project as soon as possible, according to the local leaders.
Musharraf’s government had planned to link Islamabad with Haripur district through a tunnel via Margalla Hills. According to CDA’s initial survey, the six-km-long tunnel between Islamabad Capital Territory’s (ICT) bordering village of Shah Allah Dita to Garam and Thoon Choee village of Khanpur would cost about Rs4 billion to build.
The project was expected to reduce travel time between Islamabad and Haripur by 30-40 minutes. It had initially attracted real estate investors as it was suppose to trigger a transaction of over Rs400 million, as 3000 acres in villages bordering ICT and the surrounding belt of the Khanpur Reservoir were going to be used for the purpose.
However some Islamabad-based non-governmental organisations objected to the tunnel, terming it a threat to the local ecosystem.
Former Finance Minister Omer Ayub Khan said the project would improve the living standards of people of the four union councils of Khanpur, which have remained neglected for the last 61 years. He said that the project would encourage tourism in the area by enhancing economic activities and boosted real estate which is very much needed in the face of prevailing poverty.
“The master plan of 1960s displayed at Zero Point shows that we are a part of the ICT,” said Omer Sajid, an advocate and former Nazim of Union Council Najaf Pur. He said Haripur district is a part of the ICT up to the left bank of River Haro (on which Khanpur dam was built), but has been “arbitrarily excluded” from the ICT.
Former District Nazim Haripur Yousuf Ayub Khan said that the government must acknowledge the sacrifices of people of Haripur for Tarbela dam, Khanpur dam, Ghazi Brotha Power Project and some other projects of national importance.
PML-N’s MNA and Central President Muslim Youth Organization Captain (retd) Muhammad Safdar said that building Hazara Expressway from Hassan Abdal to Mansehra would enhance trade with China.
He added that if the proposed Hattar Industrial Estate bypass is linked with the Haripur tunnel it would further reduce journey time between Islamabad and Hazara division, improving the economic condition of the local people. He said he would take the matter up with higher authorities.
Published in The Express Tribune, August 17th, 2011.