The communication ministry has proposed charging Nato forces $1,000 per container to offset the Rs100 billion in damages caused to the road infrastructure in the past 10 years, said a top government functionary.
“According to our conservative assessment, the Nato containers caused Rs100 billion in damages to the road infrastructure and have not paid a penny in return,” said Communications Secretary Anwar Ahmad Khan while briefing the Public Accounts Committee on Tuesday.
The statement comes at a time when Pakistan and United States are negotiating new conditions for reopening the ground lines of communication (GLOC), the official name for the Nato supply routes through Pakistan. US Defence Secretary Leon Panetta has declined to accept Pakistan’s demand of $5,000 per container, inclusive of all charges.
Khan said the communication ministry has proposed to the Foreign Office to deduct a specific amount at source to avoid losses in the future.
After the meeting, Khan told The Express Tribune that the ministry has recommended $1,000, exclusive of other charges that the government wants to receive for opening the GLOC.
“General Musharraf allowed the use of Pakistan’s territory without getting legitimate benefits; the mistake will now be rectified,” said PAC Chairman Nadeem Afzal Chan.
Due to heavy traffic, the M2, the Lahore-Islamabad Motorway, and the Peshawar-Torkham Highway have outlived their usefulness and require complete rehabilitation, Khan said, adding that the rehabilitation of M2 alone will cost Rs35 billion.
The PAC summoned top management of the Frontier Works Organisation, the army’s construction wing, for illegally occupying 38 toll plazas under the guise of keeping an eye on US and Nato supplies. Khan disclosed that FWO says they will not vacate them until the US forces leave Afghanistan.
“They have not shared with us who has directed them to monitor Nato supplies at toll plazas but they have eaten up our Rs6.5 billion being collected as toll tax, making it impossible to repair the roads,” said Anwar.
“Surveillance is the job of the country’s intelligence agencies and the FWO is making lame excuses to plunder people’s money,” ruled the PAC.
National Highway Authority (NHA) Chairman Mohammad Ali Gardezi said that if the FWO did not vacate the toll plazas, it will be impossible to sign contracts for repair of M2, since the NHA wanted to rebuild the motorway on build, operate and transfer (BOT) basis that requires handing over of toll plazas and other allied facilities to the parties that win the contract.
The PAC also called for explanation from a bureaucrat, who has delayed inquiry into alleged favouritism in awarding of construction contract of the M3 motorway to Husnain Construction Company.
The PAC directed secretary communication to fix responsibility of losses and recover the amount and submit a report within 15 days.
Published in The Express Tribune, May 23rd, 2012.
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