By Malik Achakzai

QUETTA, Pakistan (Inzuna) – A big cloud of dust swirls above our Corolla as it gets onto the road. Black shade surrounds the car. Nobody can see the traffic coming towards us, and we are not sure the cars coming at us can see us.

This scary scenario is a daily occurrence for those who drive on the Kalat-Quetta-Chaman section of Pakistan’s National Highway, N-25. The road has been under construction since 2004 and delays in its completion have caused hundreds of deaths.

The highway is considered to be one of the most important trade routes between Pakistan and Afghanistan. N-25 stretches from Karachi, Sindh to Quetta, Balochistan and then on to Afghanistan where it turns into N-40 connecting it to Iran, Turkey, and then Europe. The road is also linked to a highway that is used to transport goods in and out of the important port city of Gwadar in Balochistan.

“Many construction companies are changed and billions of rupees are wasted in the tenure of each company,” said Noor Ahmed Kakar, president of All Balochistan Goods Truck Transport Companies Association, while speaking with Inzuna.

According to the association’s records, more than 237 drivers, conductors and passengers have been killed in road accidents on the N-25 due to delays in construction and diversions on the road. “And some of the sections which are built are never of the quality mentioned by [the] National Highway Authority,” Kakar said.

As of January of 2014, 759 kilometers of road have been finished on the N-25, a Pakistan-based USAID spokesperson, who requested anonymity, told Inzuna.

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Malik Achakzai interviewing people on Pakistan’s National Higway, N-25.

USAID has committed $90 million for the highway’s construction and is planning for its completion in 30 months’ time. The money will be disbursed to the government of Pakistan and the National Highway Authority of Pakistan (NHA), which in turn hired Frontier Works Organization (FWO), a civil engineering firm based in Rawalpindi, to finish construction of the N-25.

But in the meantime, misfortunes continues to persist.

“These [roads] will be washed away by rain water and heavy load carriers in months. The asphalt will be pressed down into holes because of poor quality construction products… I don’t think this road will remain very long under heavy NATO and civilian truck transportation,” Kakar told Inzuna.

He said that the National Highway Authority (NHA), the governmental department in charge of Pakistan’s roadways, is giving “false promises” to finish the road.

He also explained that “the dust has proven to be unhealthy both to those living beside the road and drivers and passengers.”

Haji Nasir Ahmed Bacha, an ex-provincial minister and tribal elder of Balochistan, told Inzuna that a private road construction company started work on the N-25 before 2004 but did not have any government security. Consequently, “influential groups and individuals pushed the company not to work and always demanded heavy bribes”, he said.

Noor ul Hassan Mandokhail, general manager of the NHA, corroborated Bacha’s assessment while speaking with Inzuna and said that “money seizures and a lack of proper funding caused road building delays.”

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Malik Achakzai interviewing people on Pakistan’s National Higway, N-25.

After the US invaded Afghanistan, Bacha said, “Pakistan wanted to slow down NATO supply carriers. Pakistan felt some sort of fear due to NATO forces presence in Afghanistan.”

However, now that the war effort is winding down and NATO forces are returning to their respective countries he said that he believes delays to road building will stop.

Bacha is confident that the FWO will deliver the necessary fixes to the highway securely as the company has much needed militaristic capabilities.

“No ‘mafia’ can stand in the way of semi-military companies. They [the FWO staff] cannot be pressured by groups and individuals demanding heavy bribes,” Bacha stated.

Follow Malik Achakzai on Twitter at @AfghanJourno

Follow Inzuna on Twitter at @inzuna

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