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Nawaz Sharif inaugurated Attabad tunnel

15 September, 2015

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HUNZA: Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif inaugurated the realigned section of Karakorum Highway and newly constructed seven-kilometer tunnels at Attabad Lake on Monday.

Gilgit-Baltistan Chief Minister Hafiz Hafeezur Rehman received the prime minister on his arrival here. He briefed the PM about matters related to the region. Later, the prime minister inaugurated the realigned 24km patch of KKH containing five tunnels at Attabad Barrier Lake. National Highway authorities also briefed the prime minister on the salient features and importance of the project. Costing $275 million, the project consists of five tunnels with total length of seven kilometres, two bridges and 78 culverts. The tunnels have been named as Pakistan-China Friendship Tunnels.

In 2010, a huge landslide had blocked the flow of Hunza River and created an artificial lake. The disaster had also claimed several lives, submerged surrounding villages and displaced around 25,000 people of the area. During his visit, PM Nawaz announced the federal government has allocated Rs 27 billion for Karakorum development project. This sum is at least three times larger than the annual development budget of Rs 8 billion of GB. Speaking to the members of GB Assembly during his visit, the premier said, “Mega development projects are necessary in Gilgit-Baltistan.”

Welcoming the increase in tourism in the area this year, PM Nawaz said, “Around 0.7 to 0.8 million tourists visited Gilgit-Baltistan this year. This is the first time such a huge number of tourists from all over the country visited this area in a year.” Further, the prime minister said the increase in tourism will help restore the confidence of international tourists, which will subsequently improve GB’s economy. Prime Minister Nawaz also ordered officials to ensure transparency in development projects. “We will successfully carry out the projects of hospitals, universities and other developmental projects.”

The premier also appreciated the assistance of the Chinese government in projects related to the development of the area as well as in the projects being carried out in Gwadar. The restoration of Karakoram Highway is linked with the historic China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) project, which will usher in a new era of development in the country’s economy. In July, PM Nawaz announced a relief package of Rs 150 million for uplift efforts and Rs 500 million for the reconstruction of roads in Ghanche District during his visit to flood-affected areas of GB. The premier also announced Rs 0.5 million for each deceased victim’s family, Rs 0.15 million for each injured victims, Rs 0.25 million for the reconstruction of damaged houses and Rs 15,000 to Rs 50,000 for those who lost their cattle in the recent floods.

The prime minister also announced Rs 150 million for National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) and appreciated the body’s efforts for uplift activities across the country. A large number of people who had been rendered homeless and landless as a result of the Attabad landslide disaster and the resultant lake formation in 2010 still remain unsettled. Majority of the IDPs are still living in tin-shelters constructed by NGOs. Similarly, the farmers whose land and other valuable properties had been destroyed by the disasters remain uncompensated.

The IDPs have urged the federal and provincial governments to also look at the plight of the locals besides constructing mega infrastructure projects in the region. “Prime minister Yousaf Raza Gilani promised in 2010 to settle us permanently, but we are still living in tents and shelters provided by NGOs,” a victim of Attabad complained. “We appeal to Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif to make arrangements for our permanent settlement,” he added.

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