Fate of ML-I


THE strategically important project of ML-I still faces uncertain future despite lapse and delays of four years allegedly because of vested local and foreign interests. There were hopes that the latest meeting of the Cabinet Committee on CPEC would give a go ahead signal to the project but the mysterious attitude of the Planning Commission has even forced Railway Minister Sheikh Rashid Ahmad to accuse the Government of abandoning this highly important national project.
Improvement and modernization of Karachi-Peshawar railway line was amongst early harvest projects and declared by the two countries as of strategic importance but the pace of implementation of the project because of bureaucratic red tape in Pakistan conveys quite the opposite impression. The role that the project is destined to play in accelerating the economic growth and development in different parts of the country and improve the communication sector demanded that it should have been completed on a priority basis in three years as envisaged originally. However, it was because of short-sighted vision of some decision-makers that at first the length of the project was curtailed from 1,872 km to 1,680 km and then implementation split in three phases with completion spread over six years. However, the latest twist in the events could lead to further delay in its completion and thereby pushing Pakistan backward when the entire world is reaping benefits of modern railway systems. One fails to understand the contention of the Planning Commission about seeking another cost validation when evaluation of phase-I was agreed upon and the Chinese side was willing to fund 85% cost of the project through concessionary loans. The attitude of the Commission lends credibility to reports that CPEC projects are either being abandoned or delayed due to foreign pressure and this is also vindicated in the case of Orange Line project in Lahore, where investment worth billions of rupees is being allowed to go to drain despite instructions from the Supreme Court for its early completion. It is time the Prime Minister ought to intervene to save CPEC projects that offer historic opportunity to step ahead in the era of progress and development.