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Army depot stands in way of highway expansion

ISLAMABAD, March 29: Expansion of the Kashmir Highway to carry the traffic to the new Islamabad airport coming up in Fatehjang area has run into trouble with the military.

Dawn has learnt that part of the 11km long stretch of the highway from Golra Mor to G.T. Road is in the adverse possession of the Central Mechanical and Transport Depot (CMT&SD) of the army which won’t cede it readily.

“We sent our survey team there and came to know that a strip 80 metre wide and 1km long of state land falling in the alignment of the proposed widening of Kashmir Highway is presently under possession of the military’s depot,” said a senior official of the Capital Development Authority’s engineering wing.

Even the present alignment of the Kashmir Highway in the Golra-G.T. Road sector does not follow the original Master Plan of Islamabad and had to be shifted slightly towards the G series sectors in deference to the military depot, according to the official.

Former CDA chairman Kamran Lashari had written letters to the army in 2008 for repossessing the land when the highway was being expanded but to no avail.

Incumbent chairman Imtiaz Inayat Elahi says CDA has initiated the new Rs2.19 billion expansion work at the request of the Civil Aviation Authority and the National Highway Authority to provide faster and shortest connection to the new airport.

This time, the military authorities asked for ‘alternative land’ for what they cede for the latest expansion.

“A CDA team searched for alternative land and selected a site near G.T. Road but it was rejected by the military authorities,” the project director said. This followed when Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani came to know about the matter from CDA’s request to the Cabinet Division for help. President Asif Ali Zardari was also brought into the picture by CDA chairman Elahi during a meeting on the new airport.

On the intervention of the prime minister, the CDA wrote a letter to the army’s Quarter Master General saying: “As per Master Plan of Islamabad, the Kashmir Highway has a right of way of 1,200 feet. Construction of additional lanes has been approved and a portion of the highway falls in the premises of CMT&SD. In order to re-align the highway as per Master Plan this portion of land has to be acquired.”

It added: “It is also worth mentioning that as per the Master Plan, the present location of the military depot falls in Sector H-14 and has to be acquired for the development.”

Asked where the matter stands now, Brig Atiqur Rehman of the Inter Services Public Relations (ISPR) said: “The military authorities stand by the stance taken earlier by the Ordnance Service Directorate of the GHQ that alternative land must be provided by the CDA.”

CDA chairman Imtiaz Inayat Elahi however said he would talk to the military officials concerned and apprise them what President Zardari wanted.

“I am hopeful that the matter will be resolved amicably with the consent of the two departments,” he said.

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