Dr. Hasan Yaser Malik
KARAKORAM Highway (KKH) is a pivotal link of CPEC in the ambit of OBOR, which was constructed from 1958 to 1978. The construction of 804 km long KKH from Khunjerab to Hassan Abdal is symbol of friendship and sacrifice of 806 lives. It is imperative to understand that this vital link running along Indus River; passing through Karakoram and Himalayan Mountain Range, scaling heights up to 14,199 feet and extreme cold temperatures down to -30 Celsius is likely to face undermentioned limitations which could emerge as concerns for CPEC. These needs to be addressed pragmatically:
·KKH runs in an area where constant push between Indo-Pakistan and Eurasian plates is causing highest seismic activity. The 2005 earthquake measuring 7.5 on Richter scale played havoc in Kaghan, in 1974 Pattan was completely destroyed, Shishkat and Hunza were rocked in 1974 and lately in 2010; 21 km long and 330 feet deep Attabad Lake was formed near Karimabad.
·Ever increasing heavy traffic load on the KKH has and will continue to adversely affect the overall traffic flow. It is estimated that since 1978, traffic has increased by about ten times. However, apart from 180 km long Hazara Motorway no major expansion has been done on the KKH. The ever increasing traffic load; especially the heavy trucks have already doubled the travelling time between Abbottabad and Islamabad.
·The existing route alignment of KKH runs 95 km closer to ‘Line of Actual Contact’ with India as compared to the proposed alternate route along Chitral River Axis.
Considering the facets mentioned above, it will be prudent to adopt an alternate route to KKH. Route along Chitral River Valley (CRV) can originate from Baroghil Pass in Hindu KushMountain Range (South of Wakhan Corridor) and while passing through Mastuj, Booni and Chitral it links up with M-1 south of Mardan. The route through CRV will accrueundermentioned advantages:
The proposed route apart from being an alternate can also augment the existing KKH.
The proposed alternate alignment along Chitral River Axis will be further 135 km away (95+135=230 km) from ‘Line of Actual Contact’ with India as compared to existing alignment of KKH.
Distance to link with M-1 will be about 300 km lesser as compared to KKH.
This will provide a shorter route for Central Asian Region to warm waters of Arabian Sea.
Its western flank is protected by a friendly Muslim Country; Afghanistan as against India on its eastern flank.
Most of the route already exists, however it needs to be improved.
A horizontal link from Chitral to Gilgit via Mastuj and Gahkhuch already exists, however it also needs to be improved.
It is imperative for Pakistan Government to take an early and pragmatic start for improvement of the proposed route. Apart from preparing the proposed route government should also consider about dealing with the social implications of CPEC technical traning to handle the job opportunities emerging out of CPEC.
—The writer holds Ph.D in International Relations. He is Fellow Research Member with Charted Institute of Logistics and Transportation (UK), Fellow Research Member with Pakistan Navy War Collage,
Fellow Research Member with EnvironMonitor,
Fellow Research Member with National Foundation for Environment Education & Research, and
Research Member with Research Gate