Attabad tunnels—CPEC and tourism development in Pakistan
By Muhammad Sarfaraz
Gilgit, Pakistan: The Prime Minister of Pakistan Nawaz Sharif on Monday inaugurated the recently completed 24 kilometers long Attabad Karakorum Highway realignment project costing $275 million.
This project is being considered as the key for opening tourism in the region as Pak-China cross border tourism was virtually ended after giant Karakuram Highway (KKH) was submerged in year 2010. Under the project, five tunnels having accumulative length of over 7 kilometers, 16 kilometers road and 2 bridges of one kilometer long have been constructed.
The seven-kilometer long five tunnels are part of 24 kilometers long portion of Karakorum Highway that has been rebuilt to restore the part of road submerged under the Attabad Lake. The big portion of the Karakoram Highway was damaged in January 2010 due to a massive land sliding at Attabad in Hunza.
The speech of Prime Minister Muhammad Nawaz Sharif at Gilgit Airport before he inaugurating historic Attabad tunnels indicates that he believes China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) is the key to open every door of development and prosperity in Pakistan, particularly tourism that was virtually defeated terrorism during the last 15 years. It may be mentioned that Attabad Tunnels are the core point of CPEC project as project starts from Pak-China border and KKH is the linking passage of CPEC to China.
High hopes related with CPEC have also been expressed by the Chief of Pakistan Army Gen. Raheel Sharif who is reviewing work of CPEC personally. Arch rival and neighbor India has expressed its frustration from CPEC during Indo-Sino talks.
Prime Minister during his speech at Gilgit said that Gilgit-Baltistan is a vital link in the China Pakistan Economic Corridor and would benefit most from this mega project which would particularly increase the tourist influx.
He was of the view his government is determined to change the fate of the region that is one of the key point of tourism and gateway of awesome mountain ranges in the world including the Himalayas—Karakuram and Hindu Kush.
Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif urged the Gilgit Baltistan government to maintain high level of transparency and integrity in the expenditure of public money and same should be the conduct of the whole country. The Prime Minister also stressed to rectify the mistakes of the past and make corrections where necessary.
The Prime Minister directed the concerned federal authorities present on the occasion to process projects including University, hospital for heart patients, Gilgit-Skardu road, Gilgit-Naltar road, Hydal power project, sewerage project for Gilgit, tourist resort at Attabad lake and Shigar road.
Prime Minister in response to the demand of Chief Minister, Gilgit Baltistan to raise the ceiling of Gilgit-Baltistan government to approve the projects at their own level from Rs. 400 million to Rs. 1000 million, accorded approval to raise the ceiling up to Rs. 750 million.
The ambassador of China Mr. Sun Weidong accompanied the Prime Minister to Gilgit and Attabad for inauguration of tunnels. The Prime Minister welcomed the Chinese ambassador to Gilgit-Baltistan and said that this area is significant part of China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC)
The Prime Minister further said that federal and Gilgit-Baltistan government are working hard on various development projects in the area to complement the economic activity, which will be generated by the opening of economic corridor.
The Prime Minister said that Economic Corridor on its completion will provide North-South and South-North connectivity. The Prime Minister said that Chinese products will reach Gwadar in shortest time and access to warm waters will ensure speedy and uninterrupted economic activity in the extended region.
The Prime Minister said that Gwadar port will be state of the art facility and to attract investment a modern and fully equipped airport is also being built at Gwadar
The Prime expressed his thanks to the Chinese government for extending support for materialization of China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC).
Later the Prime Minister visited Attabad Lake tunnels and inaugurated 7 Kilometres long tunnels which are named as ‘Pak-China Friendship’ tunnels
The Prime Minister travelled from tunnel no. 1 to tunnel no. 5 and terminated his travel at the last point of rebuilt 24 kilometres portion of Kara Koram Highway, where he was briefed by National Highway Authority about the details of the project.
When contacted by Dispatch News Desk (DND) news agency, to comment over opening of Atabad Tunnel, the Chief Minister Hafiz Hafeezur Rehman was of the view that construction of tunnel would boost tourism in the region because these tunnels are themselves a touristic destination to see and visit.
These tunnels are first of their kind in Pakistan and construction took three years for completion although work was done by Chinese day and night.