Written By: Husain Abdul Rehman
The development of FATA was started under the Pakistan Army’s strategy of ‘Winning Hearts and Minds’ through peace, security and stabilization in the region. With massive efforts by the Frontier Works Organization (FWO), the once forbidden Frontier is opening up with a network of roads and improvements in water management and electric supply. Details regarding few of these projects are shared through these pages.
Khyber Pass – Revival of the Ancient Route
Trade Trucks passing through Michni Post, little short of Pak-Afghan border at Torkham
Steeped in adventure, bloodshed and mystery,
The Khyber remains the doorway of History!
According to the historians, each rock and hill along the Khyber Pass has a story to tell. Since centuries the historic route has seen the hordes of traders, invaders and explorers marching through its rocky terrain on the legendary Grand Trunk Road to reach the Indian subcontinent.
The expansion of Peshawar-Torkham Road (under progress) will greatly facilitate the landlocked Afghanistan and Central Asian States towards trade and travel. Beyond the Pakistani border, the Torkham-Jalalabad Road was constructed inside Afghanistan some years back by FWO. Recently an additional carriageway of the road has been taken up by FWO to facilitate the increasing traffic between the two neighbouring countries.
Central Trade Corridor – Passing Through the Heart of FATA
Khyber Pass and Quetta-Kandahar route via Bolan Pass constituted the two access ways to Afghanistan and Central Asia but now the two neighbours have a new land link through the Dera Ismail Khan-Wana-AngoorAda Road. Passing through the snowcapped mountains of Waziristan and traversing the historic Gomal Pass (which was closed by the British after the first Afghan War), the road not only showcases the amazing beauty of the once forbidden Frontier but has initiated significant economic activity all along.
Enhanced communication shall reduce internal rivalries by facilitating interaction amongst the tribesmen whereas law and order situation will improve through greater accessibility and logistic support available to law enforcers.
The Northern Prong of Central Trade Corridor constitutes the 80 km long Bannu-Miranshah-Ghulam Khan Road which passes through the prominent towns of North Waziristan Agency. Passing through the Tochi Pass, this was a preferred route between the two countries that was dotted by the heavy trade trucks plying between the two countries.
The ‘New Trade Corridor’ between Pakistan and Afghanistan reduces the distance between Karachi and Kabul by 400 kilometres compared to the Khyber Pass route. The traffic for the huge landlocked region of Afghanistan and Central Asia will conveniently pass through this quiet road to join the Indus Highway which is now set to become an international route of the Pakistan-China Economic Corridor.
To Afghanistan and beyond on the Central Trade Corridor
A significant development in our adjoining region is the 2200 kilometres long Afghanistan Ring Road which will connect prominent Afghan cities i.e., Jalalabad, Kandahar and Kabul, will further facilitate international trade and travel. The Central Trade Corridor is a vital socio-economic link between Indus Highway and the Afghan Ring Road. The biggest spin-off will be the livelihood revolution and economic prosperity for FATA region in particular and for all the neighbouring countries in general.
The North-South Connectivity
Miranshah and Wana are the Headquarters of the North and South Waziristan Agencies respectively. Beyond Wana the road starts ascending and passes through the mountains of Suleman Range where several peaks are above 8000 ft. It is a typical mountainous area abounded by thick vegetation and known for its steep cliffs and sharp turns. Occasionally the road passes through some mountainous torrent or a small but swift river. These characteristics made it an ideal stronghold for Taliban and it was declared invincible. It was through the sheer bravery and determination of Pakistan Army that the area was cleared after many sacrifices.
The 75 km Wana-Shakai-Makeen Road completed by FWO links Wana – the capital of South Waziristan agency with North Waziristan Agency from where the 73 km Makeen-Razmak-Miranshah Road stretches till the Afghan border. Construction of a two lane carriageway on this route has significantly established the writ of the state and this beautiful area shall now be known for its natural beauty and not as a terrorists, den.
Through the Tunnels and Bridges
Tank, the historic town, located a little before the South Waziristan Agency is indeed the gateway to FATA. It is from here that a path leads to the ancient Gomal Pass and another to Razmak, the beautiful hill station of Waziristan that was named as “Little England” by the British due to its ice capped peaks and salubrious climate. It was here that the first Cadet College of the Tribal Areas was established which is known for its high standards of education.
The Tank-Jandola-Makeen Road has been hailed as a landmark development for the logistics of Waziristan. The 110 km path was reduced to a mere dirt track but has now been rebuilt and upgraded by FWO. The narrow tunnels of Jandola and Ahmedwam and all major bridges were widened for the trade trucks to pass through.
New bridges have replaced the old ones.
Further the Makeen-Razmak-Miranshah Road (73 km) provides a vital link between South and North Waziristan. The 9 metre wide road traverses through a difficult terrain. Adverse security situation in North Waziristan Agency made the construction activities difficult but the road picked up pace after the operation Zarb-e-Azb and was completed in a short time.
The Marble Road of Mohmand
Mohmand Agency is known for its rich marble deposits but the steep inclines and the sharp turns of the mountainous area made its transportation difficult. The 45 km long Ghallanai-Mohmand Ghat road is being constructed to provide better logistics for the transportation of this precious mineral resource of FATA. The road includes a 751 m long Tunnel at Nahaki which will ease out the steep incline which was difficult for the heavy trucks to negotiate.
Nahaki Tunnel at the Ghallanai-Mohmand Ghat Road
Further the road can be linked with Nawa Pass which is a historic passage leading to Afghanistan. It can also be further extended to Bajaur Agency for a short connectivity to Dir, Malakand and Chitral Districts.
Irrigating the Arid Zone
The completion of Gomal Zam Dam is a big step for the peace and prosperity of South Waziristan. With its huge reservoir of 1.14 MAF water and a completely lined canal network of 260 km, the dam will irrigate 1,63,086 acres of Tank and/ D.I. Khan districts. The electricity generated from flowing water will be sufficient for 2500 households of South Waziristan. It has effectively controlled flash floods which caused large scale devastation in the past.
Gomal Zam Dam is located in an area that was once the epicentre of terrorism. The construction work was abandoned by the Chinese constructors when their camp was attacked by militants in 2004, it was then handed over to FWO and completed with great effort and sacrifices. Besides the socio-economic opportunities, it is a significant boost for environment and tourism.
The Dhana Irrigation and Water Supply Scheme, located few kilometres east of Wana will utilize the rain and flood run off to provide additional potable water for irrigation of 13,000 acres of farm land. It will also help in conserving and recharging the ground water table of the arid area. The scheme constitutes two main canals with an accumulative capacity of one thousand cusecs. Besides fulfilling the irrigation needs Dhana is set to become a superb picnic spot along the road and the lake overshadowing the green hills shall become an ornament in the overall arid scenario prevailing around Wana.
The author, surrounded by the happy children of Dhana
The successful completion of Gomal Zam Dam prompted the government to take up the Kundiwam Dam project in South Waziristan agency which will generate 83.4 MW Hydel Power, store 1.2 MAF water and irrigate an area of 3,62,380 acres. Feasibility studies are complete and the dam is poised to bring opportunities of improved livelihood.
Lighting Up the Remote Frontier
The people of Waziristan warmly cooperated for the construction of Gomal Zam Dam. To develop local ownership of the project it was promised that 50% of the electricity generated from the dam will be provided to the people of Waziristan but that required laying of a new transmission line and upgradation of Wana Grid Station which was severely damaged during insurgency. Both these projects were accomplished for providing power to these remote areas.
FWO workforce also rebuilt the 11 KV Feeder from Jandola-Sararogha-Jannata-Ladha and 33 KV Feeder from Jandola-Chaghmalai-Barwand.
Impact of FATA Development Projects
• Development process has helped to improve the security conditions in FATA and militancy effect has decreased.
• For the volatile FATA region where security situation is fast improving, as prominent institutions are involved in the development and progress of the region.
• Travel and transport activities have greatly benefited by improved road network.
• 80% of South Waziristan residents believe that development work has positively improved common man’s life and improved economic and business conditions.
• The development projects created long-term employments in transport and communication sectors whereas construction of roads, bridges and dams provided short run employments.
• School enrolment has increased due to better access and transportation.
• FATA people are happy to see development and progress after many years of turmoil.
• In the area that was once under heavy influence of militants a roadside café by the name of Pakistan Hotel symbolizes the relief and gratitude of FATA people for being out of militancy.