No matter how advanced the railways or air services are, roads continue to be the prime source of major traffic around the world. The same holds true in case of Pakistan as well. Although, the condition of road network is not comparable with those of developed countries, but in the region, these are said to be quite adequate despite bumps and cracks. In the past 20 years, there has been a major stress on development of the road infrastructure. The first major highway of any consequence was the Super Highway that was build in President Ayub's era, joining Karachi and Hyderabad in the Sind Province. Then a major break through came when the Karakoram Highway was constructed with the assistance of China, connecting Pakistan and China through one of the most rugged mountains of the world. At Khunjrab Top, the road rose to be the highest in the world. Then came the motorway ear in the 90s when Lahore-Islamabad motorway was completed with the assistance and technical expertise of the Koreans. Since then, motorway netwqrk has extended to Peshawar, Faisalabad and plans are under way to connect Multan and Karachi.

In other words, road transport is the backbone of Pakistan's transport system. The 9,574 km long National Highway and Motorway network - which is 3.65 percent of the total road network - carries 80 percent of Pakistan's total traffic. Over the past ten years, road traffic – both passenger and freight - has grown significantly faster than the national economy. Currently, it is accounting for 91 percent of national passenger traffic and 96 percent of freight. However, over half the national highways network is in poor condition, and the road safety record is poor. The country’s truck fleet is mostly made up of obsolete, underpowered, and polluting vehicles, and trucks are often grossly overloaded. Truck operating speeds on the main corridors are only 40 – 50 kph for container traffic, half of the truck speeds in Europe. For trucks carrying bulk cargoes, the journeys take 3-4 times longer than in Europe.

The Karakoram Highway: The 1300 kilometres (800 miles) long KKH, or the N-5, originates from Hassan Abdal, a place some 45 kilometres from Islamabad on the Islamabad - Peshawar Highway, goes through Abbotabad, Manshera, crosses the River Indus at Thakot, on to Gilgit (through Besham, Pattan and Sazin) and then to Chilas, Hunza and Sost before crossing the Khunjerab Pass at the height of some 4800 metres (15,750ft) - the Zero Point between Pakistan and China. It then enters the high Central Asian plateau before winding down through the Pamirs to Kashgar, at the western edge of the Taklamakan Desert. It is a marvel of human endurance, ingenuity and determination. Both Pakistani and Chinese workers and engineers worked day and night over some of the most formidable and inaccessible mountain ranges of the world, with deep gorges and torrential Indus running along the track with its full might. The Indus River flows northwest, dividing the Himalaya from the Karakoram. The KKH runs along the Indus for 310 kilometres of its climb north, winding around the foot of Nanga Parbat, the ninth highest mountain in the world.  Not far north of Jaglot the Gilgit river joins the Indus from the west. The highway then leaves the Indus for Gilgit, Hunza and Khunjrab rivers to take on the Karakoram Range - where 12 of the 30 highest mountains in the world overlook the KKH. At Khunjrab Pass, the KKH proudly stands as the highest metalled border crossing in the world. En route to Khunjrab, before Gilgit, there is a road sign inviting the attention of the tourists to stop and see the the Hindu Kush mountains converge with the Karakoram Range, a part of the Himalayan mountain system. While traveling along the KKH, many a tourist wonder as to how the Pakistanis and Chinese ever get this road through? Since the road has been carved through a tectonic collision zone and still generally kept open. Read more ...

Makran Coastal Highway The construction of Gwadar port would have been be meaningless if it were not linked with a highway with Karachi - the main business centre of Pakistan. Therefore, it was decided to construct a Coastal Highway linking Karachi with Gwadar some 675 kilometres in length. The highway has since been completed by the Frontier Works Organization of Pakistan Army Engineers and is considered to be a marvel of technology and human determination. Concurrently highways, from Pasni to Gwadar (135km), Ormarah - Gwadar (275km) and Gwadar -Turbat (188 km) are also being built to support the main highway. The horizontal links will ultimately be built up for a south - north link through the Indus Highway to China. Under an agreement, Pakistan, China, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan are already committed to developing extensive railroad links from Central Asia and the Chinese province of Sinkiang to the Arabian Sea Coast. The completion of this communication network will facilitate movement of goods from China and CARs to the countries of the Persian Gulf, West Asia, East Africa, the Indian Ocean through Gwadar.
Besides the road network, there are plans to set up an international airport equipped with all modern aviation facilities, including runways to handle landing of wide-bodied 747 aircraft.

Kohat Road Tunnel: Smooth flow of traffic in the rugged mountains of north of Pakistan has always been a problem. About 10 km northeast of Kohat city, Bosti Khel mountains intercept smooth traffic flow and the traffic had to pass over rugged mountains, making it hazardous and time consuming as well. There there was a need for a tunnel to circumvent the traffic congestion. The mountain range at Bostikhel has extremely complex geology. Intensive geotechnical studies, therefore, were undertaken prior to initiation of the tunnel project. These studies included geophysical exploration and other survey techniques. After execution of the survey project a study was undertaken at National University of Sciences & Technology, Risalpur Campus, to determine success/failure of the techniques used for predicting tunnel geology. After detailed survey, the project of the tunnel was finalized with the assistance of Japan and Japanese standard was adopted in the tunnel design as well as execution.

Making and Opening of the Tunnel

The tunnel is about 1.9 kilometres long and its construction began in 1999, and was opened to the public in June 2003. As part of the developing Indus Highway system, the tunnel serves as a shorter, alternate route to the Kohat Pass, situated between the cities of Peshawar and Kohat. The new route decreases the time required to travel through the Kohat Pass from three hours to less than one hour. Also, the tunnel will enable the passage of large vehicles, alleviate traffic congestion, improve traffic safety, and promote economic development. Since it has been built with the active involvement of the Japanese government, it is also referred to as the "Friendship Tunnel". Recently, the Pakistan Postage issued a commemorative stamp for the celebration of 50 years Pak-Japan friendship, showing Kohat Tunnel as one of the biggest projects ever undertaken by Japan in Pakistan.

Lowari Tunnel Project: Chitral - the land of Shandur and the Kafirs is located beyond a very difficult mountain top, the Lowari Top at 10,230 feet, which makes it almost inaccessible to reach Chitral for good about six months in winters, from late November to late May every year, due to snow fall. In winters, one has to enter Afghanistan from down Kunar River and then re-enter Pakistan to evade the snow covered top. Thus the only link with Chitral is through air. Therefore, a plan to build a tunnel cutting through its way from the Lowari Pass was conceived in the 1970s. The work began on the 8.8 kilometers long tunnel in 1977 but was then stopped at just 100 feet for paucity of funds and lack of sponsors from abroad. With the building of the tunnel, the 12-14 hours journey from Peshawar to Chitral is not only likely to be reduced to half but would also ensure a safe and open passage to Chitral throughout the year. The tunnel also serves strategic purposes, both economically and militarily.

Left to Right: Lowari Top - The treacherous Zigzagged way to Lowari - The abandoned work

The plans for the revival of the tunnel work have recently been undertaken by the government of Pakistan and a South Korean company has been assigned the work on the tunnel, which is scheduled to start in October 2006. It is expected to be completed in three years at a cost of Rs.8 billion ($133 million US). It will be Asia’s largest tunnel, according to local media reports. Lately there has been a revision in the plan and now instead of a road, a railway link will be established through the tunnel as a wide road will cost much more than simply a railway line.

Some of the other major highways which have either been completed or are under construction are:

The Motorways:

Related Links: | Pakistan Highway Data |

This page was created on 26 December 2008

Copyright©JalalsPages - 2008