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An interview with Chairman NHA



Feb 23 - 29, 2004





The National Highway Authority (NHA) during the years 2002 and 2003 has remained proactive and took many bold initiatives to expand and improve the road network in the country including the reactivation of M1 project (Islamabad/Peshawar motorway) which remind suspended for many years because of a prolonged dispute with the original contractor M/s. Bayinder of Turkey. Besides completing many projects including M3 (Pindi Bhattian expressway) Kohat Tunnel and Kohat Link Road ahead of Schedule, the NHA has chalked out an ambitious 7 years (2003-2010) plan for rehabilitation and upgrading of over 2700 KM of national road network in collaboration of the World Bank.

By any standard these achievements are spectacular. However, we were surprised to watch a documentary on Ptv highly critical of NHA describing the organization as inefficient and lethargic. As an evidence the pace of work on a relatively small portion of road Turnol/Taxila section was highlighted.

It was in this background that we sat with Maj Gen Farrukh Javed, Chairman NHA for a tete-a-tete. We found Gen Javed, otherwise a pleasant personality, a hurt man. However, despite our probing questions, the NHA chief remained unperturbed and vehemently defended his organization. He contended that no organization, particularly that which is still in infancy, can climb the stairs of success without continuity of able leadership and the NHA's baggage of malaise is mainly due to frequent changes in the Authority's top hierarchy: nine chairmen within one decade (1991-2001) of NHAs' creation.

Before we could ask any question, chairman NHA expressed his pent-up feelings as to why we Pakistanis, as a nation, are confronting so many challenges? Why are we not progressing despite so much potential and talent and God gifted resources? Lack of discipline, he thinks, is retarding our forward thrust. The remarks he made in this regard are reproduced below for the interest of our readers:

Yellow journalism and Punjabi films misrepresenting our culture have played a very negative role, through sensationalism, in making this nation whatever it is today, for promoting short-term selfish interest, unfortunately, that's how our human resource has been developed for which we must bear now the consequences. Why we did not bother to correct our shortcomings and systems during the last 56 years? Who stopped us? We have remained in a state of inertia for half a century and now everybody is out to take anyone on the charge! This is not fair and this tendency is manifestation of lack of discipline in our society, in our culture and in our person. We must analyze the situation first objectively and only then pass comments or our own situation first on someone else's performance, domain or responsibility.

Continuing he said constructive criticism is not always the aim, most of the times, the aim is only to pull rug out of the feet of one at the receiving end. In this scenario no body is willing to assume responsibility by taking decisions. Individuals at various decision-making tiers now lack the will and the courage to take decisions. Decisions directing towards progress and prosperity and, if anyone dares to do so, everybody tries to detect some foul play out of its, which may or may not be the case.

PAGE: How would you compare today's NHA with that of 10 years ago? Is there any mechanism within NHA for rectification and improvement?

CHAIRMAN NHA: Organizations are corrected and put on track through an evolutionary and not a revolutionary process. Quality and out put of an organization depends upon the quality and out put of its manpower. Better the manpower the better would be the out put. I personally feel handling of human beings is the most difficult thing to deal with. As Chairman NHA, I have to perform the role of a commander and lead from the front.

NHA was created in 1991 and I took over its charge in November 2001 viz after about nine years of its inception. Relatively speaking it's a young organization. If you look at these nine years, I am the ninth chairman. This clearly suggests that there is lack of continuity, a factor which is of utmost importance for success in any field, particularly as challenging as a road construction organization, as road projects particularly national highways are linear in nature and one single project could encompass hundreds of kilometers.

PAGE: What you have done since you assumed office?

CHAIRMAN NHA: Look at the ongoing (sick) projects of the past that inherited. Islamabad-Murree Dual Carriageway (IMDC) commenced in 1993 and still continues. When I took over command of NHA, in November 2001, only 16% work was completed in eight years. The project is now more than 46% complete. Thus progress during the last twenty two months is almost double that was managed in eight years.

Another project. Mansehra-Naran-Jhalkhand also commenced in 1993 and still goes on. It is now 80% complete and the balance 20% will be completed within the next few months. The Jhalkhand-Chillas section, which is kind of bypass to Karakoram Highway, will be completed in the subsequent phase. This road would definitely help promote tourism.



Commenced in 1993, the Hala-Moro (N-5) dualization project was also lingering on despite stable terrain at a snails pace. In November 2001, it was only 63% complete; the remaining 37% was completed within ten months. Another dualization project of N-5 (Nowshera-Chablat) also commenced in 1993 and, in November 2001, the progress achieved was only 47%. During the last twenty-two months, we have been able to achieve another 40% progress and the project is now nearing completion. The Khairabad Bridge on River Indus, a component of this project, has already been completed and is ready for inauguration by the Prime Minister.

The Islamabad-Peshawar Motorway (M-1) project was also first started in 1993 and still goes on. This project has now been awarded to a consortium of local companies viz Pakistan Motorway Contractors joint venture, of 11 contractors. Look at the advantages of awarding such mega undertakings to our own people. The JV will create an environment where our local firms could learn to work together a distant possibility in the past. The project will also give them confidence to compete with international firms for seeking contracts abroad.

Recently, PTV aired a documentary on M-1 (probably a sponsored one). I can say without an iota of doubt that this documentary pictured a totally one-sided story and that too without keeping in perspective the real facts. Technically speaking, M-1 is supposed to be completed by January 2007. This is a 4-year endeavor (2003-2007). However considering the importance of this road vis-a-vis the economic needs of the country and safety and convenience of the people, NHA is endeavoring completion of two priority sections well ahead of schedule despite the fact that rains this year were above normal and numerous other impediments.

Our aim is to complete the Islamabad-Burhan Section (37 KM) by around end December, so that this section opens up and facilitates traffic between Islamabad-Peshawar to quite a reasonable extent. Second portion that we want to commission on priority is Rashakai-Charsadda (23 KM) also by around end December Insha Allah. Out of the total length of M-1, which, is as per contract, is 148.5 KM, if you complete by December or January 60 KM, I personally feel it is quite a bit of job. The remaining portions would, thereafter, be completed with similar zeal.

We have already paid about Rs 1.4 billion to the affectees of M-1 that is to companies and individuals who suffered for the past almost three years. We have taken certain risks. We are paying to the people who were not paid for the services rendered by them and deserted by the erstwhile contractor (Bayinder).

This is the real situation of M-1 and instead of giving a doomsday scenario and creating apathy in the society and in the organization, by showing documentaries that create negative impression of a vibrant organization, and giving comments which you shouldn't as you are not a technical man, I feel you are neither doing any good to that body nor the general public. You are only sapping the morale of that organization! I am an engineer; you are a journalist, so you should be giving your opinion as a journalist and I should be rendering mine as a professional engineer.

We have completed the Kohat Tunnel before time. We have done PindiBhattian-Faisalabad Motorway (M-3) before time. We have completed the Kohat Link Road two months earlier. We have completed the Lyari-Ormara Section (243 KM) 17 days prior to the deadline. We have done Baleli Bridge in Quetta before time. Ghaggar Bridge towards Thatha from Karachi (N-5) shall also be completed before time.

This is the performance of NHA now. It is not that the employees of NHA are bad; the fact is that they were improperly handled in the past. NHA was subjected to political influences and inductions and contracts were also awarded on political expediencies. I think now is the time to support and encourage the able planners and skilled employees of NHA instead of discouraging them through negative reports and documentaries.

PAGE: Why such a delay in completion of Tarnol-Taxila project?

CHAIRMAN NHA: I agree there are problems on this section. Let me first tell you that this project is to be completed by end December. It needs to be appreciated that I had to utilize the existing infrastructure and also at the same time keep the traffic, which is extremely heavy, moving at all times. If I had the option, I would have first made a new road and then taken up the old one. I have to do with the resources and the funds available. And then look at the technology you have got. Moreover, not all the contractors and the consultants possess the same skill and ability. In this case, people who cannot take decisions, clinched the work on open competitive bidding. For a small decision I have to go to the site personally.

PAGE: What are NHA's main priorities?

CHAIRMAN NHA: Right now our centre of gravity and pivotal point lies at Gwadar. The next priority is rehabilitation and upgradation of our National Highway (N-5) popularly known as the GT Road from Karachi to Torkham. These are two equal priority projects for NHA. Then we have Indus Highway (N-55) that starts from Peshawar passes through Kohat Tunnel, reaches DG Khan via Bannu and then heads for Larkana and Jamshoro and gets connected to the Super Highway.

We have obtained loan from World Bank for N-55 to the tune of about US$ 260 million. We would upgrade and improve more than 800 KM of this road within the next four years. Then we would spend some more money through toll revenue and bring the total to Rs 32 billion for national highway rehabilitation program. In seven years time, we will put GT Road in absolutely A-one condition.

We have since finalized a programme of Rs 6.67 billion with the Asian Development Bank. The PC-I of this road between Kalat, Quetta, and Chaman has been approved. This road, known as the RCD Highway, is our Central Asian link and we want to do it as early as possible. From Khuzdar, which falls on N-25, we will create a link to Gwadar and another to N-55 totaling about 800 KM to be called M-8. It will further develop to Shahdadkot area and Sukkur. The Makran Coastal Highway another vital link between Gwadar and Karachi will also be completed in early 2005.

We are also developing all inter-provincial links. Work on Sukkur-Sibi Road (N-65), linking Sindh with Balochistan, is progressing rapidly. Multan-DO Khan-Loralai Road (N-70), which links Balochistan with Punjab, is also in progress and then the work on Dl Khan-Kuchlac Road (N-50), which links Balochistan with NWFP, is also going on rapidly.

By 2007-08 we should be in a fairly comfortable position as far as our major links are concerned. N-55 will be upgraded, Kalat-Quetta road will be completed, the Coastal Highway will also be completed and then our key Gwadar-Sukkur Road (M-8) will also be considerably developed and opened for trade purposes.

Through these developed links, trans-shipment, transit-trade and development of value added industry would also come up as communications infrastructure plays a vital role in economic development. Inter-provincial roads link people of the same country living in remote areas with main economic centers. I call these links as 'piar ki karian.' And we have to link all areas of this country with these bonds of love.