Protestors want work on Gardez-Zurmat road resumed
GARDIZ (Pajhwok): Hundreds of residents of southeastern Pakia province on Saturday staged a protest for the prompt construction of the Gardez-Zurmat highway.
The demonstrators claimed officials had promised them several times construction of the highway but no action had been taken so far despite the lapse of so many years.
They also warned of digging up the highway and converting it into fields if the construction work was not restarted in the next 10 days.
Jan Mohammad Jalali, a tribal elder from the Khatabi Shiekhan village of Gardez, accused government officials of repeatedly breaking their promises and thereby perpetuating people’s plight.
“We want this road constructed; we blocked this road today but we would dig it up tomorrow,” he said.
Abdullah, another tribal elder, said people’s houses, gardens and graveyards near the road had been destroyed four years ago during the initial construction process.
The project remains hamstrung by corruption, according to the elder, who alleged the funds allocated for the key road had been misappropriated. He complained patients experienced problems due to the bad condition of the road.
“People were so happy and they scarified their houses, gardens, graveyards and farmlands when the construction process began under the leadership of Juma Khan Hamdard, but all the money allocated for it ended up in a few pockets,” he lamented.
Abdullah warned they would block the highway for traffic if the reconstruction process did not resume soon.
Haji Amanullah Ahmadzai, another protestor, said funds for the construction of the highway were twice allocated and its design and survey had already been completed, but practical work was yet to begin.
“Hundreds of thousands of people from Paktia and Ghazni provinces travel the highway; we are in great trouble, as this road must be constructed,” he said.
Public Works Director Abdullah Durrani told Pajhwok Afghan News that the survey and design process for the highway had been completed and bids for the project would be called this week.
“We have also talked to the public works minister about the issue. Preliminary steps have been taken and the bidding process would be set in motion very soon,” he assured.
The Gardez-Zurmat road is 42.28 kilometres long. Initially, an amount of around $35 million was allocated by the USAID when Juma Khan Hamdard was Paktia governor.
For the second time, a sum of around $29 million was allocated for the project by the Ministry of Public Works. But work on the project was not initiated and funds for it were embezzled.
About two months back, the Ministry of Public Works announced for a third time starting work on the highway with the beginning of new solar year, but three weeks on, no practical steps have taken yet.
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