Karakoram Highway (KKH), connecting Pakistan and China at Khunjerab Pass, is now open for all types of traffic after three days as rain-induced floods and landslides caused blockages at different points along it.
The Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) in a press statement hailed relentless and sustained efforts by Frontier Works Organisation (FWO) that worked day in and day out to clear the blockage at more than 20 locations between Tatta Pani and Raikot on KKH.
The blockage on KKH was caused due to heavy mudflows caused by torrential rains in Gilgit-Baltistan since July 20. Commuters on both sides of the slide area, who had been waiting on the road for two to three days, were joyous over the road clearance. They hailed FWO’s efforts for swift clearance of mudslide and opening of the KKH.
The GB home department stated that work on opening the blocked portions of the KKH had started early Thursday morning. It added that the Disaster Management Authority and FWO worked around the clock in challenging weather conditions to restore the Gilgit-Astore Road. All traffic had been restored by the afternoon.
Due to the rain and landslides tourists were asked to wait in Chilas till the roads were reopened. Inter-district highways were also opened on an emergency basis.
It is pertinent to mention that KKH is the lifeline for trade and people-to-people contact between Pakistan and China as well as between Gilgit-Baltistan and the mainland Pakistan. In recent years, the KKH has assumed increased importance for being the main link between China and Pakistan in connection with the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) project.
The KKH also serves as the main route from China to Gwadar port, which is being developed with Chinese assistance to serve as the main route for China’s exports to the rest of the world.
The trade volume between China and Pakistan through Khunjerab port was about $1 billion in 2019. Overall bilateral trade between Pakistan and China is continually increasing and is likely to see new heights as various projects under CPEC are set to complete in near future. In 2020, China’s imports from Pakistan were estimated to be $2.12, while China’s exports to Pakistan stood at $15.36 billion.
A Turkish magazine quoted Pakistani ambassador to China as saying that Pakistan recorded nearly 70% increase in exports to China during the first quarter of 2021, to the tune of $888 million, as compared to $526 million during Q1 of 2020.
It may be noted that Pakistani authorities have always given priority to the repair and maintenance work of KKH because the government is fully cognizant of its cardinal importance in promoting, not only trade and bilateral relations between the two friendly nations, but also in ensuring the success of China’s flagship Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) and CPEC projects in Pakistan.