ISLAMABAD: After recommendations from legislators, the National Highway Authority (NHA) has decided that commuters travelling in small vehicles between Karachi and Hyderabad would pay toll tax once instead of being charged twice.
The Senate Standing Committee on Communications met on Thursday to discuss the issue of toll tax collection, which was raised by Senator Moula Bux Chandio in the house in August.
NHA chairman Jawad Rafique Malik told the committee that passengers travelling between Karachi and Hyderabad would now pay toll tax only at the M9 toll plaza.
Senate committee suggests revisiting Sukkur-Multan highway project citing irregularities
Mr Chandio had pointed out that the NHA was collecting tax at the Jamshoro toll plaza and then again at the M9 plaza. He said the two plazas were approximately two kilometres apart and it did not make sense to collect toll tax from the travellers twice.
The committee also discussed progress on the construction of the Sukkur-Multan section of the motorway. The matter was brought up by Senator Nauman Wazir, who pointed irregularities in the project.
The purpose of the 387km-long stretch of the highway was to provide a high-speed, six-lane toll road facility for efficient and safe transportation of passengers and goods to and from industrial and economic hubs of the country.
The total cost of the Sukkur-Multan section of the motorway had been revised from Rs259 million to Rs294m, he said. Approximately 72pc of the project’s civil works had been done and it was expected to be completed in 2019, said Mr Wazir.
Therefore, he argued, the cost of the project should have reduced because a portion of the project had been completed. He also challenged the bidding process of the project, terming it unfair.
“China did not permit international bidding and Pakistan had to select the lowest bidder from three Chinese companies that expressed interest in the project. Above all, the fact that the Chinese are exempt from paying toll tax while travelling on the highway is unreasonable,” said the senator.
Senator Mohammad Usman Khan Kakar supported his colleague and said that Pakistan would be at a loss if Chinese were not charged toll tax.
“The Chinese will be using our roads the most. These projects will come at a highest cost to our environment. So, the Chinese should also be charged toll tax,” Mr Kakar asserted.
The committee unanimously suggested revisiting the project specifically to bring about improvements.
However, communication secretary Shoaib Ahmad Siddiqui said the project was part of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor.
The road was being built after a framework agreement between the governments of Pakistan and China, he said, adding that all the ministries had acted in accordance with the agreement.
“Most projects between Pakistan and China have been agreed upon between the two sides along similar terms,” he told the meeting.