by Jamil Bhatti
ISLAMABAD, Feb. 22 (Xinhua) -- Being jobless for a year, the rising debt burden, deprivations of his two school-going children, all these were the ordeals pushing Taj, a driver, into depression and hopelessness.
"It was the dark period of my life. My children's sufferings were very painful. To be true, a couple of times, an idea to commit suicide hit my mind when I failed to buy dresses for them on Eid," Taj recalled.
But Taj's life has been changed with the construction of Multan-Sukkur Motorway, or M5 known in Pakistan. Taj now has escaped from his gloomy mood.
"Since I started working here, the financial situation of my family is being improved every month. Now, I can pay fees for children and buy food and medicine for my family," Taj told Xinhua at the construction site near Multan.
The project, 392-km, six-lane Multan-Sukkur Motorway, is the largest transportation infrastructure project under the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC). The motorway will connect the country's southern port city Karachi with northwestern Peshawar through the populated provinces of Punjab and Sindh.
Ahmar, 28, a human resource manager at the seventh section of the project, told Xinhua that local people now look confident about their children's future because they believe that the motorway will usher a tremendous economic development in the shape of new businesses and industries in the ignored villages once having no jobs to offer to local people.
"Now, over 2,500 people of this area are working on the project. When people get so good jobs nearby their homes, there is nothing better than this for them," said the young Pakistani, adding that "some people came here like a blank paper, but now they grew as technicians after learning from Chinese colleagues. Those people can make their own future after the completion of this project."
Expressing his happiness over his decision to join the project, Ahmar said his two-year tenure with Chinese professionals has changed his life completely by expanding his horizon and thoughts.
Pakistani Minister for Planning, Development and Reforms Ahsan Iqbal said that the close cooperation between Pakistan and China is bringing tremendous benefits to his country and the CPEC has brought really positive changes to the lives of millions of people in Pakistan.
"CPEC is having a big impact in Pakistan," the minister told Xinhua recently in London. "It has helped significantly in overcoming energy shortage by investment in energy projects. It is helping connect different markets in Pakistan through infrastructure projects...It will, through economic investment, create new job opportunities, and new job opportunities mean that we will create more foundations for peace and stability."
Now, some 1,700 Chinese and 22,000 Pakistanis are working on the project so as to meet a deadline in this May to partially open the motorway to traffic.
Once operationalized, the motorway will cut the travel distance between Multan and Sukkur from 463 km to 392 km, reducing the traveling time from eight hours to four hours. It will also facilitate quick and hassle-free traveling among the areas located alongside it.
"To go to any other area, we have to cover 45 km to reach Multan city first to take another bus. But after this, we can get a lorry only six km away from our village, a great relief for thousands of people in our area," said Muhammad Tufail, a local farmer who is now working as a laborer at the M5 construction site.
In the eyes of Muhammad Akram Anjum, the chief security consultant in the project and a retired colonel, the project has also boosted several other local businesses, including transportation, construction material supplies, fuel stations, grocery stores, meat sellers and restaurants.
Besides increasing businesses and circulation of finance at the micro level, the project has also increased the importance and value of the area by connecting and exposing it to other parts of the country.
Since the motorway construction started, the price of one-acre land near the road has surged from 1.3 million rupees (some 11,800 U.S. dollars) to around two million rupees (around 18,200 U.S. dollars) after investors started buying land for different business purposes.
Besides the flourish of local businesses, the Chinese employees working on the project also do social work for the welfare of local people. "Recently, our Chinese colleagues provided uniforms, books, notebooks, stationaries, sports goods to children of two schools beside the project. They also donated water coolers to the schools. In different sections of the project, they also establish free medical camps for the poor people," said Anjum.
He said that foolproof security arrangements have been made under the supervision of the Pakistani army along with Rangers and Special Protection Unit of Police for the protection of the workers involved in the project.
The move also has made local people take a sigh of relief as the law and order situation has improved along the project's sites. The crime rate has dropped significantly due to the presence and patrolling of security forces along the whole road alignment, according to the retired military officer.