Last November, several carloads of Sihk pilgrims from Canada crossed the western border — where the fencing is taking place — on way to the Kartarpur shrine.
SoDATA (South Data) — Pakistan-Iran Border Security Fence is on schedule with completion expected this summer.
“Fencing is going ahead as per schedule, will be done by June this year,” says an onsite source on condition of anonymity.
The 560 mile (900km) long and meandering fence — part of the overall 1600 mile (2600km) military-led massive construction program along the porous western border, has long been an ‘Open Wound,’ where drugs, criminals (including human traffickers), smuggled goods and illegals would pour into the country.
The section now secures Pakistan’s western border in Balochistan province– it abuts eastern border of Iran which has been coping as best it can with coronavirus outbreak — the country is already grappling with the effects of tough US sanctions.
The outbreak is one of the deadliest outside of China, where the virus originated late last year.
Substantial portion of the fence is complete, says the official. It “helped us greatly to manage movement of people to contain Coronavirus spread”, the official said.
Not fancy or complex, the barb-wired fence is being built with least cost and maximum functionality in mind — still it’s costing about $530m in total — all at Pak military’s expense. The fence runs through rugged terrain and snow-capped mountains as high as 12,000 feet.
“We are constructing brick and concrete first over 3500 square feet for less than $30,000,” says the official.
President Donald Trump is running for reelection on a promise to complete more than 500 miles of new border fence out of a 1,900-mile wall along Mexico border by early next year.
To speed things up, the Trump administration in February said it will waive federal contracting laws for the wall construction amid reports that the administration is transferring $3.8 billion in recently passed military funding to finance its construction.
“So, let’s say it costs $4 or $5 billion. Our trade deficit with Mexico is $53 billion. So $4 or $5 billion is peanuts,” Trump had said in September 2016.
That’s three and a half years back and quite a bit of peanuts for contractors vying to get in.
“I am thinking to bid for (the) México border wall,” says the Pakistani official to highlight the speed, cost and functionality elements of the strategic project. He’s directly supervising the fence.
“Even FWO — the Pakistan army’s independent design/build outfit, costs way more. FWO would charge at least ten times for the amount of work we are doing”.
The real secret, according to him, is to transport the materials to remote locations of the entire construction site. “The sites where no human has set his foot before,” he says.
The areas have no roads and tracks, and water is transported from many kilometers to the sites and at time the concrete is carried on make-shift carriages on mules.
“First and the most difficult part is make tracks to open up the work site and then expand side ways to fence the border,” the official said.
The differentials in elevations (maximum climbup) over the length of the site, given the rugged and hostile terrain from construction standpoint is “insane”. “Sheer madness drives our daily activity”.
The work is priceless though, as once complete Pak-Iran will have a secure border to deal with.”There is no monetary value to what my men and the civilian labor are doing for our country”, the official added.
Pakistan Army Chief Gen. Bajwa was in Tehran last November where he met Major General Mohammad Hossein, Chief of Staff Iranian Armed Forces. Both discussed regional security environment, and efforts for regional peace and stability.
The fencing helps improve security situation in the region, says an observer.
“Regional security remains a concern, as Islamabad seeks ‘enduring peace, stability’ in the region”, the observer pointed out alluding to a statement General Bajwa made in Quetta in September last year.
Terrorist activists have receded by over 85 percent, and smuggling has taken a dip along the border opening up opportunities to cross the Rubicon, ‘Close the Wound’.
Last November, several carloads of Sikh pilgrims from Canada crossed the western border — where the fencing is taking place — on way to the Kartarpur shrine.