There cannot be many people in Pakistan who are not familiar with the Frontier Works Organization Pakistan while travelling across the country. It is more commonly known as FWO through boards, machinery and men at work.
The capital alphabets in white and an uptight ram with big twisted horns in red background is an image we often see during construction works taking place on roads and highways, silently passing out the message that someone is striving to make a difference. However, a big chunk of the credit surely goes to the man behind the gun DG FWO, Lieutenant-General Muhammad Afzal who has through his farsightedness turned the organization into a refined and upgraded version of what it was before.
As an armed forces organization of Pakistan, FWO also runs on the same principles as Pakistan Army and has exhibited its unwavering resolve and commitment to deliver what it has been assigned to do with an underlying vision of becoming one of the best construction companies in Pakistan.
FWO is a vibrant construction entity of 45,000 professionals equipped with over 5,000 pieces of state of the art construction machinery, stretched all across Pakistan besides venturing overseas. In last 50 years of devotion and dedication, FWO has significantly contributed in national development spearheading the construction Industry of Pakistan. It is associated more often with tasks of building large scale roads, highways, flyovers and bridges, however the organization has a widespread, much diverse and elaborate construction potential that is still hidden from the eyes of the general public.
The FWO has to its credit an array of projects among which some have been long completed adding tremendous value to the infrastructure of the country while some are in the process of being completed. These projects include roads and highways, rails, bridges and flyovers, power stations, tunnels, public infrastructure, and dams and water supply systems.
The ‘mission impossible’ of building of the Karakoram Highway is nothing short of a miracle that has materialized across the highest mountain ranges of Pakistan.
Furthermore, there is another category of quick impact projects undertaken and completed within a very short span of time in order to facilitate the military operations launched by the army against terrorism.
Since development is the fundamental prerequisite for the post-operative areas cleared of terrorists, the construction of communication infrastructure on an emergency basis is an immediate requirement for which FWO has undertaken the task of enhancing the three sectors of namely Communication, Water and Power for this purpose.
These quick impact projects have been undertaken in collaboration with the US while taking the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) on board. However, there are some projects that have been categorized under the UAE-Pakistan assistance program with the aim of communication sector development in FATA and Swat. The famous 3d counter-terrorism strategy of ‘dialogue, deter & develop’ was augmented in earnest by this program that led to the construction of various roads and bridges in North and South Waziristan and Swat area.
Among the projects in South Waziristan include the construction of roads connecting Tank-Jandola-Makeen (TJM), Tank-Gomal-Wana (TGW), Wana-Shakai-Makeen (WSM), DI Khan-Hathala-Tank (DHT) to mention a few. Apart from this, the construction of some components of the Gomal Zam Dam and the Wana grid station in South Waziristan speaks volumes of what FWO means to the war torn regions.
This short preamble serves as a clear iconographic frame of what the FWO stands for and how it is being viewed by not only the people, but those that have been victimized by the decade long war going on inside our frontiers. That developmental activity really does occur and improvement is seen on the physical level through construction of important edifices that supplement daily life. For me, the construction of two buildings namely the ‘Benazir Bhutto International Airport’ in Islamabad and ‘Nowshera Medical College’ are especially noteworthy.
The construction of a medical college by the FWO team is a landmark that exhibits the aim of the organization in clear tangible form. The firm that was hitherto involved in building roads and highways is now, adjusting to the needs of the people, focusing attention to public infrastructure. With changing times construction needs have also changed to include modern infrastructure. The state of the art complex comprises of 3 main blocks, an auditorium and gyms, water tanks and external roads that stands as a majestic edifice and a symbol of growth and change.
Much of our resources, it must be observed, have been hijacked and landed in incompetent and indifferent hands that have not only stalled the process of progress but have also been instrumental in being robbed of precious resources altogether. The Benazir Bhutto International Airport (BBIA) is one venture that the FWO has taken under its able wings. Despite the fact that this project worth millions of rupees is being built with the help of foreign experts from various countries hired by the Pakistani authorities to provide expert opinions, FWO remains the key organization that is concerned for the successful completion of the venture.
The entire team under the leadership of the Director General FWO, Lieutenant-General Muhammad Afzal has been responsible for the completion of the project and the successful management of monetary aspects attached to it.
Lt general Afzal has been serving as the director general of the organization for around four years and under his supervision FWO has extended its reach to a point that it has become synonymous to ‘development’ as it is now involved not only in connecting Gawadar with other regions of the country but also building thousands of kilometers of China-Pakistan Economic Corridor.
The fact that despite being promoted to the rank of Lt general he continues to head the organization that requires a Major General speaks of his attachment and commitment to the organization that has consumed a large yet significant chunk of his career. Among the biggest achievement that the DG FWO has to his credit is that of a project which becomes the massive infrastructure development program undertaken by the FWO is the China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC).
FWO is constructing an important part of the CPEC’s Western Route in Balochistan and a substantial portion of the Eastern Route besides maintenance of the Karakoram Highway. Highway construction projects in Balochistan will effectively link Gwadar Port with Quetta, Chaman and Rattodero at the Indus Highway and bring forth a quantum change in socio-economic dimensions of Balochistan.
With the completion of an 870 km portion of the road infrastructure developed by FWO, not only people of interior Balochistan will be benefited but Gwadar Deep Sea Port would also be linked with Chaman, reducing the distance by 400 km.
It wouldn’t be wrong to say that in this era of incompetence, corruption and mismanagement, it is nothing less than a miracle to find someone that possesses all the necessary potential, expertise and the desired intention to make a difference. It is for this reason he is often found asserting that it is “the best outfit of Pakistan’s construction industry”, and rightly so.
In the able leadership of Lt General Afzal, the FWO has also updated itself to be registered with Pakistan Engineering Council (PEC) as Professional Engineering Body conducting workshops and seminars in order to refine the skills of their professional engineers, but also to introduce new trends in effectively undertaking construction projects. This is exemplified by the introduction of Public Private Partnership (PPP) by FWO that helped build the Lakpass Tunnel in Balochistan. Apart from this, another initiative namely, “Built, Operate, Transfer (BOT)” is being employed through which FWO has completed rehabilitation of Lahore-Islamabad Motorway. With the success of the PPP model FWO is also venturing into Oil, Dams, Cement and Steel industry.
Public Private Partnership is one of the most effective vehicles employed by FWO to enhance private sector participation in public service delivery, increase growth and creating jobs leading to reduction of poverty and allowing each partner to concentrate on activities that best suit their skills. Models like this where public and private sector can work together and their collaborated efforts can result in super successful projects need to be emulated in every organization and institution.
FWO has also been introducing the culture of enhanced safety and convenience of commuters during the construction phase in Pakistan by employing international standard marking and safety system. A million trees overall will be planted for the ease and comfort of travelers out of which 300,000 have already been planted.
The need for a robust organization which could achieve gigantic projects in extremely difficult circumstances is what came to be the rationale behind raising of the FWO in 1966. The construction of the grand Karakoram Highway (KKH) was the primary project that the organization undertook and spent twelve long and tough years before attaining success in 1978. But no substantial triumph can be achieved without sacrifices and so was the case of the KKH that saw 400 of its construction workers embrace martyrdom and many injured before it was completed. It was the success of this project that later on became the reason that the organization not only was retained, but also became a reliable entity for future endeavors.
In this backdrop it is seen that FWO has come to be recognized as an organization that is responsible in not only construction work, but also takes equal part in reconstruction activities. Starting from rebuilding of roads, highways, bridges, hospitals, airports, etc to reconstruction of damaged property and infrastructure, assisting in recovery during natural calamities, etc.
FWO shows what it has come to mean to Pakistan. FWO remained in the forefront for the relief and reconstruction after the 2010 massive earthquake while it helped extract 133 bodies of soldiers from the Gayari landslide at Siachen. These are tasks easier said than done, but the FWO through its hard work, commitment and able leadership came out as a savior force that earned the love and respect of the people.
No doubt that the presence of skilled professionals, employment of high technology and gadgets, latest equipment, tools and management systems, the efficacy of organization has increased manifold, but one must never overlook the bond that the organization has with the people of the nation who have come to rely upon it not only in the post operative regions, but all over the country. The manner in which FWO came out and handled the Attabad calamity in the process of which an officer sacrificed his life is unparalleled in the history of any other organization. It is this long and unending tradition of sacrifices that is instrumental in earning the admiration of individuals all over the nation.