Luv Puri

Poonch: The road which Mughal emperors used every summer to escape from Delhi’s blistering heat to the cool environs of the Kashmir Valley would be ready by year-end. This was announced by the Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad.

It was this road that Akbar used in 1586 to conquer Kashmir. According to historians, the road originated in Jhelum town of the Punjab province (now in Pakistan), and then touched Kotli (in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir), Thanna Mandi (Rajouri district) and finally Chandimarh area of Poonch located on the Pir Panjal mountains. A branch crossed over to Shopian via Heer Pora.

Work on the road began after the former Chief Minister, Sheikh Abdullah, conceived the idea but was suspended in 1979. Post-1989, the area became a hotbed of militant operations and construction work was almost unthinkable.

The State Government, with the clearance of the Union Home and Defence ministries, resumed the project on April 13, 2006 to make the road operational again and provide an alternative to the over-crowded Highway 1A. Thirty km of road length on either side has been completed.

Engineers said the road will cross a 11,500-ft mountain, which is higher than the Banihal Pass, the present entry point to the Valley.