Traditions live on
The Karakoram Highway, also known as the Friendship Highway in China, was built by the governments of Pakistan and China. It was started in 1959 and was completed and opened to the public in 1979. Pakistan initially favored routing through Mintaka Pass. In 1966, China citing the fact that Mintaka would be more susceptible to air strikes recommended instead the steeper Khunjerab Pass. About 810 Pakistanis and about 200 Chinese workers lost their lives, mostly in landslides and falls, while building the highway. Over 140 Chinese workers who died during the construction were buried in the Chinese cemetery in Gilgit. The route of the KKH traces one of the many paths of the ancient Silk Road. On the Pakistani side, the road was constructed by FWO (Frontier Works Organization), employing the Pakistan Army Corps of Engineers. The Engineer-in-Chief’s Branch of the Pakistani Army completed a project documenting the history of the highway. The History of Karakoram Highway was written by Brigadier (Retired) Muhammad Mumtaz Khalid in two volumes. In the first volume, the author discusses the land and the people, the pre-historic communication system in the Northern Areas, the need for an all-weather road link with Gilgit, and the construction of Indus Valley Road. The second volume records events leading to the conversion of the Indus Valley Road to the Karakoram Highway, the difficulties in its construction, and the role of Pakistan Army Corps of Engineers and their Chinese counterparts in its construction.