The road that Mughal emperors travelled on to reach Kashmir for their summer sojourn 400 years back and that was reopened a decade ago as an alternative and shorter route to the landlocked Valley is awaiting clearance of a tunnel project to become an all weather road.
Renamed the Mughal Road, this 85 km stretch connects south Kashmir’s Shopian to Bufliaz in the border district of Poonch (Jammu). It was recently cleared of the winter snow that blocks the road for nearly six months.
However, due to the Covid-19 pandemic, the road is yet to be officially opened for regular traffic though light vehicles have already started moving on this picturesque road.
The heritage road link passes through some mesmerizing scenic spots and 400-year old structures dating back to the Mughal era. It’s considered a paradise for nature lovers and travellers besides squeezing the distance of 588 to 126 between Poonch and Kashmir to make it a viable road link.
The highest point of this road Pee ki Gali Pass is located at 3,500 meters and that makes the Mughal road one of the highest motorable roads in India.
Rashid Ahmad, Chief Engineer in charge of road clearance, said, “The snow clearance on the road has already been completed.” The snow clearance is a sight to watch as the machines create a road out of seemingly a maund of snow. The Mughal road gets cleared for snow at three major points between Hirpura (wildlife sanctuary) and Zaznar along 42 km.
Shabir Choudhary, Chief Engineer, Mughal Road Project, says the road will become more useful if it remains open all the year. “An 8-km tunnel between Chhatta Pani (Poonch) and Zaznar (Shopian) has been proposed for this,” he said.
The snow clearance at Peer Ki Gali
The proposed tunnel would by-pass Peer Ki Gali and again shorten the route to Kashmir by 22 km.
He said Project Proposal Report (PPR) has been prepared for the cost of Rs 43 crore and it needs the approval of the government.
Former Chief Minister Omar Abdullah was the first to drive on this road in November 2009 when it was thrown open for the public. The serpentine road meandering through Pir Panjal ranges of the Himalayas has been the most photographed road of J&K.
It’s said that this was the main road for the Mughal cavalcades of horses and ponies to travel from a hot Punjab plain to Kashmir’s balming summer.
Mughal emperor, Akbar visited Kashmir valley for the first time in 1589 followed by visits by Jehangir, Shahjehan and Aurangzeb. Therefore, a number of Mughal culture remnants like Sarais and resting places including Aliabad Sarai are found along its sides.
As Kashmir Valley has been facing issues of connectivity with NH 44 facing regular landslides leading to sudden closure the government has proposed a number of alternative roads.
The reopening of Mughal road has been a longstanding plan first proposed in 1950. However, it kept getting delayed due to insurgency, land disputes and objections by environmentalists.
However, the work on it was resumed in 2005 during the tenure of the Mufti Mohammad Sayeed and again environmentalist blocked it citing the road as s threat to animals in the Haripur wildlife sanctuary. It was completed only after the Supreme Court granting permission.