LAHORE: A beaming Nawaz Sharif on Thursday got another political stick in the form of Sahiwal Coal Power Project with which to beat his opponents at a time when the Panamagate JIT had reportedly sent a questionnaire to the prime minister and his two sons.
The prime minister particularly listed his government’s ‘great’ progress on three major fronts -- acute power crisis, terrorism and revival of the economy -- that he claimed were inherited from the previous government.
Nawaz said: “We have broken the back of the terrorists in Pakistan, achieved a higher growth rate of 5.3 per cent in comparison to 3.7 per cent when the PML-N government took charge in 2013 and managed to complete projects like the Sahiwal Coal Power Project in a record period of 22 months.”
He also used the inauguration ceremony of the first unit of the power plant that would add 660 megawatt of electricity to the national grid to lash out at those branding his government ‘corrupt’.
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“If the government was corrupt, would it be able to complete development projects at such a rapid pace,” the prime minister asked, adding: “Projects here are delayed for years, while half the allocated funds misappropriated.”
The prime minister -- accompanied by Punjab Governor Mohammad Rafiq Rajwana, Chief Minister Shehbaz Sharif, Minister for Railways Khawaja Saad Rafiq and State Minister for Water and Power Abid Sher Ali -- unveiled the plaque for the project.
With a total capacity of 1,320 megawatt, the project comprised two coal-based power plants with a capacity of 660MW each. This is one of the early harvest projects of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC).
The plant brings $1.6 billion dollar foreign investment from two Chinese companies -- China Huaneng and Shandong Ruyi Group. The project had already been connected to the national grid since May 12 this year.
The power plant is expected to start generating maximum power from the first week of June this year which would also be six months before the schedule.
“I congratulate those in attendance on the completion of the project in a record time of 22 months, and to complete such a gigantic project in such a short period of time is unprecedented in the history of Pakistan,” he claimed.
Nawaz said his government was working on a multi-pronged strategy to address the challenges facing the country. “Successful implementation of the strategy will put the country on the path to progress and development,” he expressed determination.
“By 2018, we, through a mix of coal, solar, LNG and hydropower projects will be able to add 10,000MW electricity to the national grid, putting a complete end to power outages,” he claimed.
With the abduction of two Chinese nationals in Quetta only a day before the ceremony on his mind, the prime minister took great pain to emphasise that terrorism incidents had started to subside in the country.
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“The backbone of terrorists has broken as the government has successfully dismantled terrorist networks and their infrastructure from the country,” he said.
On the flagship China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) project, he said the project had brought an unprecedented $56 billion of foreign direct investment to the country that could go up to $63 billion.
In a thinly-veiled jibe at the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI), Nawaz said their “politics of allegations” would not bear fruit. “We will not respond to them because we are focused more on development.”
He also announced that the government had planned to allocate a record budget for development during the next fiscal year.
The prime minister, in view of record completion of power generation and infrastructural projects in Punjab, appreciated Punjab Chief Minister Shehbaz Sharif and said the title of “Punjab Speed” given to the chief minister is in fact “PML-N Speed”.
Reverting to an earlier speech made by the chief minister where he termed the prime minister a hero, the elder Sharif said: “You called me a hero, you are a hero yourself.”
The prime minister also visited the control room and different sections of the power plant where the Chinese engineers briefed him about the functioning of the plant.
Earlier, addressing the gathering, Punjab Chief Minister Shehbaz Sharif said: “The pledges made by our government to address load-shedding are being fulfilled.”
He called the completion of the power project a milestone as the first mega project came to fruition under the CPEC.
Lauding the completion of the project in record 22 months, the chief minister said such plants could not be built in Asia or Europe at this speed. He said even Chinese contractors had broken their own record.
Built as a state-of-the-art supercritical coal-fired power project, the plant is environmentally compliant with high thermal efficiency to ensure low fuel consumption.
The power generation from the project is expected to exceed 9 billion kWh which would significantly contribute to alleviating energy crisis in the country. The project will produce electricity with a levellised tariff of Rs8.11/unit (28 fils/unit).
The Punjab government had extended loan to the Pakistan Railways for the construction of spur line from nearest railway station to the project site, and coal was being successfully transported to the project site.
Around 190 young Pakistani engineers trained in China have been employed for plant operations.
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