MUZAFFARABAD: Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi on Friday inaugurated 242MW first unit of the of 969 MW Neelum Jehlum Hydropower Project (NJHPP) near Azad Jammu and Kahsmir’s (AJK) capital.
As he was speaking at the event, the apex court decision disqualifying former prime minister Nawaz Sharif for life was out. He took opportunity to comment on the judgment: “People of Pakistan are the only arbitrators to decide who is qualified to lead them.”
Referring to the upcoming general elections, he said: “The people of Pakistan will have an opportunity in July this year to give their verdict about their leadership through their votes.”
Talking with reference to the NJHPP, the prime minister said the project was a big challenge for the present government when it came into power in 2013. Only 10-12 per cent work had been done at that time and there had also been discussion in meetings to abandon this project.
“But [the former prime minister] Nawaz Sharif took interest and project has become operational now. Around $5 billion have been spent on this project and its cost is three times higher according to regional estimates due to change in design following earthquake in 2005,” he added.
Conceived some thirty years back, the NJHPP, now dubbed the most expensive power project of Pakistan, was delayed for a variety of reasons resulting in three-fold increase in its cost. However, the first unit of the project is now completed.
Describing the project as an emblem of Pakistan-China friendship, he said the hydropower generation project will significantly contribute to the existing energy crisis in the country. The PM also paid glowing tributes to the 21 workers who lost their lives during the completion of the project.
He said around 10,400 MW power had been added to the national grid during past five years which, he claimed, was a record in the history of Pakistan.
“The credit for this achievement goes to Nawaz Sharif. The development done in past five years is more than the collective development of past seventy years,” he claimed
He said the present government had also ended gap of demand and supply of electricity. However, he said the consumers in areas of power theft would continue facing load shedding as the government could not put their burden on the consumers paying regular bills.
Abbasi said the government had installed three gas based power plants and one of them had been made operational. “The second plant will become operational by end of this month whereas the third one will start adding electricity to the national grid by the next month. These plants have 62 per cent efficiency.”
Despite criticism, he said, the government made Nandipur Power Plant operational which is generating 525 MW of electricity. “The government has set up plants from diversified sources as it works on hydel, coal, gas and wind based power projects. Two coal based power plants are operational and the third one will be made operational soon,” he added.
The PM said the government will have to build two dams in a decade to overcome water crisis.
The Water and Power Development Authority (Wapda) chief Muzammil Hussain said the project was conceived 30 years back and the first unit of 242MW had become operational.
He said Pakistan decided to work on this project after coming to know Indian’s plan to build Kishan Ganga project. He said the project would generate 5 billion units annually to earn Rs50 billion.
Giving credit of the project to former PM Nawaz Sharif, the AJK Prime Minister Raja Farooq Haider demanded that 250 MW electricity be allocated to the AJK to end load shedding.
Apex court’s decision
Calling the Supreme Court decision to disqualify the former premier Nawaz Sharif for life ‘unfortunate’, Abbasi claimed that people working for country are being dragged in the courts, a practice that, he said, must be stopped.
“Those people are remembered and respected in history who work [for nation] but Nawaz Sharif is thrown out for life for doing work. Those who work here are dragged in court and are thrown out forever. The country cannot move forward where there is [such] political disability,” Abbasi said.