LAHORE -  Punjab Chief Minister Shehbaz Sharif on Tuesday received the first freight train, which transported the consignment of coal from Karachi to Qadirabad for Sahiwal Coal Power Project.

Railways Minister Khawaja Saad Rafique, provincial ministers Chaudhry Shair Ali and Malik Nadeem Kamran, Chinese Consul General Long Dung Bin, parliamentarians, Chinese engineers and workers were also present on the occasion.

Addressing the ceremony organised to celebrate the occasion, the chief minister said it was a historic moment, as the first train carrying 12,000 tonnes of coal for Sahiwal Coal Power Project had arrived at Qadirabad. He said this was a big leap forward towards realisation of a dream to eliminate load-shedding from the country. He said the Sahiwal Coal Power Project was part of the CPEC and under the leadership of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif mega projects were being carried out from valleys of Mehran to rocks and snow-covered mountains of Balochistan and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and fertile lands of Punjab, Gilgit-Baltistan and Azad Kashmir. He said that China was making an investment of $52 billion and this reflected Chinese leadership’s confidence in the leadership of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif. He said that China did not have resources of oil and gas nor did currency grow on trees in China. Rather this was the hard-earned money of the Chinese people that they had generously given to 200 million people of Pakistan for their progress and prosperity so that Pakistan could emerge as an economic power on the world map. He said that self-reliance and prosperity were dreams of Nawaz Sharif and these dreams were being realised with the support of China. Shehbaz Sharif said he was thankful to the Chinese president, prime minister and companies supporting Pakistan to realise this dream. He said that he was also thankful to Chief of Army Staff General Qamar Javed Bajwa for proving all-out support to CPEC projects.

The chief minister said, “Our political opponents, who can be more precisely called opponents of prosperity and development, constantly accuse the government of taking huge loans, but he wants to make it clear to them that there are no loans; it is 100 percent investment by China that will always stay here.” He said that investors would make investment in the energy sector to produce electricity for the nation and earn profit. He called it the best model to rid the county of load-shedding. He said that credit for this sagacious model went to the prime minister. He said that all projects under CPEC were being completed on a fast-track and transparently. He said that 3600-MW gas power projects in Jhang, Sheikhupura and Baloki would be completed during the current year and Rs112 billion had been saved in these projects. He said these facts were being presented to political opponents who levelled baseless allegations of corruption against Nawaz Sharif. “Does a corrupt leader save billions of rupees of the nation as Nawaz Sharif has saved national resources?” he asked. He said that a corrupt leader would not save billions of rupees of the nation and ensure transparency in mega projects.

Shehbaz Sharif said this project would be completed by May or June and it would break the world record because a 1320-MW project had not been completed in such a short time anywhere in the world. He said that resources of Pakistan had been mercilessly looted and plundered in the past. He said that looters of national resources were now calling for eradication of corruption. He said that those who delivered lectures on corruption day and night had their 60 million dollars in Swiss accounts. He said that people were calling for bringing this huge sum back to the country and spending it on development and progress of poor people, health, education, roads and other sectors in Sindh, Punjab, Balochistan and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. He said that those who got hefty loans written off were challenging him to answer their questions. He said that he had given them a complete and comprehensive answer and he would stand against them in the court if needed. He said that those who got hefty loans written off and robbed the Bank of Punjab were leveling allegations against the leadership, which was completing mega projects transparently and serving the nation day and night.

The chief minister said the Sahiwal Coal Power Project was being completed in a record time and even China could not complete a project of this capacity in such a short time. He said this project would break records of projects completed on a fast track in America to Zambia. He said the Neelum-Jhelum power project was started in 2002 and it had not been completed so far despite a passage of 16 years. Its cost has increased from $800 million to $5 billion, he said. He said that three projects of the size of Sahiwal coal project could be completed with this amount. He said that in the same way the machinery imported for Nandipur project had rusted for four years at Karachi port. He said that Guddu power project was completed in five years, while gas power projects of 3600-MW were being completed in 27 months.

Shehbaz Sharif said that political opponents staged sit-ins in 2014 and in this situation bureaucracy had closed all files, as these sit-ins blocked the path of progress and brought the country to the verge of destruction. He said that God saved the country from the conspiracy of lockdown and those who were levelling baseless allegations against Nawaz Sharif should sweep before their own door first. He said that he was thankful to the chief secretary, inspector general of police, district administration, police, Chinese companies, Chinese engineers and workers for speedy work on the project. He said that in January and February Chinese nation celebrates its new year, but thousands of Chinese engineers were working here on this project. He said he was thankful to Water and Power Minister Khawaja Muhammad Asif, federal secretaries and the team of the Punjab government working on this project on a fast track.

Addressing the ceremony, Railways Minister Khawaja Saad Rafique said that Chief Minister Shehbaz Sharif was materialising dreams of the nation and he had reposed confidence in Pakistan Railways. He said that Shehbaz Sharif had made possible the plan, which was impossible otherwise. He said the railways had got business for 30 years to transport coal for this project from Karachi and God willing the railways would earn more profit.

The Chinese consul general said the Sahiwal Coal Power Project would enhance cooperation between Pakistan and China, as a milestone had been achieved. CEO of Sahiwal Coal Project Soang Taji said the chief minister had extended unprecedented cooperation for this project and this project was being completed on a fast track due to dynamic leadership of Shehbaz Sharif.

Earlier, the chief minister visited Sahiwal Coal Power Project site and the control room of the project besides gas turbines and generator room. He also talked to Chinese engineers and workers. He said that Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif would reward and congratulate them on completion of the project. He said this was a Rs180 billion project and all investment had been made by China. He said he was thankful to the railways and FWO Director General Lt-Gen Muhammad Afzal for cooperating on his part.