Muhammad Shahbaz Sharif In February 2011, PEPCOs new power plantwas due to becomeoperational at Nandipur that would havesupplied 450MW of the much neededelectricity toindustry, agriculture and households.Unfortunately, inaction by the federal government has delayed its completion by more than two years.InJanuary2008,PEPCO signed a$329 million contract (approximately Rs29 billion) with Dong Fang Electric Corporation (DEC) of China and paid it 10 percent as down payment.The Ministry of Finance issued aSovereign Guarantee for this project on the basis of which Dong Fang put together a consortium of lenders, who established a Letter of Creditfor the import of the equipment. Bymid-2010much of the work wasdone:The turbines were in place and it looked like the project would be completed according to schedulein early 2011.This activity took place in anticipation of the Ministry of Law approving thefinancial agreements and theSovereignGuarantee issued by the Finance Ministry - a routine process in such projects, normally taken as a matter of course. Bizarrely, this was not the case. Instead, the Law Ministry chose to sit on the matter for over a year, despite the urgency of Pakistans power requirements. As a result,the lenders stopped their funding, the equipment was not cleared at the port, andthe project came to a grinding haltwhen the contractor eventually demobilised from the site after exhausting all possibleoptions and numerous appeals to the governmentto have it resumed.The remaining equipment, which consists ofmore than4,500 packages of plant and machinery, have since been lying in the open at Karachi for over a year, creating an astronomic demurrage cost of Rs700 million andpotentiallyserious damage tosensitiveequipment. These packages are still there for anyone, who wishes to see them; a standing testament to inefficiency, negligence and corruption. In the same year, asecond,identical,450MW power plant had beenagreedfor Chichon ki Malian, withthe same contractor,Dong Fang,and the same consortium of lendersfor a contract of $352 million (approximately Rs31 billion). Here also, PEPCO made a 10 percent down payment, and the project wasscheduledto be completed in February 2012. However, after the incomprehensible behaviour of the Law Ministryin theNandipurproject,the financing consortiumrefused to establish the Letterof Credit until all outstanding clearances were issued. As a result, the Chinese company could not mobilise at the site and this project has also been delayed by at least two years. Resuming both the projectstodayat current prices and exchange rates, settling claims by the contractoras well as additional financial chargeswill all now entail an additional cost of about $200 million (approximately Rs18 billion)for the two power plants,besides the two-yeardelay. The real tragedy, though, is that the addition of 900MW - almost one-fifth of Pakistan's present shortage - generated by these two plants would have resulted in a quantum leap for our economy, which is losing approximately 2.5 percent of GDP due to lack of power, according to recentestimatesby international financial institutions. After repeated request by the Punjab government (although this was a project that would have benefited not just Punjab, but the whole country), the Prime Minister has finally instructedthe Law Ministry toapprove the financial arrangements andthe Sovereign Guarantee issued by the Finance Ministry.The ECChad towaive custom duties and demurrage for the equipment lying at the port, and it is hoped that the two projects undertaken by the federal government may finally continue. But these delays have already resulted in an additional amount of Rs18 billion to the poor people of Pakistan as well as a devastating loss of industrial and agricultural output, and the loss of potential exports worth tens of billions of rupees. Above all, the ongoing damage to our economy means the loss of jobs to thousands of people, and countless hours of unnecessary, avoidable and painful loadshedding for millions of households over the next few years. The Law Ministry will surely have some bureaucratic explanation for its behaviour. It might suggest that the relevant documents were not appropriately referred, or suitably clearedahead of time, in effect punishing the contractor and the lenders for putting their faith in Pakistans government. Certainly, corruption always shelters behind weak excuses. But can the Ministrys spokespersons justify this criminal delay in a matter so vital to the well being of our economy? Can the spokespersons honestly say that they have acted with a degree of sincerity and integrity befitting their high office? It is up to the people to decide whether there are any words strong enough, or whether there is any officious red tape thick enough, to hold weight against the most urgent national interest of Pakistan. I accuse all those responsible of a gross breach of duty; for while they slept, our people lay awake in their beds in the midst of heat and sweat - as they will now lie awake in the shivering cold of winter - cursing those who cruelly abused their trust; I demand that they at least attempt to acquit themselves of this sickening misconduct in the eyes of their electorate. Alas, what has been lost can never be recovered. Who can right these wrongs? Who can make good the scarce billions - earned through our hard toil - wasted? In short, who can turn back the clock? The bones of our founders will continue to rattle in their graves, filled with loathing at what has been done with their hard-won legacy. The spirits of those who laid down their lives for Pakistan will bitterly await their chance to stand witness against those who have demeaned their sacrifices. But we, in whose custody lies the well being of our nation and the protection of its future, must not tolerate theenemiesof our prosperity and stand silent to allow the plunder and pillage of Pakistan under our watch. We must accuse the wrongdoers of wrongdoing, and demand of them our recompense; let the law of the land make examples of these scavengers. Let them stand accountable for their criminal negligence in the eyes of their countrymen. If they will not show themselves before their people, and if they will not abandon their self-serving agenda, then there is no recourse but for the betrayed masses to take to the streets. The people must rid the country once and for all of the parasites; they must seize these looters by the collar and demand answers in the name of the generations whose future has been so deceitfully squandered by the scavengers of Pakistan. If this is the only path that is left to us, and if it is the path our people choose, then they will find me and my leadership marching beside them. By the pen, or by the long hard road, we will save this country The writer is the Chief Minister of Punjab.