BESHAM - Prime Minister Raja Pervaiz Ashraf said on Saturday that the electricity situation would not have been so grave if independent power plants (IPPs) had not been shut down.

The former power minister, who faces an SC-ordered probe into the rental power projects – mostly contracted in his tenure and that earned him the label ‘Rental Raja’, sought to defend his past policies saying that the investors left the country due to undue criticism on the IPPs.

Speaking at an inauguration ceremony of 72 megawatt power project in Besham, main town of Shangla district, he said that National Accountability Bureau ex-chairman Saifur Rehman jailed several investors. The premier said that power crisis would have worsened if IPPs were not put in place.

Raja while himself criticising the former NAB chairman said: “I believe if any work is done in the national interest then criticising that work is not politics. Investors would come to Pakistan for investment and Saifur Rehman would put them in jails. He made such an environment that investors were afraid to come to invest in power sector.”

The PM said that he would not respond to criticism as ‘sloganeering does not work’. The country’s interests should not be put on stake for the sake of vested interests, he advised. “We should not do politics on the future of our next generations.”

Raja complained that whenever the PPP comes into power “we were made to face multiple challenges”. In 1993, when PPP came into power the power situation was similar, he said. “Our leader Benazir Bhutto started the IPPs projects and she faced criticism of her opponents,” Raja said – probably to remind the people that it was not originator of this ‘beneficial’ programme; rather, he just pursued the already made policies when he contracted RPPs.

After telling about the importance of IPPs in the energy sector, Raja ‘revealed’ that Pakistan’s future was linked to hydel power. His government was therefore focusing on hydropower generation projects to produce inexpensive and environment friendly power, he added.

The prime minister said that demand of power was increasing 8 to 10 percent annually and this challenge could be met by plugging the demand-supply gap. He said with the completion of Khan Khwar Hydropwer project, 72 megawatt electricity has been added to the national grid. He said that all the hydro power projects, including Nelum Jehlum, Dober, Kohala and Dasu, would be taken up for overcoming the energy crisis. Work on Thar Coal project has also been started and he would soon visit the area, he added.

The prime minister regretted that the dictators had ruled the country for more than 10 years in one go but no one stopped them from their unconstitutional actions, but an elected government was unnecessarily being targeted. He said no effort should be made to destabilise the government, adding that the present government would remain in power till the time the Almighty wanted. Some people had been giving time and date for the departure of the government but all such speculations fizzled out with the passage of time, he added.

Raja Pervaiz Ashraf urged the opposition parties to shun differences and come forward for holding of free, fair and transparent elections in the country, saying that election was the only way to reach the power corridors. He said he did not have differences with any opposition party and all should make collective efforts for holding free and fair elections. Raja said that a consensus Chief Election Commissioner had been appointed because “we do not want any hanky panky in the polling process.” He said that he had never made any effort to manipulate the elections rather “we are victims of conspiracies”.

Governor Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Barrister Masood Kausar, Chief Minister Ameer Haider Khan Hoti and Minister for Water and Power Chaudhry Ahmad Mukhtar also attended the ceremony. On this occasion the PM was briefed about the salient features of the project which has started power generation on an experimental basis.

The project project costing about Rs11 billion has been constructed on the Khan Khwar right bank tributary of Indus River in District Shangla. Main components of the project include a 46 meters high and 112 meters long dam, about five kilometres long tunnel, a power house and a switchyard. The project has been connected with the national grid through 132 and 220 kilovolts transmission line constructed for three high-head hydropower projects. It is a part of energy generation plan of WAPDA that is being executed on priority basis.