SAHIWAL - Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif says the government is giving top priority to overcoming the power shortage and 21,000MW of electricity will be added to the national grid in the next seven to eight years.

“We inherited electricity shortage amongst many other challenges but now the government is working day and night to overcome them,” he said while was addressing a ceremony after laying foundation stone of a 1320MW coal-fired power plant in Sahiwal on Friday.

The project comprising two units of 660MW each will be operational in two years and start adding electricity to the national grid by 2016. Nawaz Sharif said the project will not only help meet the electricity shortage, but also create employment for the people of the Sahiwal district.

The PM said foundation stone of two coal power units of 660 megawatt each have recently been laid in Port Qasim. “Nandi Pur power project will be inaugurated tomorrow.... and Rs35 billion have been allocated in the next budget for Diamer-Bhasha dam.” He said the generation capacity at present is 23,000MW but the actual generation of electricity is only 13,000MW, vowing that in next eight to ten years his government would double the power generation.

Appreciating Chinese assistance in different projects, Nawaz said both the countries have agreed to construct Pakistan-China Economic corridor which will prove a game changer for both the countries. It will envisage construction of highway from Kashgar to Gwadar which is almost about 2,700 kilometers. It would pass through Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and enter Islamabad through a tunnel. He said development of Gwadar and Gwadar port will also be undertaken by the government and modern airport will also be built there.

Special economic zones will be built along this corridor. He said the Economic Corridor also envisages improvement in Railway system and construction of Lahore-Karachi motorway, for which Rs55 billion have been allocated for acquisition of land. He said Karachi-Lahore motorway would pass through Sahiwal and hence benefit the people of this area.

Prime Minister recalled the love and emotions of the people of the Sahiwal and said “you are being duly rewarded for standing by the PML-N”, and added he was grateful to the people of Sahiwal for their support. Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif particularly mentioned the tireless efforts and commitment of his brother Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif for making the dream of a developed Pakistan come true. He said Shahbaz motivated the foreign investors for investment in Pakistan.

The PM said he met the two investors who were now building the Sahiwal power plant at the Economic Summit in Boao China two months back and within a short time the initial work for the ground breaking of the project was accomplished. He said if a project can start in only two months then there could be no hurdle in its completion in two years. He hoped the project would bring 30 per cent returns to the investors. He also thanked the Chinese companies for their untiring efforts to help Pakistan overcome the energy crisis.

The prime minister mentioned that ten power units will be set up at Gadani, six in Punjab, ten at Thar, and hoped the country’s energy needs will be fulfilled. He said the economic indicators of the country were positive and GDP has risen to 4.1%, while manufacturing was up by 5.5%, and foreign exchange reserves have increased enormously.

Addressing the ceremony, Punjab CM Shahbaz Sharif said agreements have been signed with China for generation of 20,000MW of electricity in the next seven years. He said more power plants will be installed in the province to meet the energy shortfall to steer it out of darkness. Shahbaz paid special thanks to ex-MPA Wallayat Shah Khagga, whom he called as “England Shah”, and his son MPA Khizar Hayyat Khagga for their special cooperation for acquisition of land.

On this occasion federal minister Khawaja Muhammad Asif and state minister Abid Sher Ali , Punjab minister Malik Nadeem Kamran, MNA Peer Imran Ahmad Shah, Sahiwal Commissioner Muhammad Saddique and other officials were present. The ceremony was also attended by a large number of notables of the area.