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MUZAFFARABAD, June 19: Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif ordered on Wednesday that work on the 969 megawatts Neelum-Jhelum Hydropower Project (NJHP) be expedited and the plant be made operational at least one year ahead of schedule.

“I was informed by the authorities concerned that the project would be completed by mid-2016… But I have declined to accept that date and asked them to complete it by the end of 2014 or early 2015 at all costs,” he told reporters at the project site in Thotha, 22km south of here along the Jhelum Valley Road.

The prime minister was accompanied by AJK President Sardar Yaqoob Khan, Prime Minister Chaudhry Abdul Majeed and federal Ministers for Water and Power and Information Khawaja Mohammad Asif and Senator Pervez Rashid.

Prime Minister Sharif said the government would provide all resources needed for early completion of the project.

He said overcoming the energy crisis was the top priority of his government and it had to be done in months, not in years.

“That’s why I have chosen a hydropower project for my first visit to any ongoing development/infrastructure project after assuming the office,” he said.

He regretted that despite being the most important project, previous governments had delayed its execution. As a result, its cost has swollen to Rs275 billion -- five times the original estimate.

He said the power issue had become grave and people were fed up with loadshedding.

“We cannot waste a single moment. Although the country is facing resource constraints, we will pull the plug on unnecessary expenditures and corruption,” he said. But, he added, “the nation will also have to prepare itself for sacrifices in the greater national interest”.

He said the government was working on an energy policy which might be finalised in 20 days and he would apprise the nation of the roadmap and steps in this regard.

“The nation will have to cooperate with the government in bringing the energy crisis to end. A time will come when we may be able to provide cheap electricity to our people,” he said.

Replying to a question, the prime minister said construction of the Khunjerab-Gwadar-Karachi road and rail network was his dream which would turn out to be a ‘game changer’ for the country.

He said a high-level team would leave for China on June 24 for consultations on the project.

He said he believed that the project would bring about prosperity to the entire region which in future would be the focal point of global economic activities.

“We will establish economic zones along this route which will create employment opportunities. I am hopeful that my dream will materialise.”

He said the issue of terrorism was also being taken seriously. “With the support of the nation we will frustrate the designs of terrorists. We will not give in to them and will evolve an effective strategy to eliminate terrorism,” he said.

The prime minister said lack of economic growth and rising poverty were directly linked to terrorism and extremism and, therefore, the government would improve people’s economic condition.

“Economic progress is essential for eradication of terrorism,” he said.

He said overseas Pakistanis and foreign investors were also watching the development taking place in the country to ascertain prospects for investment.

Wapda Chairman Raghib Abbas Shah, the project’s Managing Director retired Gen Mohammad Zubair and Chinese officials gave a briefing to the prime minister near its under-construction tunnel.