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ISLAMABAD: The government declared on Thursday that the two nuclear power plants being built in Karachi were completely safe.

However, certain remarks by Minister of State for Parliamentary Affairs Sheikh Aftab Ahmad in response to a call attention notice of PPP’s Saeed Ghani caused peals of laughter in the house, indicating that the minister had no knowledge at all of the issue.

“God forbid, if any explosion takes place in the (nuclear) plant, it will not cause damage beyond the radius of five to seven kilometres,” he said amid loud laughter both in the hall and the galleries.

“Do you know the effects of radiation? Do you want to say that the plants are safe,” Chairman Nayyar Bokhari interrupted, thus providing a chance to the minister to bring the situation under control.

Sheikh Aftab’s simple reply that “man can only try” in response to Mr Ghani’s query about the plan to evacuate such a large population in case of an emergency also caused laughter.

At one point, the minister said the Chinese experts had carried out thorough study before launching the project and they had said that “Insha Allah, there will be no damage from this project”.

The minister then went on to say that there were many ordnance factories working in Havelian and other places in the country and the population around them was completely safe.

PPP’s Farhatullah Babar criticised the minister’s statement that the effects of the nuclear explosion would only be felt within a 7km radius and even asked him to withdraw it, adding that “by making such a thoughtless statement the minister had only sown the seeds of doubt in the minds of people and done a great disservice to the nation’s nuclear programme”.

Leader of the House Raja Zafarul Haq came to the rescue of the minister when PPP’s Raza Rabbani said the minister did not even know the difference between a nuclear plant and an arms factory.

Mr Haq assured the house that the government would take every step possible for the safety of the people of Karachi and other areas around nuclear plants.