The former chief executive officer of the Sindh Engro Coal Mining Company (SECMC), Shamsuddin Ahmed Shaikh, on Wednesday cited the "indifference and callous approach" of Thari lawmakers as well as the Sindh government towards the local people as the reason for his 'shock' resignation.
In a move that was received by most executives and workers of the company as a surprising development, Shaikh had earlier this week left the mining company, just a month before the scheduled inauguration of the power plant he worked on for eight years.
The SECMC is a joint venture between Engro and the Sindh government.
Under Shaikh's watch, the SECMC reportedly achieved almost all of its goals and met the targets vis-a-vis extraction of coal, installation of two 330MW power units at Thar coal project’s block-II near Islamkot, and completing the work five months ahead of schedule.
"I tendered my resignation well ahead of time because I was shattered to see the total indifference of the rulers towards their commitments made with the local people living near the Thar coalfield to provide them the basic amenities of life," Shaikh said while talking to Dawn by phone.
He alleged that most of the lawmakers from Thar were totally "incompetent" and too timid to raise the actual issues being faced by the desert region at the appropriate forums.
He said Tharis — both those living in the coalfield area and in rest of the district — needed sustainable policies to mitigate their unending suffering caused by recurring droughts, "instead of hollow slogans and fake promises".
Shaikh alleged that hardly any lawmaker from Thar was committed to providing relief to the local residents through the Thar coal projects by placing the facts and figures before the top brass of the ruling PPP and high-ups in the Sindh government.
According to the former CEO, several functionaries of the Sindh government — which is a major shareholder in the coal mega project — including Sindh Chief Minister Murad Ali Shah and PPP Chairman Bilawal Bhutto Zardari during their visits to the mining site had promised to provide all basic facilities to the local people, including paying them royalty from the coal projects, but when he approached them to keep their words, "they turned a blind eye to my frequent reminders".
"I cannot continue to serve as the chief of a company which despite achieving its targets much before the scheduled time was not in a position to help even the [locally] displaced people due to the indifferent attitude of Sindh government functionaries," he said.
Shaikh also deplored that while the SECMC was all set to provide 660MW to the national grid through the transmission line, no local lawmaker or Sindh government official had made the effort to provide electricity to the villagers living in the coal project’s block-II.
He also regretted that the Sindh government had failed to complete the work on a 123-kilometre-long water pipeline from Left Bank Outfall Drain (LBOD) near Nabisar area.
The retiring official clarified that he had "no differences with the bosses of the company" and that he was proud to be a part of the firm which made it possible to complete the extraction of coal reserves, installation of power plants and more.
"I am still 100 per cent hopeful that the firm will continue its work as per its commitment and I wish all the best to my former colleagues to carry it out," he added.
"It was a very painful moment when I decided to quit the job long before my retirement," he said.
Shaikh had taken up the job as the firm’s CEO in 2010 and his retirement was due in 2023. Abul Fazal Rizvi, until now the chief operating officer of the company, has replaced Shaikh.
Moreover, Dawn has learnt that before his sudden decision to resign, Shaikh had reportedly exchanged harsh words with high-ranking officials of the provincial government, who according to Shaikh were not serious about implementing the various schemes announced by them for Tharis.
Talking to Dawn, the PPP Member of National Assembly and former member of the Sindh Coal Authority from Thar, Dr Mahesh Kumar Malani, outright rejected the allegations made by Shaikh, suggesting that his early retirement might have been an "internal issue of the mining firm”.
He claimed that the PPP government in Sindh had greatly helped the SECMC in achieving its targets, and urged Shaikh to “come forward with solid evidence against the Sindh government”.
Dr Malani said no PPP lawmaker from Thar had ever tried to intervene in the affairs of the mining firm "despite the Sindh government holding 54 per cent shares in the coal project".