ISLAMABAD: The federal government has decided to treat Azad Jammu and Kashmir on a par with Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa in terms of net hydel power profit, and according to rough estimates, AJK is expected to get about Rs12 billion per annum.
The AJK government has prepared a summary and is moving it to the federal cabinet since the federal government has principally agreed to pay net hydel power profit to AJK, said Additional Chief Secretary for Planning and Development Department Dr Syed Asif Hussain while talking to a group of Islamabad-based journalists who visited Muzaffarabad the other day.
Currently, AJK gets merely 15 paisa per unit as water usage charges from Mangla dam; KP and Punjab get net hydel profit of Rs1.10 per unit from Tarbela dam and Ghazi Barotha hydel power project, respectively. The payment of profit from net hydel power to AJK may further increase when the Neelum-Jhelum power project is included.
Since AJK is not part of Pakistan under the Constitution, the state is not entitled to receive share from hydel profit. However, considering it as an issue of justice and equality, the federal government has agreed to give equal share to AJK on a par with KP and Punjab. Since AJK had no representation in the National Finance Commission, Council of Common Interests and Indus River System Authority, no benefit was given to AJK, he said.
Official says Islamabad will treat Azad Jammu and Kashmir at par with Punjab, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa
According to Dr Hussain, AJK is significantly contributing electricity to the national grid and the entire electricity produced in AJK is transmitted to the national system. After Mangla and Neelum-Jhelum, the Patrind hydel power project is producing electricity. Two more power projects are coming up in AJK in the private sector — 140MW Bong and 84MW downstream of Mangla by Bong. Karot, Gulpur, Kohala and other power sector projects are coming up. In all, 20 hydropower projects are in the pipeline in AJK, he said.
Under the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), two new projects will be set up in the power sector in AJK, with the capacity of producing 2,000MW of electricity. These are 1,200MW Kohala hydropower project and 700MW Karot hydropower project. The total electricity demand of AJK at every given time is 350MW, while the rest of electricity is being imported. Feasibility on another power sector project having the capacity of 974MW was ready for financing, the additional chief secretary said.
He disclosed that the federal government had cut the development budget of AJK when allocations under the Public Sector Development Programme were reviewed in Islamabad recently. The size of AJK development programme was Rs25.2bn, and after the cut, it has now been curtailed to Rs20bn. Despite financial difficulties, for federal government, it was not a big deal to adjust a cushion of Rs5bn to Rs7bn for a bigger cause.
According to the additional chief secretary, the development of AJK is not only for the people of AJK, but this is also a trigger for the people of Kashmir on the other side of the border to know how people are living here. Together, Gilgit-Baltistan and AJK should be made model areas because of CPEC involvement.
Dr Hussain said the AJK government had submitted a proposal to the federal government for a link road to AJK under the CPEC. The proposal has been approved by the Joint Cooperation Council. The project called ‘M4’ will link Mansehra with Muzaffarabad via GT Road with Mangla and Mirpur.
AJK will also have a shorter route if a tunnel is constructed with the federal grant to link Shontur Pass with Rattu. A road between Sanji and Astore already exists. The AJK prime minister has been given a briefing on this project, he said.
Published in Dawn, December 31st, 2018