MUZAFFARABAD: Azad Jammu and Kashmir (AJK) Prime Minister Sardar Tanveer Ilyas on Monday censured Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif for “not mentioning the sacrifices of Kashmiri people” during a speech.

Addressing a press conference, Mr Ilyas said the omission was tantamount to “insulting” the Kashmiri people.

On Monday, Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif inaugurated the refurbishment project of units 5 and 6 of the Mangla Dam Hydroelectric Power Plant, built on the Jhelum river in Mangla area of AJK. He also addressed a ceremony, where the exchange with the AJK premier occurred.

As PM Shehbaz was winding up his speech, he was interrupted by Mr Ilyas. In a video clip that went viral on social media, PM Shehbaz could be seen gesturing to the AJK premier to sit down and raise his concerns after the speech.

AJK PM says Sharif forgot to mention Kashmiris’ sacrifices; premier blames ‘cartels’ for slow progress on renewables

The incident occurred when Mr Ilyas interrupted Mr Sharif’s speech and asked what he had done for AJK.

According to a witness, after wrapping up his speech, PM Shehbaz hurriedly left the venue without heeding Mr Ilyas, who tried his best to get the premier’s attention, but to no avail.

Later, at a press conference, Mr Ilyas said PM Sharif’s body language and gestures spoke volumes for his “irascibility”.

“I have no qualms in saying that Mr Sharif ridiculed the entire Kashmiri nation by not mentioning their sacrifices for the progress and prosperity of Pakistan,” he said.

He added that the prime minister had expressed gratitude to “the whole world,” but didn’t mention the people of Mirpur, whose homes and loved ones’ graves were submerged twice for construction and raising of the dam.

He claimed that “insulting treatment” was meted out to AJK’s senior administration officials at the venue.

Asserting that the people of AJK considered Pakistan as “part of their faith,” he added PM Shehbaz should have listened to their elected leader.

Mr Ilyas also reminded him of the commitments made with the locals at the time of the dam’s construction and claimed that none have been fulfilled to this day.

He claimed that Rs 500 billion in development funds for AJK announced by former PM Imran Khan have been stopped by the incumbent government. “This regime has been denying us our due share from day one.”

Mr Ilyas also lamented the federal government’s refusal to send security forces for duties during the ongoing local government elections in the region.

He regretted the AJK government or administration was not taken into confidence on the PM’s visit.

“When I got the information [about PM Shehbaz’s arrival], I flew to Mirpur from Muzaffarabad to receive the prime minister,” he said, adding he didn’t want to replicate Mr Sharif’s actions as Punjab chief minister when he refused to receive the then president Asif Ali Zardari on his visits to the province.

Former AJK premier and Muslim Conference supreme leader Sardar Attique Ahmed Khan also deplored the “inappropriate behaviour” of PM Shehbaz and alleged that the PDM government was “willfully undermining” AJK’s dignity.

“It is incomprehensible not to give an opportunity to the AJK prime minister to speak during any programme in the region,” Mr Khan added.

PM blames ‘cartels’

Earlier, in his speech, PM Shehbaz claimed powerful lobbies and cartels didn’t allow the construction of dams and the launch of solar power projects, according to APP.

He also emphasised the need to generate cheap electricity to cut energy imports.

Pakistan was already facing immense economic challenges and could not bear the heavy energy import bills, he added.

“We need to utilise alternative sources of electricity production,” he said, adding that Pakistan was spending an ‘exorbitant’ $27bn on energy-related imports.

Dams were crucial to mitigate the effects of climate change, especially in the wake of recent floods, the prime minister pointed out.

The prime minister also hailed the USAID who provided assistance in the refurbishment project and called it a brilliant example of Pakistan-US cooperation.

He lauded the $150 million grant by USAID, along with financial support of 90m euros from the Development Agency of France.

The Water and Power Development Authority (Wapda) contributed $178m for the project, he said.

In his speech, US Ambassador Donald Blome said the dam was a great symbol of “the US-Pakistan cooperation” and added the country was also assisting Wapda to increase power generation from Tarbela and Gomal Zam dams.

He said maintenance and upgrades of dams were of critical importance in the wake of climate change and expressed hope that the green alliance between the two countries would prove beneficial for the energy and agriculture sectors of Pakistan.

Wapda Chairman retd Lt Gen Sajjad Ghani said the refurbishment project was in line with the centre’s policy to produce energy from green and cheap sources.

Published in Dawn, December 6th, 2022

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