• Pushes for early revival of Neelum-Jhelum project
• Expresses satisfaction with handling of AJK protests

MUZAFFARABAD: Prime Mini­ster Shehbaz Sharif on Thursday ordered an urgent investigation into the reasons behind the technical fault in the Neelum-Jhelum Hydro­power Project (NJHP), which led to the suspension of electricity generation.

He issued the order at the project site in the Chattar Klass area during a day-long visit to Azad Jammu and Kashmir (AJK).

Separately, PM Shehbaz expressed satisfaction over the settlement of issues that triggered deadly protests in the region, earlier this week.

The 969-megawatt NJHP stopped production at 6am on May 1, as authorities had to shut down the remaining two turbines after aggravation of problems in the Head Race Tunnel. Previously, two turbines were shut due to reduced pressure in the tunnel in early April, less than a week after the project recorded generation at full capacity.

The project was earlier closed in July 2022 due to major cracks in the Tail Race Tunnel, which was repaired over the next 13 months and resumed power generation in August-September 2023.

The prime minister expressed displeasure that findings of the inquiry into the recent fault were still awaited.

He directed the officials concerned to submit the report within days and restore the power generation as early as possible.

He regretted that even though the project had consumed a hefty $5 billion against an initial estimate of $40 million, it was still facing technical issues.

“I need a thorough probe whether lapses were in the design or in the construction, and the responsibility should be fixed. No more delay will be acceptable,” he said, adding the inquiry should be carried out by third party experts and not by the designer or contractor of the project.

PM Shehbaz said NJHP was a project of national significance and therefore it must remain functional for decades. He directed Wapda and NJHP company to complete the repair work of tunnel at the earliest.

‘Protests for rights’

While speaking to members of the AJK cabinet in Muzaffarabad, the PM expressed satisfaction that the issues that triggered protests had been addressed amicably.

“The protesters recorded their protest in a democratic manner for their legitimate rights, but there were some elements whose aim was to somehow cause destruction, loss of human lives and arson.”

However, he added, the situation was controlled and issues addressed in a better way. “I am grateful to the president [Asif Ali Zardari], AJK prime minister, Legislative Assembly speaker, chief secretary and IG for their constructive role and effective consultation to find an immediate solution to people’s demands.”

He expressed sorrow over the death of a policeman and three civilians during the recent violence and announced that an aid package would be given to the families of martyrs.

He informed the cabinet that Rs23bn had been transferred to the AJK kitty after the Economic Coordination Committee of the federal cabinet on Wednesday approved the grant announced by PM Shehbaz on Monday.

Meanwhile, an MoU was signed by the AJK secretary for energy and water resources, Irshad Ahmed Qureshi and Wapda member water Javaid Akhtar Latif for the construction of 960MW Dudhniyal Hydropower Project in Neelum valley.

Besides, an All Parties Hurriyat Conference delegation as well as a group of PML-N legislators and office-bearers called on PM Shehbaz.

Meeting with PML-N lawmakers

Later, chairing a meeting of PML-N lawmakers in the capital on Thursday, PM Shehbaz said the government’s policies had started bearing fruit as the country was now moving towards economic stability.

According to APP, the meeting discussed the government’s economic policies, foreign investment and the current political situation.

The MNAs expressed their confidence in the prime minister’s leadership and the government’s efforts for stabilising the economy.

The PM attributed the success in promoting foreign investment and diplomatic achievements to the entire government team.

Published in Dawn, May 17th, 2024

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