Power minister eats humble pie

November 21, 2008


ISLAMABAD, Nov 20: Federal Minister for Water and Power, Raja Pervez Ashraf, on Thursday faced an embarrassing situation when opposition members from the Pakistan Muslim League-Q (PML-Q) took him to task and asked him to retract his earlier statements on power projects in the country.

The minister got into trouble during the question hour when responding to two separate questions from his own party MNAs he told the House that six power stations with a power generation capacity of 1,965 megawatt had been added to the power system during last five years whereas Private Power and Infrastructure Board (PPIB) processed 40 multiple fuel projects with a cumulative capacity of 11,021MW throughout the country in private sector during the same period.The minister further told the House that three projects launched by the previous regime with a cumulative capacity of 615MW were expected to start electricity generation by April next year.

This information sparked the dull opposition into action. Riaz Pirzada and former minister of state for Water and Power, Amir Muqam, asked Mr Ashraf to clarify his position with regard to his earlier assertions, even on the floor of the house, that the previous regime had not initiated any power project and not a single MW of electricity had been produced during its tenure.

Mr Pirzada said they had been hearing the minister on different television channels that “our government did nothing to generate electricity.” Now, he said, the minister was saying that six projects had been added to the system in the last five years.

Hitting out at Mr Ashraf, Mr Muqam said that he was confused whether he should believe in what the minister had been stating for quiet some time or in the written replies the minister had submitted to the National Assembly. He said on the one hand, the minister was saying that no power project was launched by the previous regime, and on the other hand, he was admitting that more than 2,000 MW electricity was being generated through the projects initiated by the Shaukat Aziz government. “Should we believe in the written reply submitted by you or the allegations you have been levelling against our government that we did nothing in the last five years to generate electricity?” he asked.

Interestingly, the minister had no satisfactory reply to the points raised by the two PML-Q members and simply said that most of these projects were the brainchild of the previous PPP government led by Benazir Bhutto. He claimed that the projects being launched by the present PPP government would generate 3,700 MW electricity.

Earlier, in response to a question of PPP MNA Shakila Rashid Khanum, the minister informed the house that six power projects – Ghazi Barotha Hydel Power Station (1,450MW); Rental Power Plant at Sheikhupura (150MW); Rental Power Plant at Bhikhi (136 MW); SEPCOL Power Plant (119MW); Altern Power Plant (29MW) and Malakand-III Hydel Power Plant (81MW) had been added to the system during the last five years.

In a written reply to another question of MNA Fauzia Wahab, the minister told the National Assembly that Attock Gen Power Project at Morgah in Rawalpindi (165MW), Orient Power Project at Balloki (225MW) and Sheikhupura Power Project (225MW) were expected to start electricity generation by April 2009.

The minister also provided the complete details of 40 other projects approved by the PPIB during the last five years.