ISLAMABAD: Former Water and Power Minister Raja Pervez Asharaf on Thursday told the Supreme Court that Pakistan need an addition of 1200 MW every year as the power requirement would enhance to 1,30,000 MW by the year 2030.
Appearing before a two-Judge bench of Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry and Justice Khilji Arif Hussain on suo motu case regarding alleged corruption in setting up Rental Power Projects, he defended himself and said that Pakistan’s power shortage solution was in hydel power generation and not in thermal which was costly.
“Thermal generation is not our future because we can’t afford it for being too expensive,” he said, adding “We need to exploit hydel and coal assets.
“The run of the river project can alone have the potential of 7,500 MW while we have 187 million tones of coal reserves in Thar.”
He said that unnecessary vilification campaign had led to develop a perception of a scam and swindle that hampered the installation of power plants.
“Even harsher mudslinging and denigration was the order of the day when the government of Benazir Bhutto introduced the Independent Power Producers (IPPs) in 1994,” he added.
He said resultantly the big players shied away from investing in Pakistan‘s power sector when fingers were pointed at them. He also referred to the application of PML-Q legislator and Housing Minister Makhdoom Fasial Saleh Hayat who had levelled charges of corruption and mismanagement in setting up RPPs.
“The concept of RPPs as a stop-gap arrangement was introduced by the previous government of which Faisal Saleh Hayat was the minister and for being the cabinet member was equally responsible if wrong policy was pursued,” Raja Ashraf recalled.
Justifying why Makhdoom Hayat was chasing him, Raja Asharaf said, being PPP’s secretary general he was very vocal in criticizing Makhdoom Hayat’s contesting the elections on his party’s ticket and then joining Musharraf’s government to become a minister in dictatorial regime.
He also announced that the current power situation in Karachi, the main business hub, would end in few days as the government had developed a mechanism.
Not a single investor or unsuccessful bidder ever raised allegation that he being the minister devoured the money in the grant of license to develop RPPs, he said and brushed aside the impression that he owned a palatial house in London.
The government of Musharraf paid no heed despite repeated warnings of a looming power crisis, he said, resultantly not a single mega watt of electricity was added to the national grid that crippled our industry.
The electricity shortfall which was at 1000 MW in 2005 surged to 5000 MW in 2008 when he assumed the office of the water and power ministry, he said adding he inherited the circular debt of Rs 400 billion.
“We had no solution to reduce the shortfall even when some fast track projects in the pipeline got delayed for over two years,” he said.
He said “still we exempted our textile industry the main source of $35 billion foreign exchange earning from load shedding even during the difficult days”.
The bids were invited for the commissioning of IPPs but no response came because of law and order situation even for the hydel plants.
“We are fast moving towards a different (darker) era,” he feared and recalled that today Pepco was facing a shortfall of Rs 170 billion in subsidy for providing uninterrupted power supply to 6.5 million life line consumers when the total number of consumers were over 10 million.
“The World Bank had suggested us to go for long term policies instead of wasting money on subsidies and overcoming load shedding as a short term”, he added.
Referring to the question why Pakistan was not developing its own power generation units, he said such investment required Rs 1.2 to 1.4 billion per MW which they could not afford.
He also compared the situation in India which was faced with 40,000 MW of shortfall, while the situation in Bangladesh was worst, Sharjah also experiencing load shedding where consumers in London were paying different tariff for each hour per day.
“Availability and affordability of power is an uphill task though it may not be true for long term projects,” he added.
Meanwhile Khawaja Tariq Raheem, representing Pepco, warned that the hydel generation the production of which would dip by 1000 MW in the next decade, would be stalled from the next month because of annual canal closure.
“We would need a prompt production of 500 to 600 MW of electricity which the existing machinery could produce,” he informed.
Wasim Sajjad, counsel for the former minister, also argued the case. Further hearing was adjourned till Monday.