Lahore:Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif has said that Pakistan is facing serious problems due to worst load-shedding in its history, however, the incidents of looting and burning of public property during protest demonstrations against load-shedding are highly deplorable. The Chief Minister said he has fervently appealed to the people in public meetings, press conferences and TV talk shows to register their protest in a peaceful manner and ensure that no public or private property is damaged. He said administration and police have been directed to ensure with the help of leaders that protests remain within the parameters of peace and tranquility. However, the Chief Minister pointed out that worst load-shedding has deprived the people of their livelihood and they have been forced to go without food and sleep, therefore, if the citizens do not protest then what they should do. He said that he is being expected to issue orders to shoot the protesters however he would never resort to such an action as he can never allow the people who are facing miseries at the hand of load-shedding to be further tortured. He said that some elements want him to open fire on hungry and unarmed people and, in case, anybody was killed, everything will turn topsy-turvy.
The Chief Minister, while talking to media representatives at Punjab Assembly, said that those misguided rulers who are responsible for pushing the country into darkness during the last four years, are holding the provinces responsible for load-shedding. He said had attention been paid to generation of energy through coal, bagasse, hydel and other resources, the energy crises being faced by the nation would have been solved to a great extent and the labourers and the common man would not have come out on the streets to protest. He said that the interest of Pakistan should be uppermost and practical steps should be taken to stop the economy of the country from deteriorating further. The Chief Minister said that there is a need to bring down the circular debt and it can be done if the looted amount of NICL scandal, loans written off on political basis and 60 million dollars amount sent abroad under NRO is retrieved. He said that Punjab will contribute its share for payment of the circular debt of five billion dollars if the federal government and other provinces did the same. Muhammad Shahbaz Sharif said that Supreme Court termed rental power projects unconstitutional as, through these projects, the national exchequer has been damaged to the tune of Rs. 113 billion. He said that as a result of endeavors by Supreme Court, billions of rupees of national exchequer have been retrieved for which Supreme Court deserves glowing tributes. He said that one cannot realize the difficulties being faced by the citizens while sitting in the cool and air-conditioned rooms. He pointed that whereas Punjab government fully implemented the decisions taken in the energy conferences, the federal government did not implement its any decision. He said 650 megawatt electricity which is being generated in Punjab is being sent outside but we remained quite in the larger interest of the federation. Muhammad Shahbaz Sharif said that he is first and foremost a Pakistani and then anything else. He said that he hates provincial prejudices as Pakistan comprises all federating units including Balochistan, Sindh, Khyber Pakhtoonkhwa, Punjab, Azad Kashmir and Gilgit Baltistan. Chief Minister said that if all these federating units become prosperous, then the whole Pakistan will achieve progress and prosperity. He reminded that Punjab played a significant role in approval of NFC Award by leaving Rs.11 billion of Punjab’s share. He further pointed out that electricity distribution companies of Punjab have performed better than the Discos of other provinces as the land losses in Punjab are 12 per cent, whereas the payment ratio is 97 per cent. On the contrary, the Chief Minister stressed, the other provinces have more line losses and less ratio of payment. Muhammad Shahbaz Sharif said that provinces have not been given the right to generate electricity under the 18th amendment, instead, Punjab government had given the suggestion to give right to the provinces to generate electricity in the meeting of Council of Common Interests which was also supported by other provinces. The Chief Minister said that two years’ ago, we had given contract to an Australian company to survey coal reserves of the province and we have now received a report from the company which has pointed out that 500 million ton coal is available in the area of Jhelum. Chief Minister regretted that Thar coal is the biggest source of energy, however, not a single megawatt electricity has been generated from it. He said that energy related projects in Nandipur and Chichoki Maliyan in Punjab could not move further because of corruption of the then federal law minister and expensive machinery, worth billions of rupees, is lying useless at the Karachi port. Similarly, a friendly country had given an electricity plant to Punjab as a gift, but it could not be installed and its machinery is also lying useless in containers at Faisalabad.
The Chief Minister said that federal government preferred rental power projects to meet its corruption needs, rather than going for cheaper sources of energy. He said what could be the greater disservice to the nation than to import oil worth 10 billion dollars to generate electricity and to suck the blood of the poor masses instead of producing and generating electricity through cheaper sources. Muhammad Shahbaz Sharif said that Karachi is the city of lights of Pakistan, and if Karachi makes progress Pakistan will also become prosperous, however, this too is highly regrettable that whereas the industries of Karachi are operating six days a week, the industrial sector of Punjab is being destroyed though load-shedding and that is why people of Punjab are now on the streets and protesting against this grave injustice. Muhammad Shahbaz Sharif said he stands firmly with the people in their peaceful protest against Ali Baba and 40 Thieves, however, he appealed the people to register their protest in a peaceful manner and not to damage public and private property. He said that those who are accusing Pakistan Muslim League-N of instigating the protesters, should also note that house of provincial Minister Malik Nadeem Kamran was also attacked in Sahiwal, proving that had there been any official patronage behind these protests, they would never have attacked the house of a PML-N Minister.