Prime Minister Imran Khan and former chief justice of Pakistan Mian Saqib Nisar attended the groundbreaking ceremony of the Mohmand Dam, media reported.
Federal Minister for Water Resources Faisal Vawda was the first to address the ceremony. He thanked Prime Minister Imran for instilling confidence in and encouraging his team. He also thanked the retired chief justice, the army chief and the Water and Power Development Authority chairman for their hand in the efforts towards the building of the dam.
The minister said that schools, hospitals, jobs and dams were not created in the past as previous politicians were “busy playing politics”.
“We have not only started the preliminary works, but for the first time have received a Rs18 billion straight discount,” he said, addressing the premier.
“We have created 27,000-28,000 jobs in the Mohmand and Diamer-Bhasha dam projects that we will soon [hire] for,” Vawda said. He added that “for the first time, a minister (Vawda) will from his own pocket, his friends’ pockets and with the help of Pakistanis … announce 200-400 businesses and jobs in his own constituency in Karachi” before the 10th fast of Ramazan, in line with the prime minister’s vision for poverty alleviation.
Prime Minister Imran, who earlier today visited Tirah Valley to attend a sports gala, began his speech with a reference to Vawda’s earlier address.
“I’d like to speak about Faisal Vawda for a minute because he delivered such a fiery speech. He completely forgot to speak about the dam, he just spoke about it for a couple of minutes and then moved onto other subjects,” the premier said, as the camera zoomed in on an uncomfortable-looking Vawda. “But he spoke from the heart,” he added.
He pointed out that the Mangla and Tarbela dams were built during the 60s when Pakistan was progressing rapidly. Over time, he said, the country had stopped progressing and was facing a huge debt.
The prime minister said that the reason dams were not built in Pakistan was because they cannot be built within five years and, therefore, politicians did not focus on the issue. He said that even though former president Ayub Khan was a military dictator, he should be commended for “thinking in the long term” and building dams.
He further said that the reason behind the development of China was that they had planned 20 years ahead. “They don’t care about the elections,” he said.
He regretted that politicians had ignored tribal areas and Balochistan because they couldn’t get votes from these areas.
He thanked former chief justice Mian Saqib Nisar for taking up the initiative to highlight the importance of dams even though the “matter should have been raised by the country’s prime minister”.
“What you (Nisar) did is not the judiciary’s job,” the premier said.
‘Hopeful dam will be completed in time’
Former chief justice Nisar also addressed the ceremony and highlighted the nation’s generous contribution towards the dam fund. Emphasising the importance of building dams, he said: “Water is our life.”
“The Supreme Court hasn’t done a favour to anyone [since it initiated the dam fund]. It [the dam] has become a campaign and a movement,” he said.
“I am hopeful, because of the manner in which you worked and the will and resolve with which the chairman Wapda worked, that the dam will be completed within the stipulated time and budget,” he asserted.
Chief of Army Staff General Qamar Javed Bajwa, Defence Minister Pervez Khattak, Federal Minister for Religious Affairs and Interfaith Harmony Dr. Noorul Haq Qadri, Governor Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Shah Farman and Chief Minister Mahmood Khan were also present on the occasion.
The Mohmand Dam is being constructed on the Swat River and it will be completed at a cost of Rs183 billion by 2024. The dam has the capacity to store 1.2 million acre feet of water. Upon completion, it will generate some 800MW of electricity.
The construction of the dam is said to be imperative to resolve the problems of water scarcity and electricity shortfall in the country. A sum of Rs2bn has been allocated for the project in the Public Sector Development Programme 2018-19.
The much-awaited inauguration ceremony of the Mohmand Dam was to be held in January, but postponed amid reports that had emerged of the award of the contract of the hydropower project on a single-bid basis to a consortium of three companies led by Descon, a company previously owned by Abdul Razak Dawood in which he and his family members hold ownership stakes.
Then chief justice Nisar had taken offence over not being informed about the rescheduling of the ceremony and said he may not attend. It was rescheduled again.
The former CJP had paid close attention to the issue of water scarcity and ordered the creation of the Dam Fund in July last year ─ a fund that appealed to the general public and overseas Pakistanis for donations for the construction of the Mohmand Dam and the Diamer-Bhasha Dam.
The top judge’s initiative was later joined by the prime minister. Within a span of five months, a total of Rs8.46bn was deposited in The Supreme Court of Pakistan and the Prime Minister of Pakistan Diamer-Bhasha and Mohmand Dams Fund, according to State Bank of Pakistan data in December 2018.