Chinese firm all but stops work on power transmission line

LAHORE: A leading Chinese company has drastically slowed down work on the $2 billion 660kV high-voltage direct current (HVDC) transmission line from Lahore to Matiari due to various problems, including differences with the government over size of a revolving fund.

For its part, the government has decided not to enter into an agreement over another HVDC transmission line of 660kV (between Port Qasim and Faisalabad) with the company till the completion of the first line (between Lahore and Matiari), according to sources.

The 878km Lahore-Matiari transmission line is part of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) and is the country’s first project based on direct current (DC). The line will have capacity of transmitting about 4,000MW of electricity.

The Port Qasim-Faisalabad transmission line is also part of the CPEC and has features similar to that of the first line.

Size of revolving fund, delay in building of power plants cited as main reasons

According to official sources, the sites where the Chinese company has either slowed down work drastically or stopped it altogether are near Balloki, Bhaipheru (about 50km from Lahore), and near Matiari (near Hyderabad).

Each site comprises 175 acres and is meant to be used for building two converter stations, for converting alternating current (AC) to DC and DC to AC. The government handed over the large pieces of land to the company in January this year.

The company started construction work there after getting a letter of interest from the government in February.

“The [Chinese] company has slowed down its work on these two major sites due to three major issues that are yet to be resolved. One issue is related to establishment of a revolving fund and the other to operation and maintenance of the project,” said an official of power division in the energy ministry.

The revolving fund, according to the official, is required to be set up for making payments to the Chinese company in case its bills are delayed. But the contentious issue is the amount of money to be allocated to the fund.

The Chinese want the government to quickly set up the fund, but the authorities want to deliberate on the issue well before taking a final decision on the matter.

“The second major issue relates to the operation and maintenance of the project. The Chinese want the government [National Transmission and Despatch Company or NTDC] to purchase spare parts from China on its own and supply it for the operation and maintenance of the project. But the government wants the Chinese to perform this job so that the company could be held responsible for related problems, if any,” the official explained.

The third issue is the delay in setting up of power plants, as four coal-fired power plants in Thar, which were earlier scheduled to be commissioned in May 2020, are now expected to be operational by November 2020.

“Actually this transmission line is supposed to evacuate power from these plants… The government thinks that if the transmission line is ready in May [of 2020] and the plants are not, it will have to pay over 90 paisa per unit in wheeling tariff, which will run into billions for a period of six months [from May to November 2020],” said the official.

“And there are chances of further delays in the commissioning of the power plants. That is why the official date for the start of the project, which has to be completed within a period of 27 months, is yet to be announced by the government.”

The official said that in view of the above problems the Chinese company had slowed down work on the two sites. It had even sent some of the engineers back to China and accelerated its efforts to get the pending issues resolved.

“It also continues to request the government to sign papers about the second [Port Qasim-Faisalabad] line at the earliest. But the government looks to be in no mood to sign them at the moment, as it urges the Chinese officials to wait for a final decision based on the future load after completion of the first line,” the official maintained.

Despite repeated attempts, the managing director of the NTDC could not be contacted for comments.

ICC begins recruitment process for independent director

DUBAI: The International Cricket Council (ICC) on Sunday announced the process for the recruitment of an Independent Director for the ICC Board.

The introduction of an Independent Director, who must be female, was approved by the ICC Full Council in June 2017 as part of wide ranging constitutional change aimed at improving the global governance of the sport, said an ICC press release.

The successful candidate is expected to have a genuine passion for an interest in the sport of cricket combined with recent and relevant experience at a senior level in a commercial, voluntary or public environment.

She must be independent of the ICC and during the term of her appointment must not hold any office or perform any executive or operational duties for any ICC Member or state, association or member of any Member.

ICC Chairman Shashank Manohar said this is a key appointment to the ICC Board and adding another independent director particularly a female is an important step forward in improving our governance.

“We are open-minded about the expertise the successful candidate might bring the table but they must be a cricket enthusiast who complements the existing skills and experience already on our Board,” he said.

MQM MNA Ali Raza Abidi announces resignation from National Assembly

Muttahida Qaumi Movement-Pakistan (MQM) MNA Syed Ali Raza Abidi announced his resignation from the National Assembly on Monday.

In a letter written to Speaker Ayaz Sadiq and shared on Twitter, Abidi said he was resigning for political and personal reasons.

“I announce to quit MQM-P and resign from NA-251 as this is not what I believed in and stood for,” Abidi had tweeted following a joint press conference held by MQM-P chief Farooq Sattar and Pak Sarzameen Party Chairman Mustafa Kamal in which both parties announced an alliance, saying they would contest the upcoming general elections under one manifesto, one symbol and one name.

Although the alliance lasted a mere 24 hours, as Sattar announced his resignation and return as the MQM-P chief in a dramatic turn of events, Abidi stuck to his guns.

Today, he announced on the micro-blogging platform that he had been invited by the speaker to submit his resignation in person on Wednesday. He also provided the reasons behind his decision to resign in another tweet.

He said he was resigning because of “the four-year operation in Karachi, its motives, interventions, its results and the future,” his inability to do anything for his constituency and the city, census results, local government powers and because he could not be a part of an electoral alliance with the PSP.

Abidi had been at the centre of a dispute with last year when he was asked to resign by the leadership for failing to follow party policies and directives constituted after MQM founder Altaf Hussain’s August 22, 2016 speech. The action had resulted in a strong response from MQM-London.

PML-N to shun ‘confrontation’ in election campaign

LAHORE: The Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) has laid out a policy of non-confrontation with state institutions, such as the army or the judiciary as it steps up its preparations for the 2018 election campaign.

On Sunday, the party’s high command gathered in the city for an informal dinner hosted in their honour by National Assembly Speaker Ayaz Sadiq. This was the culmination of a series of meetings — recently held in Lahore by party chief Nawaz Sharif — that chalked out the party’s future strategy, with a focus on the upcoming elections.

Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi was also present on the occasion, and met Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif, Deputy Speaker Murtaza Javed Abbasi, Interior Minister Ahsan Iqbal, Railways Minister Khawaja Saad Rafique and Punjab Governor Rafique Rajwana.

Former information minister Pervaiz Rashid, who was privy to the meetings Mr Sharif recently held in the city, told Dawn: “The party has decided in principle that it does not have to fight against any institution. The PML-N will not go for confrontation with any state institution, as our focus is on preparing for the 2018 elections”.

Party high command meets in Lahore; Pervaiz Rashid says deserters won’t make it back to parliament

Outlining the party’s strategy, formulated in the face of corruption references the Sharif family is facing, he said the ex-premier would resume his mass-contact campaign this month to mobilise party workers ahead of the upcoming polls

Saying that criticism of the Supreme Court by Mr Sharif and his daughter Maryam was not “direct confrontation with the judiciary”, the former information minister noted that: “Everyone has the right to comment on judges’ verdicts in Panamagate or other cases. The Sharif family’s criticism is aimed at the verdict in the Panama Papers case, and not at the judges as individuals.”

He said that even eminent jurists had raised serious questions over the judgement, adding that “comments such as ‘Godfather’ and ‘Sicilian mafia’ reflected the emotional side of the judgement and not legal points”.

“The former prime minister and his lieutenants will not waste their energies fighting anyone, rather they will fight to restore the respect of the ballot and return to power in next year’s elections,” Mr Rashid said.

When asked about reports that a sizeable number of PML-N MNAs were in contact with the establishment and could fly the coop at an appropriate time, he said: “Such MNAs must remember that they had secured votes in the name of Nawaz Sharif. They must know that they cannot return to parliament on their own in the next elections”.

Putting to rest the speculation surrounding a possible role for Shahbaz Sharif in the federal government, Mr Rashid said it had been decided, in principle, that the elder Sharif would lead the election campaign “since there is no other candidate for the PM’s slot within the party”.

“If we win, [Nawaz Sharif] will pick a candidate, just like he did after his disqualification,” he said.

Talking about the prevailing fear of unconstitutional or extra-constitutional actions that may aim to wind up the current setup before the Senate elections in March, the former minister told Dawn that their opponents — especially the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf — wanted elections before March so that the ruling party could be deprived of its majority share in the Senate.

Commenting on the 23-party alliance announced by retired Gen Pervez Musharraf, Mr Rashid said: “We will acknowledge Musharraf as politician if he names all 23 parties in his grand alliance on national TV.”

The PML-N leader was of the opinion that disqualification had only made Nawaz Sharif more popular among the masses. “If there is no interference, PML-N will win the 2018 election,” he said, confidently.

When asked about possible rifts within the Sharif family, especially among the younger Sharifs, Mr Rashid was cagey. “Shahbaz, Maryam and Hamza give their opinion during party meetings, but once Mian Sahab decides a matter, all follow his directions,” he said.

When asked about rumours that the party had decided to dissolve the assemblies, he said why the government would jeopardise its position by taking such a step.

Sharif’s return has saddened opponents, says Maryam

LAHORE: The daughter of ousted prime minister Nawaz Sharif, Maryam Nawaz, has said that the return of her father from abroad to face NAB references has disappointed some individuals.

“The homecoming of Nawaz Sharif was scheduled. But some people [who were not expecting his return got disappointed with his return,” she told media during her visit to the party office in the NA-120 constituency here on Thursday.

Mr Sharif returned to the country from London on Thursday morning to appear before the Islamabad Accountability Court on Friday (today) in three NAB references pertaining to graft and owning assets beyond his known sources of income.

Ms Nawaz, known for her aggressive style of politics, has opposed her father joining accountability court proceedings, saying she did not expect justice [from the judiciary in the present circumstances].

Responding to a question, she said that ousting someone from or sending into power corridors was not the work of any man rather Allah Almighty alone could do so.

About reports of rifts within the Sharif family, she said those who were airing such rumours would also be frustrated.

Unlike the past when her family would stay away from voters after winning polls, Ms Nawaz is regularly visiting the NA-120 since her mother won the seat in the Sept 17 by-poll.