Prime Minister-in-waiting Mr Shaukat Aziz has vowed
to the people in Tharparker to transform their areas and bring them
economically at par with other areas of the country.
Shaukat Aziz is seeking election to the National
Assembly from Attock in Punjab election from Thar in Sindh and his
success is almost certain from both seats. Mr Aziz has, however,
indicated that he will retain the seat from Thar to become the Prime
Minister and resign from Attock seat which was vacated for him by the
niece of Prime Minister Chaudary Shujat Hussain.
It is indeed good news for the people of Tharparker
that the next Prime Minister of the country will be their
representative. The Prime Minister-in-waiting has assured that he will
transform Pakistan into an economically strong Islamic State and improve
the socio-economic conditions of the common people by completing the
on-going and initiating new development projects in every nook and
corner of the country. Less developed and neglected areas like
Balochistan, Cholistan and Thar will receive special attention of his
government and all such efforts will be made to root out absolute
poverty and bring change in the lives of people living in their areas
and bring them at par with people living in other parts of the country.
Pakistan's Thar Desert, despite being blessed with
rich natural resources, has remained the most neglected one in the
country and people living there have been neglected to abject poverty.
It is only recently that the authorities started giving attention to the
enormous natural reserves. In 1991, geological survey of Pakistan
spotted large reserves of coal with the help of United States Agency for
International Development (USAID).
The development of Thar coal reserves has been
included in the priority list of projects which are likely to be
launched by the present government. The government has already set up a
task force on Thar coal reserves which is headed by the president Gen.
Pervez Musharraf himself.
The Pakistani delegation headed by Finance Minister
Shaukat Aziz recently visited China to finalise various
business-cum-assistance deals with Chinese authorities also discussed
the Thar coal project. The Minister held detailed discussions with Mr.
Ye Quing Chairman of a leading Chinese company specialising in coal
mining development, who showed keen interest in the project and found it
commercially viable. A team of Chinese experts is already in Pakistan to
make on the spot studies.
The high powered task force is headed by President
Pervez Musharraf and its members included Federal Minister for
Petroleum, Deputy Chairman Planning Commission, Sindh Development,
Chairman Board of Investment, Chairman WAPDA, Chairman Sindh
Privatisation Commission, Federal Secretary Petroleum, Provincial
Secretary Industries and Mineral Development and DG Sindh Coal
Authority. The Task Force may also associate private sector members as
and when considered necessary. Its terms of reference are to carry out
studies including geological exploration, investigation and project
specific feasibility studies, to prepare policy and projects on the
coal-fired power generation, to be responsible for distribution and
transmission of electric power, infrastructure development to develop
skill development in connection with surface coal mining and coal-fired
power generation related technologies to provide incentives to promote
investment in coal mining for various applications including power
Pakistan's Thar Desert contains the largest coal
reserves discovered to date, covering an area of 10,000 square
kilometres. The Thar Coal Field, should it be developed, will yield over
200 billion ton of coal used to produce electricity, it will yield
sufficient power to make Pakistan self-sufficient in electrical power.
Pakistan has reserves of natural gas, but these will start to diminish
Since the discovery of Thar coal in 1991, very little
development work has been initiated. Thar coal has low calorific value
but is environmentally friendly with low sulphur content. The Thar coal
deposits extend across the border and they are currently being mined for
power generation in Rajistan in India. India has no reservation about
the use of these coal deposit. Coal extraction from Thar will be a
development requiring 3-4 years before coal is made available for use.
The ideal situation would be that GoP uses the coal to reduce Pakistan's
dependence on thermal projects, the only alternative method is to
develop the Thar coal via international financing. This is possible only
by inviting international power companies to invest in Pakistan and
provide the required funding for the development of Thar coal field.
The willingness of the Chinese National Mechanical
Import and Export Corporation to make investment in coal-based power
plants in Pakistan is indeed highly welcomed development against the
long backdrop of inaction on this front by the previous government
despite the presence of high quality coal reserves in Sindh. It may be
recalled here that a Hong Kong-based firm specialising in power
generation projects had, about five years ago, concluded an agreement
with the then government for the establishment of three cola-based power
generation units of 200 megawatt each at Keti Bunder near Thatta. But
the project failed to materialise because the foreign company backed out
of its earlier commitment to obtain coal supplies from the reserves in
Thar and instead insisted on import of coal from Hong Kong. It may be
pointed out here that the coal reserves in Jirk, which is in the close
vicinity of Thatta, were surprisingly not mentioned as a domestic
sources of supply for the Keti Bunder project which was conceived on the
basis of Thar coal reserves.
Besides power point producing cheap electricity coal
can also help the cement industry which is complaining because of heavy
cost of inputs. The use of coal would result in a saving of nearly
Rs.495 million per year for a plant producing 3,000 tons of cement per
day. Among other advantages accruing from the contemplated shift,
mention has also been made of the prospect of the national exchequer
saving $170 million in the event of cement sector running to its full
capacity, or at least $100 million a year on the utilisation of 63 per
cent production capacity as now.