PM Imran Khan praised Usman Buzdar for work done by Shahbaz Sharif

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Last month the prime minister inaugurated $360 million worth 115-kilometer long Jalalpur Irrigation Project and admired Punjab chief minister for initiating this mega scheme after a delay of 120 years.

What the premier, however, did not know that he was invited for the ribbon cutting of the project, which was conceived, planned, negotiated and approved by Shahbaz Sharif and not by Usman Buzdar.

“I congratulate you all. Today I admire Punjab Chief Minister Usman Buzdar for initiating this project. This project has been delayed for past 120 years. I am thankful that you started this project because these projects change the lives of the people,” Imran Khan said at the inauguration ceremony held in Jhelum in the last week of December 2019.

Official documents reveal that the above project was wholly planned, initiated and negotiated by Shahbaz Sharif government.

It all started in 2009 when Shahbaz Sharif issued the direction for the construction of the project. Feasibility work was completed in 2013. The Asian Development Bank was engaged, which takes three to four years in the processing of such project’s planning, loan negotiation, environmental studies, population relocation plans etc.

The mega project like this needs years for survey, and design, which were completed in 2017. All details are documented on the Asian Development Bank website.

Copy of the loan agreement shows that it was signed by Pakistan and ADB in April 2018 by PML-N government. The project agreement was signed in April 2017 by the then Punjab Irrigation Secretary Asad ullah with the approval of Shahbaz Sharif.

The Punjab Annual Development Plan approved by Shahbaz sharif government in its budget for fiscal year 2017-18 also reflected the project.

From 2013-2018 the Punjab government spent approximately Rs2,998 million to acquire land for this project. Last allocation of Rs600 million was made in ADP for 2017-18.

At the planning stage, even alignment of canal was decided in consultation with local people through MPAs and MNAs of area. In 2016, a number of seminars were also held in Khushab to finalise alignment as per the needs of the farmers.

In ADP for the year 2016-2017, the engineering designs were completed. As much as Rs70 million was spent on this project by PML-N government for engineering design in 2016-2017 and Rs230 million was allocated in 2017-2018. Total expenditure made on land acquisition by the then government was Rs3 billion. A total of 8000 acres of land was acquired by the previous government, which was a huge administrative exercise while Rs497 million was spent on the engineering design of this project. Detail engineering design took 16 months.

Even project bidding documents, which again was colossal exercise for mega project of $360 million was done by the PML-N government. For the hiring of consultants for the supervision of the project as per ADB procedures, the PML-N government had floated ToRs in April 2018. The command area development component of this project was prepared by agriculture department in August 2017.

Documents show that $274 million is the ADB loan whereas $85 million is counterpart funding by Punjab government and farmers share.

The CDWP and ECNEC approvals were given by Ahsan Iqbal led Planning Commission in 2017 and 2018. The then Punjab chief minister Shahbaz Sharif regularly reviewed this project and gave approvals of different stages in 2014, 2016 and 2017 and final loan approval in early 2018.

The canal will irrigate 160,000 acres of land in Pind Dadan Khan and Khushab tehsil and interestingly even the people, farmers and residents of these areas are fully aware that project was initiated by Shahbaz Sharif in 2013.

The first direction was, however, given for the construction of this mega project by Shahbaz Sharif during his visit to Jhelum in 2009. The feasibility was completed in 2013.

As per the official documents, the loan agreement was signed by Shahbaz government in 2017 and everything was finalised and commissioned by May 2018 but now the prime minister has been made to believe that the incumbent Punjab Chief Minister Usman Buzdar has initiated all this.

According to the ADB document, the Jalalpur Irrigation Project (JIP) is located along right bank of River Jhelum in Punjab, Pakistan. It will create new non-perennial irrigation services for enhanced agricultural production in Pind Daden Khan and Khushab districts. The project will increase kharif crop intensity by 50 percent, improve crop yield and reduce land degradation. It will directly benefit over 200,000 rural people; mostly poor. The project will (i) construct over 200km new irrigation canals, (ii) introduce institutional reforms and establish farmers’ organisations (FOs), and (iii) build farmers capacity.

The project will contribute to food security and economic growth and will alleviate rural poverty in the project area. The project impact will be the increased agricultural production in the project area (Pind Daden Khan and Khushab districts). The project outcome will be irrigation water supplies and agricultural support services available in the project area.

Punjab Information Minister Fiazul Hasan Chouhan when approached by a staffer of The News said that he does not know the details about this project. He added that he was busy in an official meeting and could not talk more.