Prime Minister Shezbaz Sharif inaugurated the Thar Coal Power Project for an energy-starved Pakistan this week along with Foreign Minister Bilawal Bhutto Zardari and other dignitaries in Sindh province.
He said the project would be a “game-changer” for the entire country as it would help in saving up to $6 billion in energy imports. Pakistan has been dealing with low energy supply coupled with high cost of power. It is also battling non-payment of arrears to Chinese power companies under the China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC).
The inauguration of the project was attended by Sindh Chief Minister Murad Ali Shah and Chinese ambassador to Pakistan Nong Rong.
Ambassador Nong Rong congratulated Pakistan for the project and thanked Sharif for his “consistent devotion and firm support” in strengthening Pakistan-China cooperation including support to CPEC projects. He also thanked the Pakistani Army for providing security to Chinese professionals in Pakistan–many of whom have been attacked by Sindh and Baloch nationalists.
However, many Sindhis were not happy with the project. They see the mining of coal in Sindh as another ploy by Pakistan’s mainstream politicians to benefit the Punjab-dominated Pakistan polity.
Sindh-based journalists criticised the project as the local scribes were not allowed to cover the inauguration of the project. They also said that despite the large projects being set up in their province, the jobs will be provided to outsiders, particularly from Punjab.
Local journalists were not allowed to cover the Thar Coal Project, which Sindh CM Murad Ali Shah, PM Shahbaz Sharif, and Bilawal Bhutto inaugurated, according to local.
Thar Coal project is a game-changer in which locals can’t have a job as gate-keeper but from Punjab people /2
— Veengas (@VeengasJ) October 10, 2022
Zafar Sahito of the Jeay Sindh Freedom Movement said that the Islamabad based government is exploiting Sindh natural resources and grabbing their land. He said: “Since its creation, the Punjab-dominated Pakistan has looted the resources of small provinces in the name of the federal government. They had earlier exploited East Pakistan’s natural resources, now they are looting the natural resources of Occupied Sindh, Balochistan & KPK”.
He reiterated the widely held view that this project too will not generate employment for the Sindhi people.
Giving an insight into how investments and projects in Balochistan and Sindh do not benefit the locals, Sahito said: “All national level projects in Sindh, Balochistan, Gilgit Baltistan and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa benefit the federal government dominated by Punjab”. He added that if the locals get any jobs, those are the lowest-level jobs because of which development of local people does not take place.
“Thar Coal project will be game-changer” PK FM @BBhuttoZardari & PM @CMShehbaz
The national resources of Occupied Sindh are property of people of Sindh only, not of Punjab dominated Pakistan. We will not allow anyone to take our natural resources, grab our land & exploit…1/5 pic.twitter.com/zW2JGIT6uk
— Zafar Sahito (@widhyarthi) October 10, 2022
The Blaoch, and some Sindhi, separatist groups allege that Pakistan in collusion with China has been mining their resources, the profits of which go to the powerful generals and politicians, most of whom hail from the Punjab province. Sindhi rebels have carried out low-level attacks against Pakistani interests while the Baloch have specifically targeted Chinese assets in both Balochistan and Sindh to deter China from investing in the CPEC.
Also read: Why China’s assets are easy targets for Pakistani separatists