The Supreme Court has directed the Auditor General of Pakistan to conduct a forensic audit of the Thar Coal project on a war footing while hearing a suo moto case on the project on Thursday.
The apex court also ordered the Chief Secretary of Sindh to confiscate the equipment and machinery of the project. It also ordered the provincial government to submit a response as to the implementation of the recommendation for the aversion of environmental threats imminent from the Thar coal gasification project.
The Chief Justice of Pakistan, Mian Saqib Nisar, headed the three-member bench, which ordered the chief secretary to keep the photographs of the equipment in a register to maintain records.
The Chief Justice also ordered to prepare a report on salaries dispensed to people employed under the project. He observed that the coal gasification has been incurring losses worth billions of rupees to the exchequer, remarking that somebody should take responsibility for this substantial loss.
He also resented that the project was supposed to be generating 100 megawatts of electricity, but it shut down after generating a mere 8 megawatts.
The apex court observed that Dr. Samar Mubarakmand falsely claimed that the project had the generation capacity of 100 MW.
The court was earlier apprised that the project could induce underground changes that had grave environmental impacts. Despite the provision of Rs. 4.5 billion for the project, it had to be abandoned because it was impractical.
The Advocate General of Sindh informed the court that the government had to shut down the project because of water content found in the coal, which was detrimental to the environment.
The CJP also remarked that the architects of the project did not consider this factor in the risk analysis. However, Dr. Mumarakmand defended the project proclaiming that it had generated 2500 MW of electricity and also that the Sindh government was provided with regular reports of soil tests.
The Advocate General also stated that although the technology to convert coal into gas existed, there was no assessment regarding the underground changes it will entail.
The prosecutor general of the National Accountability Bureau presented a report before the court that the project was not viable as per the facts.
Salman Akram Raja, the designated assistant to the court, stated that according to the third audit of the project, there should be no more funding for the project and the provincial government should contract the project to the private sector.
He also suggested an audit into the project’s accounts to pinpoint the irregularities, if any.
Nevertheless, Dr. Mubarakmand claimed that the project had no impact on the environment. He also stated before the court that an Australian company had been working on the project, but it left because of incidents of terrorism.
But the CJP stated that Mubarakmand had made romanticized claims regarding the project, which caused a loss of Rs. 4 billion to the national exchequer.
The bench ordered the federal and provincial government to submit a response within 15 days on the report submitted by the designated assistant of the court and adjourned the hearing without giving any date for the next hearing.