LAHORE - One fails to understand why the public opinion at large has turned against an able and hardworking officer of the Punjab Government especially when he happens to be the person responsible for ‘turnaround’ of the sick Nandipur Power Plant.

Currently posted as Secretary Agriculture, Captain Muhammad Mahmood can also claim credit for some other achievements in his career. But for some odd reasons, he has not been treated fairly in the past.    

Now, he would soon be receiving a letter of displeasure from the Punjab Assembly, a representative House of 100 million people. The Punjab legislature is not happy with the officer only because he would not come to the Assembly on the days when the questions on his department are taken up.

What bothered the lawmakers more on Monday was the fact that if the secretaries of the departments of finance and communication & works could come to the Assembly, why the secretary agriculture could not do the same.  

On being prompted by a member, Speaker Rana Muhammad Iqbal directed the Secretary Assembly to write a letter of displeasure to the officer for constantly ignoring his rulings. The Speaker did not listen to the Agriculture Minister Naeem Akhtar Khan Bhaba who pleaded before him that the worthy secretary could not make it to the Assembly as he was in the capital to attend an important meeting there. 

Since the letter is in order, it is hoped that utmost caution is taken to make it free of swear words so that it does not prove to be a letter of bomb for the worthy officer.

One must not ignore the fact that agriculture has flourished in Punjab under Mahmood’s guidance and leadership. Farmers would not have been able to reap a bumper wheat crop this year had they not been provided quality seed from agriculture department. Other crops have also witnessed significant growth under him.

But it is not his fault if the tractors are not being supplied to the farmers on time, or if they don’t come up with the demand for land leveler machines to level their lands. Similarly, if the farmers are getting spurious pesticides and fertilizers for their crops, it is not his department which is into this dirty business.

Not long ago, Captain Mahmood made the sick Nandipur Power Plant operational while working as its project director. It is, however, a different matter, that the plant came to a grinding halt after second day of its operation. It was found generating electricity at a cost of Rs 40 per unit and the fuel plant lacked the capacity to supply fuel to all the units. 

He was then removed on charges of mismanagement and negligence. Again, it was unfair to hold him responsible for the whole fiasco if the imported machinery had an inherent defect in it. After all it was not manufactured in Pakistan. And those blaming the officer for completing the project in Rs 84 billion instead of Rs 22 billion (initial cost), conveniently forget about the inflationary cost involved in completion of such projects though it cost the taxpayers an additional Rs 62 billion.

And how could he be blamed for anything if two of his successors, Tariq Bhatti and Shahid Sohail also could not fix the alleged technical faults in the power plant. Eventually, they were also removed as project directors on charges of financial mismanagement and negligence.

Government’s detractors allege that this power plant is not running to its capacity even today and the cost of production is much higher. They call it a classic example of an old proverb, “haste makes waste.”