RDS_181225 Imran Khan minorities
Pakistan's Prime Minister Imran Khan. Image Credit: Gulf News Archives

  • Pakistan's Mohmand Dam project handed to a number of firms
  • One of the firms, Descon, is owned by Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan's advisor
  • Observers are claiming the decision involves "conflict of interest"

Dubai: Controversy stirred after Pakistan’s long awaited Mohmand Dam project was handed to Pakistan Prime Minister, Imran Khan’s advisor’s company.

The 300 billion PKR (more than Dh7 billion) project’s construction contract has been granted to a joint venture of China Gezhoub – a Chinese construction and engineering company, Voith Hydro and Descon – a Pakistan-based engineering company owned by Khan’s adviser, Abdul Razak Dawood.

Dawood is Khan’s advisor for commerce, textile, industry and production, and investment.

However, observers are not content with the decision and are claiming that there is a “clear conflict of interest” that arises due to the decision.

People are saying that Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) claims of transparency are getting damaged after the project was awarded to its chairman and currently Pakistan’s premier, Khan’s advisor.

The bidding process also came with a number of controversies as, according to the country’s Dawn newspaper, just one consortium’s financial bid was considered. Another bid that was pitched by another joint venture consisting of the Frontier Works Organisation (FWO), Andritz Hydro and Power China was disqualified.

However, Pakistan’s Water and Power Development Authority (WAPDA) is defending the choice and selection process. A spokesperson from the entity explained that the bid of the second consortium was disqualified on technical basis, Dawn reported.

Moreover, Descon is being called “the biggest firm in Pakistan” by WAPDA officials as they defend its selection.

In a press conference held on January 2, Muzammil Hussain, chairman of WAPDA, announced that the preparations to start the construction will be finalised within the next two weeks, according to Dawn.

Upon the announcement, the hashtag #MohmandDam trended on Twitter across Pakistan. Social media users and officials expressed their thoughts on the issue.

Pakistani politician and parliamentary leader of Pakistan People’s Party (PPP), Sherry Rehman, @SRehmanOffice, tweeted about concerns over awarding the major project to Dawood: “The government awarding the Rs309 billion #MohmandDam contract to Abdul Razzak Dawood’s company involves a blatant conflict of interests. PPP will raise it on every forum - Sen @sherryrehman.”

Other tweeps raised concerns too.

User Ahmed Nawaz, @AhmedNawazAZ, wrote about the times Khan had claimed that previous governments made decisions that involved conflict of interest: “Dear Prime Minister @ImranKhanPTI We were always told about ‘conflict of interest’ law when PTI was in opposition but now we are watching the same in your government as Razzaq Dawood’s Descon has been awarded the tender of dam to be built #MohmandDam.”

However, there are those who think that due to Descon’s success in the country, it is “no surprise” that the contract was handed to the engineering firm. “#Descon is probably the best engineering company with more technical credentials than any other company in Pakistan. They have huge background of some of the most challenging hydel Projects which no other could do. To me awarding #MohmandDam to them is no surprise. Not a paid tweet,” tweeted Shafaat Ali, @iamshafaatali.

According to WAPDA chairman Hussain, China Gezhouba has 70 per cent share in the project, whereas Descon and Voith Hydro have 30 per cent combined.