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February 23, 2018

Who is Ahad Khan Cheema?


February 23, 2018

ISLAMABAD: Who is Ahad Khan Cheema, arrested by the National Accountability Bureau (NAB), for alleged corruption?

A grade-20 officer of Pakistan Administrative Service or PAS, erstwhile district management group, is presently serving as CEO of Quaid-i-Azam Thermal Power Company (QATPC) owned by the Punjab government. The Chinese officials used the rubric of “Punjab Speed” for the performance of the Shahbaz Sharif government because its delivery and development achievements are attributed to a team of civil servants, among whom Cheema is an ace player.

Hailing from agricultural background family of Hafizabad, Cheema made his mark very early in his career, when, way back in 2005, he was picked by Chief Minister Pervaiz Ellahi to manage his hallmark project -“Parah Likha Punjab”. He was made the project coordinator of this World Bank-supported initiative. Civil servants in Punjab attribute its success to Cheema’s hard work and management skills. The previous government always took immense pride in success of this project, and donor agencies also showcased it as worth emulating.

Cheema is nicknamed in bureaucratic circles as “metro man”. Keeping in view his previous record of resolution, persuasive approach and leadership, the chief minister selected Cheema to supervise and monitor the Lahore Metro Bus System (MBS) project. Cheema accepted the challenge, joined as the director general of the Lahore Development Authority (LDA) in March 2012 and completed the venture in a record time of 11 months. It goes to his credit that the project was concluded without relaxing even a single rule or regulation. With transparency an amount of Rs29.8 billion was utilised in a short span.

In the completion of MBS, many engineering feats were achieved for the first time in Pakistan which have only been possible due to Cheema’s unremitting efforts. The second longest BRT flyover of Asia measuring 8.2 km was completed in a record time of 230 days.

In recognition of his outstanding and meritorious services in constructing the Lahore metro, Cheema was conferred the award of Tamgha-e-Imtiaz by the President of Pakistan.

Cheema has also served as the district coordination officer of Lahore, Higher Education Secretary and twice as LDA chief. He is presently working as the QATPC CEO. Acknowledging his performance in Bhikhi Power, the Punjab government entrusted him with another 1200MW project at Trimmu, Jhang, which is already on way to setting new records of efficiency and cost-saving.

The QATPC recently completed the Bhikhi power plant, producing 1200MWs of electricity. This plant along with two other projects set up by federal government at Baloki and Haveli Bhadur Shah, Jhang of 1200MW each are cited by the present government for ending the loadshedding. Energy experts cite Bhikhi power plant led by Cheema as trailblazer as far as performance of current administration on energy front is concerned. The standards of efficiency, economy and performance set by Cheema in setting up this plant were emulated by federal managers in other projects, they say.

QATPC Chairman Arif Saeed, a scion of Services Group of Industries, who is volunteering as chief of its board of directors with Cheema being its CEO, said that the QATPC is a remarkable example of the public sector achieving unprecedented results at a speed private sector companies would do well to emulate, and if one man is to be credited for this other than Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif it is Cheema.

“While there have been several people responsible for providing leadership and vision, Cheema’s relentless efforts have been instrumental in setting new benchmarks in the power sector. The task before the management team was to devise an evaluation mechanism for bidding, attract world-class companies to create real competition, and to arrange the largest ever project financing syndication done without a sovereign guarantee by Pakistani banks. In just two and a half years, Cheema and the team he assembled contrived to save the public exchequer and the consumer Rs40 billion in the project procurement alone. Add to that Rs6 billion in annual fuel savings, and huge dividends for consumers of electric power.”

Arif Saeed said the speed at which the power plant was established is a record: simple cycle operation in just 17 months, and hopefully combined cycle operation in 27 months. This is a living testimony to hard work and honestly of purpose that Cheema brought to the job.

He said Cheema’s remarkable intervention came in the bidding for operation and maintenance. In the first bidding for this service for a 12-year period, the lowest bidder was at $328 million. Cheema consulted with leading private sector power company developers who reassured him the bid was competitive and in line with the tariff allowed by National Electric Power Regulatory Authority (Nepra). The company then launched an international market survey and Cheema approached the QATPC board with a request to allow them to rebid. The rebidding process resulted in a bid for $162 million, a saving of $166 million.

Still not satisfied, Arif Saeed said, Cheema was sure he could get further savings on this account. So, the bids were rejected and in the third round the lowest bid came in at $133 million, a further saving of $33 million. This saving will be 20 paisas per unit, passed on to the consumer, while the plant is expected to produce almost 10 billion units of electricity each year. “This may sound like a fairy tale, in corruption infested power sector, but facts are facts and anybody can see for himself.”

The QATPC chairman said this project has shattered all established benchmarks for capital cost, thermal efficiency, construction time and operation and maintenance cost. The impact on the consumer has been massive, and the power sector in Pakistan has now been transformed forever, he said.

Arif Saeed, known for his no non-sense approach and blunt talk in business circles, stated that after volunteering for almost five years with the government, he can say with confidence that a few more officers of such brilliance and poise could transform the landscape for projects in Pakistan including the major dams like Diamer Bhasha and other nation building efforts. “The team led by Cheema has completely transformed the way we deliver results in the public sector, and it has been an absolute privilege to have been associated with these efforts as a member and chair of the board.”

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