A Wall Street Journal Story:

Pakistan Turns to China in Energy Binge

KARACHI, Pakistan—When Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif came to office in 2013, rolling power outages across the country were plunging homes and businesses into darkness for up to 12 hours a day.

Now the Pakistani leader is betting on a $21 billion Chinese-backed splurge on energy projects to boost the economy—and his re-election bid.

More than 10,000 Chinese workers are now building at least 10 partly Beijing-financed energy projects across Pakistan that are set to grow the country’s energy output by 60% within two years in the first major boost to supply in two decades.Mr. Sharif’s government plans to inaugurate a nuclear plant this month and a pipeline network in January that will carry large-scale gas imports upcountry.

 “Never in the history of Pakistan has there been such a big package of electricity plants in the pipeline,” said Syed Akhtar Ali, in charge of energy at the Planning Commission, the ministry tasked with long-term development.
Pakistan’s economic growth has risen to almost 5% annually under Mr. Sharif and his government set a 7% target for the years ahead. That, his government hopes, will boost the moribund private sector, reduce unemployment and provide youth with more alternatives to extremism.

The energy plan is a centerpiece of that economic aspiration. Mr. Sharif is racing to fulfill his pledge and become the first incumbent to be re-elected in a country whose voters—or the interventionist military—have long ousted its leaders for their poor performance. Mr. Sharif, who led Pakistan twice before in the 1990s, hasn’t previously even completed a term in office.

“Electric power is going to be the swing factor in the election,” said Shahid Khaqan Abbasi, the minister for petroleum. “If we don’t deliver on power, we won’t be seen as having delivered.”

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