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PPP to resist sale of Pakistan Steel Mills land

PPP to resist sale of Pakistan Steel Mills land

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan Peo­ples Party Senator Taj Haider on Friday said that he will resist the sale of Pakistan Steel Mills (PSM) land under the garb of clearing its liabilities.

“I will set up a protest camp there and not allow the sale of land this way,” he said during a meeting of Senate Standing Com­m­ittee on Industries which was discussing issues related to PSM including nonpayment of gratuity and provident fund to 3,500 retired employees of the entity.

Mr Haider referred to a reply by the Privatisation Com­mission in the Senate that none of the 89 industrial units privatised by the government were operating as industry and all have been converted to real estate ventures.

On the occasion, members of Senate body criticised petroleum minister and incumbent premier Shahid Khaqan Abbasi for the forced shutdown of PSM by disconnecting gas supply to it.

“The Economic Coordination Committee had decided to restructure the payment schedule of gas bills and the surcharge was to be withdrawn in 2014 when the Rs18.5 billion bailout package was approved but not only did the Sui Southern Gas Company (SSGC) issue huge gas bills along with the surcharge but also disconnected gas supply,” Senator Haider said.

He blamed PM Abbasi for deliberately causing shutdown of steel mills.

Chairman of the Committee Senator Hidayatullah inquired about the authenticity of the claim that the petroleum ministry had acted contrary to the decision of the ECC.

Officials of Privatisation Commission and the Ministry of Industries and Production (MoIP) declined to comment, maintaining that they were recently posted in the respective ministries.

However, PSM CFO Muhammad Arif Shah read out the decision of the ECC from his files which corroborated Senator Haider’s comments.

Committee members observed that the petroleum ministry did not disconnect gas supply to K-Electric despite the fact that it was a private entity.

Secretary Privatisation Irfan Ali briefed the committee that the current policy of the government regarding PSM is to sell it, but the key impediment in this regard is its liabilities of around Rs180bn.

To raise funds to clear liabilities, the government plans to sell 8,000 acres of PSM’s allied land assigned for development of an industrial area, Mr Ali added.

During the course of discussion, PML-N Senator Kulsoom Parveen said PSM was privatised during Musharaf’s era. “However, Sadia Abbassi, who was a senator at that time, went to the Supreme Court against it and then chief justice Iftikhar Chaudhry turned down the deal,” she added. Ms Sadia is the sister of Mr Abbasi.

Senator Haider’s announcement for a sit-in received support from senators including Mian Atiq of MQM and Mr Parveen.

The committee chairman directed Privatisation Commission and MoIP to present a comprehensive plan to clear outstanding dues of retired employees along with the current details of offer made by Sindh government for the takeover of PSM.

Published in Dawn, October 21st, 2017

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