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A FEW days back a small report, which is a big commentary on the working of our judicial system, appeared in newspapers.

It was reported that the Supreme Court of Pakistan has rejected the review petition filed against the judgment of the Supreme Court given in 2006 against the privatisation of Pakistan Steel Mills.

First, it is beyond comprehension why it took the Supreme Court seven years to decide the review petition in an important case. If it had been taken at the earliest with the possibility of the court being convinced by the petitioner’s arguments, Pakistan Steel as well as the country could have been saved from the disastrous consequences that followed the judgment.

A similar decision now would have been of no consequence. The judgment had a far - reaching negative effect on the investment climate, as well as on the economy of the country.

It showed our institution’s lack of understanding of the matters -- strictly not part of their expertise and still their inclination to enter these uncharted waters – some time causing a great loss to the country.

The fact that Pakistan Steel was earning huge profits before the judgment but became practically bankrupt forcing the government to pump in huge amounts of money continuously indicates the rationality of the privatisation decision and glaring flaws in the reasoning of the judgment.

Economic decisions are made keeping in view short-term and long-term policies, keeping in view the prevailing conditions and priorities, and it is the right of the governments to take such decisions.

The Supreme Court in its judgment held that the entire disinvestment process of the Pakistan Steel Mills reflected a haste, ignoring profitability aspect and assets of the mills, by the financial adviser before its evaluation.

The transaction was the outcome of a process reflecting procedural irregularities. There is a big difference between irregularity and illegality. While a procedural irregularity is curable, an illegality is not. The procedural irregularities, if any, as pointed by the court could have been ordered to be rectified as later done in the LNG case instead of quashing the privatisation.

It is time everyone learned from mistakes instead of being carried away by accolades to be received or stamp of power being authenticated. Let not the pendulum swing from one end to the other.

We must remember the consequences of meddling by the executive in matters relating to the judiciary in the past. It is the responsibility of civil society to remain vigilant, speak out and act immediately instead of remaining embroiled in the past. Today is a new day with new challenges.


Comments (3) Closed

Cobrajock Jun 23, 2013 06:31pm

Tasneem Sahib. Nice that someone has had the courage to pick up this sore issue that started the chain of events that led to wideopen confrontation and avoidable measures had to be taken by the executive. We sincerely hope that the true story behind why this PSM transaction was nullified by the CJP, what were his complusions? Was he also one of the beneficiaries of a deal gone sour? It was after this episode that Shaukat Aziz raised the reference against Iftikhar Ch which again never was investigated and subjected to mob disposal / street power justice led by the legal fraternity and prostituted by the politicians. Will someone dig into this sordid chapter of Pakistan's chequered history of national losses due to vested interests.

Fazal Karim Jun 24, 2013 12:48am
The judgement of the Supreme Court is not infront. So far I rember the reasons for stopping privitization of Steel mill was non compliance of mandatory conditions for the sale of government industry. Instead of filing review petition Government should have complied with condition and offered the sale/privatization of Steel Mill once again. Unfortunately parliament and political parties kept quite instead of pesuing the case of sale.
iftikhar saeed Jun 24, 2013 11:05am
The Mittal group wanted to buy the Pakistan steel mills. Their standard practice all around the world has been to buy the mills and than shut these down to increase their hold on the prices of steel. There plan was no different for Pakistan Steed. Look at the prices of steel and the %age of increase in the steel prices over the last 10 years.The problem with Pakistan Steel is a management problem. With the planned installed capacity it was supposed to employ around 8000 techs and has over 24000 people on its payroll. Thanks to our system of nepotism..