KARACHI: The federal and the Sindh governments seem to be handling the future of Pakis­tan Steel Mills in a casual manner.

The federal government had said on Friday that the cabinet committee on privatisation had decided to offer the PSM, along with all its assets and liabilities, to the Sindh government. The provincial government had already “conveyed its interest to acquire the organisation”, the statement said.

But on Saturday, a Sindh minister expressed surprise over the centre’s “offer”. “I know nothing about the purchase of Steel Mills by the Sindh government as no department has made any such proposal,” Finance Minister Murad Ali Shah said with a touch of bewilderment.

As if this were not enough, officials in the Chief Minister House came up with yet another conflicting statement, saying “we are eager to consider the federal government’s offer”.

Speaking to journalists, Murad Ali Shah said the provincial government had al­wa­ys opposed the privatisation of Steel Mills and made it clear that in case of privatisation, its land would stand transferred to Sindh.

A spokesman for the CM House, talking to Dawn, said the provincial government had learnt about the federal government’s offer through media, adding that it would certainly mull over the offer after it was conveyed to provincial authorities through official channels.

“The government is eager to receive this offer,” said the spokesman. “We have learnt it through media so far, but when it formally comes to the government the provincial cabinet will consider it seriously.”

Another provincial cabinet member said the zeal of PPP’s Sindh government to own the PSM could be gauged from a picture of party chairman Zulfikar Ali Bhutto hanging on a wall of the CM House. The picture shows the late prime minister inaugurating the mills.

Amin Ahmed adds from Islam­abad: Following the federal government’s decision to offer the Steel Mills to Sindh, the chairman of Senate Standing Commi­ttee on Finance and Privatisa­tion, Saleem Mandviwala, said the provincial government wou­ld be given the time to carry out an exhaustive assessment about the mills before taking a decision.

In a statement, Mr Mandviwala of PPP said the Sindh government had not yet received any formal offer from the federal government.

The Cabinet Committee on Privatisation approved the transaction structure of the PSM on Friday and decided to offer the giant to the Sindh government.

He said the privatisation commission did not consult the Sindh government before taking the decision. If the federal government is serious in handing over the Steel Mills to Sindh, it should hold consultations and at the same time, the privatisation com­m­ission should desist from taking decisions in haste, he said.

Mr Mandviwala said the Sindh government had written a letter to Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif that the provincial government would not allow the land of any government entity to be used for any other purpose after its privatisation. For this reason, he observed, the Cabinet Committee on Privatisation had decided to offer the steel mills to the Sindh government.

The Chairman of Privatisation Commission, Muhammad Zubair, told Dawn that the Sindh government would be informed about the government’s decision within two weeks once internal procedures were completed. In case, the Sindh government decides not to accept the federal government’s offer, then the PSM would be privatised as per the standard procedure, he said.

Published in Dawn, October 4th, 2015

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