ISLAMABAD: Minister for Petroleum and Natural Resources Shahid Khaqan Abbasi has expressed the fear that the sinking Pakistan Steel Mills (PSM) could take the Sui Southern Gas Company (SSGC) down along with it if it did not clear the latter’s outstanding dues.

“The PSM owes over Rs35 billion to the SSGC whose own total equity is worth Rs18bn. The issue can destroy and finish the SSGC as well,” he said while winding up a debate on an adjournment motion moved by Taj Haider of the PPP in the Senate on Tuesday.

Take a look: Centre, Sindh show lack of forethought over PSM

The minister confirmed that a proposal was under government’s consideration to settle SSGC’s dues by transferring PSM land to it. However, he said, there had so far been no progress on the matter.

He said the federal government had purchased the PSM land from the Sindh government and private owners. Since the PSM was about to be privatised, he said, it was considered to transfer some of its land worth Rs35bn to the SSGC to clear its dues. It was up to the PSM to decide whether or not it wanted to sell the land.

Lashing out at the PPP for allegedly bringing the PSM to the verge of collapse, Mr Abbasi once again offered the steel mills to the Sindh government.

In his apparent reference to the Oct 2 decision of the Cabinet Committee on Privatisation to offer the PSM, along with all its assets and liabilities, to the Sindh government, the minister said that they had come to know that the provincial government had formed a two-member committee to discuss the proposal and the centre was awaiting its response.

He claimed that the PSM had been earning profit till 2008, but during the 2008-13 PPP tenure, it suffered a loss of Rs104bn. He said the PSM had earned a profit of Rs11bn till 2000, which went up to Rs23bn in 2008.

Earlier, speaking on the motion, PPP’s Taj Haider alleged that the PSM was intentionally being destroyed so that it could be privatised. Opposing the proposal of transferring the PSM land to the SSGC, the PPP senator said the gas company could be able only to recover its dues after selling the land to builders who would construct huge plazas at the site. He asked the government to revive the PSM and save its land.

Gas loadshedding

Later, taking part in a debate on “15 to 18 hours of gas loadshedding in Quetta where temperature has gone down to up to minus 15 degrees Centigrade”, senators from Balochistan accused the federal government of depriving the province of its right on its resources.

The mover of the motion, Usman Kakar, said the people of Quetta had been protesting against non-availability of gas, but regretted that the media was not giving proper coverage to it.

Hafiz Hamdullah of the JUI-F accused the government of violating Article 158 of the Constitution, “which says that the province in which a gas well is situated shall have precedence over other parts of Pakistan in meeting the requirements”.

He said that the centre owed Rs800bn to Balochistan under the head of gas royalty. He asked the government to pay the amount and let the provincial authorities supply gas to the people.

Jahanzeb Jamaldini of the BNP-M said that while the people of Balochistan were not getting gas, they were also not receiving share in jobs.

PML-Q’s Rubina Irfan asked the government not to force the people of Balochistan “to say things which may annoy you”.

PPP’s Farhatullah Babar asked the government to take steps to improve gas supply to the province “before it is too late”.

“Our government and all of us are responsible for pushing the people of Balochistan to the wall,” he said.

The petroleum minister said Quetta had been facing a 20 per cent shortfall in gas supply because of technical faults in the Zarghoon gas field. He said the government had launched projects worth Rs400 million to supply gas to Kalat and Mastung. He said the gas supply had not been stopped in Quetta despite the fact that the city had only 10pc recovery rate.

Published in Dawn, December 23rd, 2015

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