KARACHI: The strained-relations between Pakistan People’s Party government in Sindh and federal government of Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf are likely to get worse over the planned privatisation of the Pakistan Steel Mills (PSM) as the provincial administration on Sunday claimed that it owned the land worth billions of rupees of the industrial giant and Islamabad couldn’t make it part of any deal.
A key member of the provincial cabinet and close aide to chief minister also vowed to protect rights of over 9,000 PSM workers, who were being laid off under a proposed plan.
“We are against the retrenchment of 9,500 workers of Steel Mill and the PPP will protect these employees at every forum,” Sindh Education Minister Saeed Ghani told a press conference along with labour leaders Shamshad Qureshi and Habib Junaidi.
“The government is eyeing the land of steel mills worth billions of rupees. But everyone should be clear about it. This land belongs to the Sindh government and we will not allow them to take this land. The Sindh government had in the past raised its voice against the privatisation and we will not remain silent this time as well. We are with workers not with capitalists.”
Saeed Ghani says the federal govt cannot make the Steel Mills’ land part of any privatisation deal
The Sindh government, he claimed, could successfully operate the PSM and asked the federal government to talk with the provincial administration on this proposal.
No CCI consent to PSM privatisation
He said that whatever “secret plan” the government had made about PSM, it had not got it approved from the Council of Common Interests (CCI) because a Supreme Court’s decision had clearly said that the federal government must seek CCI consent for privatisation of any state entity.
“The PPP is blamed for recruiting its workers in the Pakistan Steel but the fact is that not a single man was hired in the mills since 2008,” said Minister Ghani, who also holds the portfolio of labour. “In other institutions, when the PPP was in the federal government, contractual employees were made permanent. The PPP was not in the government from 1996 to 2008, during that time Musharraf and other governments had recruited contractual workers in many institutions including the PSM.”
To a question, he said that whenever a decision was taken about the PSM, the prime interests of the decision-makers always attached with the valuable land of the industrial giant. “Again the focus is on the land, which is worth billions of rupees. Some 19,000 acres of land of Pakistan Steel is without a shadow of a doubt is owned by Sindh.”
In response to another question, he said that it seemed that Planning and Development Minister Asad Umar had become the prime minister since Imran Kha did not know the decisions of his own cabinet.
“Asad Umar once said he will stand with the employees of the PSM if the PTI comes into power and a wrong decision is taken for the mills,” said Mr Ghani. “I am waiting what position will Asad Umar take in the meeting of the federal cabinet.”
Minister hopes MQM-P, GDA will oppose layoffs
He appreciated the Muttahida Qaumi Movement-Pakistan for opposing the PSM workers’ layoffs, but asked the PTI’s coalition partner at the centre to do more.
“We believe that a mere condemnation is not enough. We hope that MQM ministers will resist this decision and maybe if the conscience of the GDA is awakened, they should also oppose the move,” he said.
To a question about recent allegations from a US blogger against senior leadership of the PPP, he said that the media was presenting an American woman in its headline whose aim was to tarnish the image of Pakistani politicians in the eyes of the people and divert attention from the challenges being faced by the people in this country.
“I appeal to the Pakistani media to address the current situation in which people are being infected with coronavirus, where deaths from the virus are increasing rapidly and healthcare system had become a challenge.
“In a situation where the country is suffering from the worst economic crisis, where the sugar scandal and shortage of petroleum products have been pushed back, the nation is entangled in a matter which seems to be a foreign agenda,” he added.
To a query, he said that after the rapid increase in the number of Covid-19 patients in Sindh, the pressure of patients in government as well as private hospitals had increased.
All government hospitals run by the Sindh government were providing free treatment and the administration would continue to provide more facilities to the patients in the hospitals so that more and more patients could get free treatment, he added.
Published in Dawn, June 8th, 2020