PSM privatisation process to end by September, SC told

Published February 5, 2021
A general view of the deserted hot strip mill department of the Pakistan Steel Mills (PSM) on the outskirts of Karachi. — Reuters/File
A general view of the deserted hot strip mill department of the Pakistan Steel Mills (PSM) on the outskirts of Karachi. — Reuters/File

ISLAMABAD: The privatisation process of Pakistan Steel Mills (PSM) would be completed by September, Secretary Industries and Production informed the Supreme Court (SC) on Thursday.

The two-member SC bench comprising Chief Justice of Pakistan (CJP) Gulzar Ahmed and Justice Ijaz Ul Ahsan was hearing the case of PSM employees seeking promotions.

The Additional Attorney General informed the court that Planning Minister Asad Umar and Privatisation Minister Mohammadmian Soomro could not attend the proceedings as they were out of the city while the Minister for Industries and Production Hammad Azhar was in isolation due to Covid-19.

The chief justice said the court would decide the case after hearing the federal ministers.

Umar, Soomro summoned on Feb 9

The court ordered Mr Umar and Mr Soomro to appear before it on Feb 9 and adjourned the case.

During the course of proceedings, the CJP observed that the PSM administration was responsible for the mills closure. No such entity could be ruined without the collusion of its officials, he said. The officers should be sacked first before the workforce was forced to resign, he remarked.

The CJP asked whether the government had initiated action against the PSM administration. Both the administration and the officers were a burden on the national exchequer.

He questioned as to why the PSM’s management staff continued to hold their posts. A closed mill did not need a managing director or chief executive, he added.

PSM’s counsel Shahid Bajwa said the entire administration had been replaced.

The chief justice asked whether the mill would be functional with the change of administration. What were 439 officers doing when the PSM was closed, he questioned.

Except Pakistan, steel mills all over the world were running in profit, he remarked.

Still the number of PSM staff, including those working at its hospital and schools, was more than its requirement, he added.

The counsel said only 439 out of 1,800 employees were working in the PSM. The mills daily expenditure had also been reduced from Rs20 million to Rs10m.

The administration had so far sacked 49 per cent of the workforce and required the labour court’s permission to remove the rest, he added.

The chief justice said the apex court would gave the direct permission for the purpose, but first the officers should be removed. He observed that every institution of the country was functioning in similar conditions. Every official was concerned about their own interests and not about the country.

The counsel for PSM Employees Union said the workers were ready to work.

The chief justice remarked that some PSM employees had not worked for a single day since recruitment to retirement.

He asked as to who would repay the mills debt of Rs212 billion.

Justice Ijaz said the mill, which was once the backbone of country’s economy, was closed but the employees were demanding promotions.

The PSM counsel said the employees had staged a sit-in outside the residence of the chief executive officer (CEO). They had also dug his grave outside his home.

Published in Dawn, February 5th, 2021

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