KARACHI: Sindh Information Minister Syed Nasir Hussain Shah has said that the Pakistan Steel Mills (PSM) is a national asset and the provincial government will be more than happy to run it in collaboration with its employees.
Speaking at a press conference along with several trade unionists at the Karachi Press Club here on Saturday, the minister said that the government could run PSM like the Thar coal projects, where locals had also been involved.
“What has happened to the Steel Mills is nothing short of a tragedy. Friends are being favoured. Workers are being destroyed. We ask the federal government to not destroy this asset, not let its workers starve. But what to say about the federal government that takes a U-turn on every turn,” he said.
He also said that the PSM used to contribute to the country’s economy in a big way. But now it is not being given gas to run it.
PTI govt slammed for failing to revive the Steel Mills
“The federal government says that PSM is running huge losses. They are giving people golden handshakes, which by the way, is all lies. It is how they have fired 4,500 employees. They are just firing them. Meanwhile, valuable equipment is going missing,” he said, adding that not just equipment, even the rail tracks on the PSM land were vanishing slowly.
Probe into theft of PSM equipment demanded
“I ask, how is equipment worth billions going missing? There was a full security system in place at the Steel Mills. But the security guards there are known more for their beating up and firing at protesting employees. But the Steel Mills and what has been stolen from it and what’s left of it all came from taxpayers’ money. The thefts warrant an inquiry. We have asked the police to take action on this and arrest the culprits,” he said.
Mr Shah, who also holds the portfolios of local government, forests, religious affairs, housing and town planning, also said that the Sindh government had the option of running PSM through public-private partnership.
“The Russians were also asked by Sindh Chief Minister Murad Ali Shah if they would be interested in running the Steel Mills. It was, after all, their project initially. So if they would like to run it, they will find the Sindh government supporting them.
“The Sindh government can also look into running the PSM itself but the federal government needs to agree to hand it to us first,” he said, adding that the provincial government had formed a ministerial committee comprising four members each from the Sindh cabinet and trade unions for resolving problems of PSM workers.
Earlier, the executive director of the Pakistan Institute of Labour Education and Research (Piler), Karamat Ali, said that thousands of PSM workers had been rendered jobless in the name of privatisation.
He also hoped that the federal government would hand over the PSM to the Sindh government.
Shamshad Qureshi, the chairman of the PSM Peoples Workers Union, blamed the PTI government and its policies for ruining the state institution.
“All promises from the PTI government about reviving the PSM or bringing in a more professional management were not fulfilled,” he said.
“Usually, when companies go bankrupt, they declare it formally. But here they don’t even know what to say about PSM. Is it being privatised? Is it being leased out? Is it going to be run through a public-private partnership? There is no clear policy for it as yet. Meanwhile, it is being run by a management notorious for its incompetence and corruption,” he said.
“The board that runs PSM is headed by Amir Mumtaz who happens to be the prime minister’s friend. And he wants to sell the mills to his friends Arif Habib or Razzak Dawood. These people are also eyeing the land on which the Steel Mills stand,” he said.
Published in Dawn, April 11th, 2021