ISLAMABAD: Opposition senators slammed the government for sacking Pakistan Steel Mills’ (PSM) employees and going back on its promise to not privatise the entity, in a session of the Senate held on Friday.
A session of the upper house was held during which Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz’s (PML-N) Senator Mushahidullah said that Prime Minister Imran Khan had said in the past that he would demonstrate to everyone how the steel mills can be properly run.
He said that Planning Minister Asad Umar had also gone back on his word to the employees of the steel mills. “The government cannot rid itself of responsibilities by blaming its predecessors,” said Senator Mushahidullah.
Jamaat-e-Islami (JI) chief Senator Siraj ul Haq criticised the government and questioned how it could sack employees of the steel mills when it had promised to provide one million jobs to the people.
Federal Minister of Industries and Production Hammad Azhar said that the PSM Mills could not be revived or privatised during the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) and the PML-N’s tenures. He said that Rs35 billion had been paid during the past five years from the taxpayers’ pockets to the steel mills employees.
He said that it was not possible to keep hiring personnel in government departments. “The institution will be revived through private partnerships,” he said.
Earlier, terming the PSM as a “white elephant”, Azhar had said that the government had decided to privatise it as it had become a burden on the national exchequer.
He had said that the PSM employees had not been working for the last many years and now they would get a financial package of around Rs2.3 million per employee as compensation. Besides, he said, employees could also contribute to productivity in the private sector.
Azhar had said that the PSM turned from a profit-making institution to one that was running in losses in the 2008-09 tenure of the PPP government and its operational works were shut down during the PML-N government.
The minister further said that with this decision, the government would save Rs700 million of the people’s hard-earned taxes a month. He said that the Supreme Court (SC) also wondered why the government was paying the workers of a closed mill.
He said that around 15 parties were interested in taking over the operational work of the PSM project. He clarified that only the operations of PSM would be privatised while thousands of acres of land would still remain in the custody of the PSM corporation.