Karachi: Steelmaking is considered a lucrative business in whole world. Even in Pakistan, private iron and steel mills owners are filthy rich. However, it is strange that the largest steelmaking unit of the country, Pakistan Steel Mills, runs in perpetual losses and this unit, which was a pride of Pakistan, has been virtually closed for more than a year.
Why the Pakistan Steel Mills runs in huge and unexplainable losses, everybody knows but only a few dares talking on this crucial national issue. They say that the Pakistan Steel Mills is not just an ordinary industry but an important strategic national asset so this matter should not be seen through the limited prism of profit and loss. Who could ignore the importance of steel in defense production and modern industrial growth?
It is widely believed that the international lending institutions wanted privatization of the Pakistan Steel Mills to that some particular international capitalists could buy it for peanuts through their henchmen and later run it profitability. The same tactics has already been observed in the murky privatization of the state-run entities like the Pakistan Telecommunication Corporation Limited (PTCL), Karachi Electricity Supply Corporation (KESC), Habib Bank Limited (HBL) and other government-run commercial banks of Pakistan. The anti-privatization lobby believes that the Pakistani rulers have already accepted undisclosed conditionalities of the international lending institutions including the privatization of the PMS and PIA. However, due to strong pressure of the labor groups and civil society these crucial privatization decisions are being delayed every year.
However, the Pakistan Steel Mills has a great potential to offset its accumulated losses and even make huge profits if it is run honestly under a professional and committed management. It needs a strong commitment at the hand of the government as without a political will it would not be possible to run the mills on sustainable basis. If in a one phrase the cause of the doom of the PMS could be described it would be the absence of political will.
Some quarters have suggested to hand the Pakistan Steel Mills over to Russian or Chinese steelmaking entities on a long-term lease, as they are capable to run big industrial units professionally and successfully. Some people also suggest making the revival of the Pakistan Steel Mills a part of the China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), as uplift activities of the corridor would also require dependable and cost-effective supply of iron and steel and this need could be easily catered if the Pakistan Steel Mills is made functional.
Proud nations do not sell their national strategic assets, said Altaf Shakoor who is a professional engineer and president of Pasban e Pakistan political party. He said the only problem of the Pakistan Steel Mills is corruption and mismanagement. He said under a dark conspiracy the Pakistan Steel Mills was over-staffed during past regime. The Pakistan Steel Mills did not need these thousands of new employees which were recruited or made permanent purely on the basis of their political affiliation. He said as a review committee has been formed to probe the murky recruitments in the Sindh police, such a review committee should be formed to probe the case of unneeded recruitment in the Pakistan Steel Mills.
He said the Pakistani politicians are shrewd businessmen. They do not recruit even a single extra worker or engage a single extra Hari for their private businesses and agriculture farms, but they deliberately carried out a wholesale unnecessary recruitment in Pakistan Steel Mills, PIA and other state-run organizations which was nothing but a financial treason to this hapless country.
He said if prevailing corruption and mismanagement is ended the Pakistan Steel Mills could be easily made standing on its two own feet. He said the ruling PML-N rulers are themselves experienced iron and steel makers and they fully know how to run an iron or steel mill, successfully, adding they should summon courage and allow the nation and country to have a functional and self-sustaining Pakistan Steel Mills. He said this is the matter of a pure political will and a proper policy decision at Islamabad could ensure revival of the Pakistan Steel Mills tomorrow.
He said even today more steel mills are established in the private sector, which proves the profitability of this sector. He said the apex judiciary and prestigious institutions responsible for safeguarding the national interests should consider the issue of deliberately failure of the Pakistan Steel Mills as a national urgency, as this is a matter pertaining to the long-term national strategic interests.