ISLAMABAD   -   Former president Asif Ali Zardari yesterday asked the federal government to hand over control of the Pakistan Steel Mills (PSM) to Sindh government so that it could run the affairs of country’s large industrial complex.

Asif Zardari, who is member of National Assembly’s Standing Committee on Industries and Production, said that PSM was an asset of the Sindh government. The control of PSM should be given to Sindh government, which wanted to run its affairs. In meeting of the standing committee, the former president said that Sindh government was owner of land of the Steel Mills.

Zardari was of the opinion that before adoption of PPP model, the federal government should consult with Sindh government. The meeting of the National Assembly Standing Committee on Industries and Production was held under the chairmanship of Sajid Hussain Turi.

Abdul Razak Dawood, Adviser to the Prime Minister for Commerce, Textile, Industry and Investment briefed the committee about the pros and cons of the revival plans for PSM.

He said that Economic Coordination Committee (ECC) of the Cabinet in its meeting on 3rd May had directed to place PSM on privatization list and further directed Ministry of Industries & Production to make a formal proposal in this regard to Cabinet Committee on Privatization (CCoP), which was competent forum for the purpose.

Dawood said that Chinese and Russian companies had also shown interest in investing in the sick PSM. He said talks for sale of the PSM on the basis of public-private partnership were underway with 5-6 parties belonging to Russia and China. New investors wanted to increase the PSM’s production capability from 1.1 million tons annually to 3.5 million tons. Dawood said the mill was closed in June 2015 as Sui Southern Gas Company stopped gas supply to the PSM. After closure of the mill, the plants were left without maintenance and thereby the blast furnace and other equipment got rusted. Blast furnace has been rendered non-functional due to sudden halt of gas supply, he added.

The committee was informed that in November 2018, the government had constituted at expert group to submit an operationalisation plan for PSM. According to some of the recommendations of the Expert Group, the PSM should not be privatised or shutdown as it was a strategic asset of national interest. It had also recommended that revival of PSM was technically possible through a phase wise approach.

Under the revival plan, production capacity of the PSM would be increased to 3 million tonnes per annum. Initially, the production capacity of the mill would increase to 1.1 million tonnes per annum in first two years of the revival plan, which would take out the PSM from losses. Later, the production would enhance to 3 million tonnes per annum in later stage of the revival plan. The PSM, under the plan, would be run under public-private partnership. The mill, which remained closed for almost four years, is requiring a heavy investment to make it functional.

The PSM is dysfunctional since June 2015 due to many reasons. The previous PML-N government had given bailout packages to the country’s large industrial complex, which failed to yield results.

The Director General (Explosives), Ministry of Industries and Production presented a short briefing on working and performance by Department of Explosives (DOE). He mentioned the efforts made for upgradation and modernisation of department of explosives. He informed the committee that shifting of head office from a private building to government building wad near completion. He also informed that DOE had appointed 12 assistant directors (through FPSC). The committee members expressed their grave concern over the accidents caused by LPG and CNG cylinders. The committee members also inquired the DG (explosives) about the storage capacity limit and explosive licence.