THE recent, seemingly shady sale deals by the Pakistan Steel Mills (PSM) are wrong in more ways than one. The first is the obvious no-brainer bit of selling billets to an influential firm at rates much lower than those offered to the PSM by other bidders. During the fiscal year 2008-09, the PSM sold a whopping 36,000 metric tons to the firm in question. That raises the other aspect to the shadiness of the deal: this amount was sold to the firm despite its clearly not having the capability to process the same. In fact, the monopolies controlling body of the country, the Competition Commission of Pakistan (CCP), had, under a recent ruling, served the PSM with a notice on the issue. A rival foundry had moved the Commission to the effect. To sum it up: the price that the PSM was selling the billets at was much lower than what it should have been. And the quantum tonnage of the sale to this particular firm was much higher than it should have been according to the fair trade practices as determined by the CCP. It is easy to put two and two together. The firm is allegedly selling the billets in the open market at a huge profit. This is particularly ominous considered the symbolic value of the Pakistan Steel Mills. It was this institution that became in the public consciousness the first instance of defiance shown by the now reinstated Chief Justice against the then ruling regime. In the larger picture, the PSM is a mismanaged organization, and mismanaged organizations usually have a larger possibility of graft. The whole idea of privatizing this organization also raises a serious debate. Whereas, during the CJ's act of defiance, everybody objected to selling it for a song, no one questioned why it was being sold in the first place. The idea that was constantly being pitched by the government was that it was profitable and had interested buyers was ridiculous. Not only is selling only the profitable organizations ridiculous but the PSM was never supposed to be profitable in the first place but only to provide steel to local industries at a subsidized rates.