ISLAMABAD -  A parliamentary committee on Wednesday expressed reservations over divesting the shares of Habib Bank Limited (HBL) and United Bank Limited (UBL) on discounted rates and sought details from the Privatisation Commission (PC) in this regard.

The Senate Standing Committee on Privatization and Statistics, which met under the chair of Senator Mohsin Aziz, discussed the privatisation programme of public sector entities. Aziz said that incumbent government had so far privatised profitable United Bank Limited, Habib Bank Limited, Allied Bank Limited and National Power Construction Company (NPCC). The committee was informed that the government had divested the shares of HBL and UBL on 7 percent discount. The committee sought detail report from the Privatisation Commission.

The committee chairman further said that the government had not privatised loss-making entities like Pakistan International Airlines (PIA), Pakistan Steel Mills (PSM) and power generation companies. The committee members noted that PIA’s losses had reached to around Rs400 billion. But the government is not taking any measure to reduce its losses. The committee also asked the government to privatise all loss-making public sector entities including PIA and PSM.

Minister of Privatization Daniyal Aziz said that the government has a plan to privatise SME bank, Mari Petroleum Company Limited, PSM and other loss-making entities. He further said that the government delayed the privatisation of PIA due to resistance from the opposition parties in parliament. The government is now preparing a summary of 37 public sector entities including PIA for privatisation, he added.

The committee also discussed the previous privatisation transactions. The successive governments had generated Rs648 billion by privatising 172 public sector entities. The PML-N government had generated Rs12 billion by privatising 64 entities during 1991-1993. The Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) had generated Rs45 billion by privatising 38 entities. The PML-N, in its second tenure, had privatised 7 entities during 1997-99. Later, Pervez Musharraf had privatised 27 entities during 1999-2002. The PML-Q had generated Rs377 billion by selling 38 public sector entities.

Meanwhile, the committee has also discussed the 6th population census, which was conducted after 19 years in the country. Chief Consultant to Pakistan Bureau of Statistics (PBS) on census, Asif Bajwa informed the committee that the government had conducted the census with the help of Pakistan Army. He further said that only the Sindh government had raised objections on the results of the census. Bajwa also clarified the reasons for little difference in population of Karachi and Lahore. He said that the Punjab government had declared the entire Lahore district as urban, while two districts in Karachi were still classified as rural.

He informed that Council of Common Interests (CCI) had decided to address the concerns of the provinces on the provisional results of the census. The provincial monitoring committees were constituted which checked the results of the census and appreciated it. The PBS would share the reports of the provincial monitoring committees with the standing committee after receiving the reports. The committee chairman recommended conducting fresh census in Karachi to remove the objections of the Sindh government.