In his interview to SouthAsia magazine, esteemed former Chief Justice, Saeeduzzaman Siddiqui defended the Iftikhar Chaudhry-led Supreme Court’s decision to stop the privatization of the Pakistan Steel Mills. The objection raised by many people in this regard is that the privatization process was not fair and that the mill was being sold at a throwaway price.
While it is true that the PSM is a huge asset worth billions, one cannot just say that it was given for peanuts without taking into account the whole picture. Since 2006, when the PSM’s privatization was stopped by the SC, the government of Pakistan has injected over Rs150 billion into sustaining this giant industrial unit. The mill employs more than 16,000 and it is an unfortunate reality that a large majority of this workforce was appointed on political basis. Such inductions were done by every successive government.
Let me further simplify the matter by stating an example here. When we go to the market to buy something, we try to get the best product at a reasonable price. The same principle applies to the sale of huge yet sick industrial units. You can’t simply sell a loss-making organization against its actual worth. Compromises have to be made if the long-term aim is revival of sick unit in question.