Brothers fight: Asad, Zubair exchange harsh words over the fate of PSM



A war of words broke out between Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) MNA Asad Umar and his brother Mohammad Zubair, Chairman of Privatisation Commission, on Wednesday during a meeting of National Assembly’s Standing Committee on Ministry of Industries and Production over the fate of Pakistan Steel Mills (PSM).

Asad and Zubair happen to be real brothers but have different political affiliations. Asad Umar, who is regarded as PTI’s top economic brain, lost his temper while chairing the meeting over the awful state of PSM. He also asked whether the government was planning to privatise the PSM.

However, the Privatisation Commission blamed lack of funds for reviving the mills’ fortunes. During the briefing, the ministry officials claimed that the PSM had been running in losses since decades. Mohammad Zubair also claimed that a proposal was under consideration to lease out the steel mills on a long-term basis, maintaining it was still a better option than privatisation. He said that the government would make a final decision until January 20.

Brushing aside media reports about offers being made by two Chinese companies to purchase PSM, Zubair claimed that the Chinese companies were not interested in privatisation of the PSM.

Asad Umar contradicted the briefing, saying that the committee members were being misled with false claims by the ministry. He said while the briefing claimed PSM was running in losses, truth was that the PSM was a profitable entity till 2008 during the government of General (retd) Pervez Musharraf. He said that by year 2007-08, the PSM profit had crossed Rs19.4 billion per annum.

Asad Umar then suggested that Hussain Nawaz, son of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, may be instated as PSM chairman as he knew a lot about steel business.

This triggered a heated argument between the two brothers with Mohammad Zubair objecting to it, leading to a war of words between the two.

“This is a political statement,” said Zubair. Asad Umar snubbed his brother for interrupting the committee’ meeting and said that he had mentioned Hussain Nawaz on the basis of his claims of running successful steel business in the wake of Panama Papers case. He asked Zubair to leave the meeting if he wanted to but not to dictate terms to the committee.

“The PSM remains closed for a year now as the government has wasted three and a half year,” added Asad Umar.

Earlier, the Privatisation Commission Chairman said that Sindh government did not refuse in writing to buy PSM. He said that while no Chinese company was ready to purchase PSM, an Iranian company was willing to take Steel Mills on a long-term lease. He added that a Pakistani company in collaboration with a Chinese company was also ready to get the PSM leased to it.

He said that the Commission would take a final decision by January 20. He added that the closure of gas to the PSM by Sui Southern Gas Limited had added to the woes of the Steel Mills but he had no control over the Sui Southern.