NA body plans sending reference to NAB for determining culprits behind PSM closure


ISLAMABAD: In a big embarrassment to the government, the PML-N parliamentarians fully supported a demand of the PTI leader Asad Umar to formally submit a reference to the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) for determining who was responsible for closure of the Pakistan Steel Mill (PSM) for the last two years.

The meeting of the National Assembly Standing Committee on Industries and Production was chaired by Asad Umar. The committee was informed that the revival plan of PSM was on the hold as there was no chairman of privatisation commission and no secretary privatisation.

Asad Umar said that for the last two years the committee had a given number of recommendations to revive the PSM but someone somewhere was hindering the revival plans. He said that the staff was not getting salary, pension and medical treatment for the last two years, which is a criminal offence.

Time has come to order an inquiry to determine who is hindering the revival of PSM which is causing a loss of Rs 1.5 billion per month. This work could be best performed by NAB like it did in a similar reference sent by the National Assembly Standing Committee on Finance to determine the culprits. The suggestion was supported by all the members of the committee.

The committee rejected the government attempts to windup Engineering Development Board (EDB). Shah Jee Gul Afridi supported the continuation of the board but severely criticized the Finance Minister Ishaq Dar, who he alleged was responsible for stopping further investment in the auto sector. Existing players had demanded same tariff structure like new green field investors for their new models but Dar vehemently opposed it.

If the suggestion was accepted, Toyota, Honda and Suzuki would have made a massive new investment. He suggested that the new auto policy should have a condition for the investors that they should be exporting ten per cent of their production after ten years operations in the country. The committee adopted the recommendation.

Industrialist M.A. Jabbar told the committee that EDB annoyed the government when it set conditions to allow Chinese for setting first power plant in the country by at least procuring 30 per cent components and material locally.

The government not only excluded EDB from all Chinese-related energy projects but all the decisions in the energy matter were shifted to the ministry of water and power, he said. EDB had done good work to protect domestic industry and the institutions should be retained, he stressed.

However, Qaisar Ahmad Sheikh said that EDB was trespassing its mandate and some of its top officials were involved in corrupt practices as for many sectors they recommended fixing duties, tariffs and taxes. He said that the EDB recommended increasing duties on import of raw material for chemicals even though it was not in its mandate to recommend.

When the committee asked the acting CEO EDB Nasir Baig to explain, he did not give a satisfactory reply. He meekly submitted that sometimes the board has to recommend tax proposals for allied industries as they have approached it.

The committee decided to form a subcommittee under Qaisar Ahmad Sheikh to consult all the chambers and industrial sector to make recommendations for the induction of professionals on the board.