ISLAMABAD: The privatisation process of Pakistan Steel Mills (PSM) will be completed by September, the Supreme Court (SC) was told by the Secretary for Factories and Development on Thursday.
The case of PSM workers seeking promotions was heard by the two-member SC bench comprising Chief Justice of Pakistan (CJP) Gulzar Ahmed and Justice Ijaz Ul Ahsan.
The Additional Attorney General told the court that the hearings could not be attended by Planning Minister Asad Umar and Privatisation Minister Mohammadmian Soomro as they were out of town while Hammad Azhar, Minister of Factories and Development, was in isolation because of Covid-19.
After speaking to the federal ministers, the chief justice said the court would decide the issue.
Umar, Soomro summoned on Feb 9
On Feb 9, the tribunal asked Mr. Umar and Mr. Soomro to appear before it and adjourned the court.
The CJP noted during the course of the trial that the management of the PSM was responsible for the closing of the mills. Without the complicity of its leaders, no such institution could be ruined, he added. Before the staff was forced to resign, the officers should first be sacked, he remarked.
The CJP questioned if action against the PSM administration had been taken by the government. A strain on the national exchequer was both the bureaucracy and the officers.
He asked whether the leadership staff of the PSM wanted to keep their positions. A closed mill did not require a chief executive or managing director, he said.
Shahid Bajwa, PSM’s lawyer, said the whole administration had been removed.
The chief justice wondered if, with the change in government, the mill would be working. He wondered what 439 officers were doing when the PSM was closed.
But for Pakistan, he said, steel mills all over the world were running on profit.
Still, he said, the number of PSM workers, including those employed at his hospital and schools, was greater than its criteria.
Just 439 out of 1,800 workers served at the PSM, the lawyer claimed. The regular spending on mills was also reduced from Rs20 million to Rs10 m.
The administration had sacked 49 percent of the workers so far and needed the approval of the labour court to expel the remaining, he said.
The chief justice said that the supreme court will provide direct authorization for the reason, but the officers should be removed first. He found that all the country’s institutions operated under identical circumstances. Each official was concerned with their own interests and not with the country.
The lawyer for the PSM Workforce Union said that the employees were prepared to operate.
The chief justice noticed that some PSM workers had not served from induction to retirement for a single day.
He wondered who will repay the Rs212 billion debt to the mills.
Justice Ijaz said the mill, which was once the backbone of the economy of the region, was closed, but promotions were demanded by the workers.
The PSM lawyer said the workers had held a sit-in outside the chief executive officer’s home (CEO). They had dug his grave outside of his house as well.