Former Finance Minister Ishaq Dar Accused of Halting Privatisation of SOEs

Former Privatisation Minister Muhammad Zubair has accused former Finance Minister Ishaq Dar of causing a significant financial loss by halting the privatisation of loss-making public sector enterprises (SOEs) during the PML-N’s 2013-2018 tenure.

Zubair alleged that the privatisation of Pakistan International Airlines (PIA), Pakistan Steel Mills, and Faisalabad Electric Supply Company (Fesco) was in the final stages when Dar intervened, resulting in a loss of billions of rupees. He expressed his disagreement with several of Dar’s decisions regarding privatisation.

Steel Mills Privatisation Controversy

In the case of Pakistan Steel Mills, Zubair stated that during the final session of the cabinet committee on privatisation, Dar proposed that the Steel Mills should not be privatised but instead handed over to the Sindh government. This proposal was reportedly influenced by then opposition leader Khurshid Shah of the Pakistan Peoples Party.

Zubair disagreed with this approach, arguing that commercial entities should be managed by those capable of running them, and it was not the government’s role to do so. He added that the government had already incurred massive losses by attempting to run these entities.

Despite the cabinet committee’s decision to hand over the Steel Mills to the Sindh government, the efforts turned out to be futile. The Sindh government, led by then Chief Minister Murad Ali Shah, agreed to take control of the Steel Mills on the condition that its liabilities would be retained by the federal government. However, the decision to give the Steel Mills to the Sindh government was later cancelled.

PIA Privatisation Delayed

Zubair revealed that the privatisation of PIA had been a topic of discussion in several meetings of a parliamentary committee, which comprised representatives from all political factions.

Despite the government’s inclination towards privatising PIA, Dar chose to delay the process, attributing this decision to the opposition parties’ stance that the timing was not appropriate for privatisation. When queried if he was suggesting that Dar was accountable for the non-privatisation of the Steel Mills, PIA, and Fesco, Zubair confirmed, declaring, "It is documented".

Furthermore, this decision by Dar has had significant implications on the operations and financial health of these entities. The future course of action regarding their privatisation remains uncertain and is a subject of intense debate among the stakeholders.

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