Senators assail govt over Steel Mills layoffs, privatisation

Mushahidullah asks Asad Umar to resign: Shehbaz Sharif mocks ‘fake slogan of change’

By: News Desk      Published: 03:33 PM, 5 Jun, 2020
Senators assail govt over Steel Mills layoffs, privatisation

The planned privatisation of Pakistan Steel Mills (PSM) was the main subject of discussion in the Senate session on Friday, as PML-N’s Senator Mushahidullah Khan demanded the resignation of Federal Minister Asad Umar over his previous statements.

The government had promised to make the PSM operational, he said, adding “Asad Umar should resign now,” reported 24NewsHD TV channel.

“Imran Khan said that [they] would show [the people] by making the (Steel) Mills run. Why [he] is not making it operational,” said Mushahidullah as the PTI government is facing severe criticism over the move.

Similarly, Leader of Opposition in Senate Raja Zafar-ul-Haq – a senior PML-N leader – called for sending the matter to the relevant standing committee, while JI chief Siraj-ul-Haq too mocked the government by urging to make the PSM operational.

Federal Minister for Industries and Production Hammad Azhar, however, said the PSM had started suffering losses in 2008-09 and was closed since 2015. He added that the entity currently had a debt of Rs211 billion with the losses to the tune of Rs176 billion.

The minister said the PSM employees would receive an amount of Rs2.3 million each and added that the government wanted to run the organisation on the basis of public-private partnership.

Meanwhile, PML-N President Shehbaz Sharif in a tweet blasted the government over the retrenchment at a time when the people are facing the economic problems created by the coronavirus.

The PTI had opposed the privatisation of state-owned enterprises by the PML-N and promised to reform them, including Pakistan Steel Mills, he recalled.

“Now it has decided to fire thousands of its employees in the middle of a pandemic. Another example of how clueless and heartless this Govt is and how fake the slogan of ‘change’ was!” Shehbaz remarked, as he his tweet also contained a speech of Asad Umar on the issue.

On the other hand, the PSM employees continued their protest over the ECC’s decision to send over 9,000 workers on forced retirement despite the police action.

As soon as they staged a sit-in at the main entrance, the police arrested the office holders of Insaf Labour Union, but the workers did not leave the place and chanted slogans against Prime Minister Imran Khan and Asad Umar.

Also on Friday, the Supreme Court fixed the PSM issue for hearing, as a three-member bench headed by Chief Justice Gulzar Ahmed would hear the matter on June 9.

In this connection, the registrar’s office issued notices to all the parties nominated by the PSM employees have challenged their removal and non-payment of salaries.

Tax collection fell by 30pc: Hammad

INP adds: Minister for Industries and Production Hammad Azhar said the country’s tax revenue witnessed a 30 percent decline due to the adverse impact of the coronavirus pandemic.

Speaking during Senate session, he said the number of tax filers rose by 40 percent to 2.6 million from 1.6 million over the previous year. “Our tax collection also witnessed 27 percent growth before the emergence of Covid-19 but saw a 30 percent decline in the post-pandemic period,” he pointed out.

He expressed the confidence that the situation will improve as business activities have resumed. He said well-off people who are still out of the tax net will be made to pay their due taxes.

Hammad said the tax collection from salaries of government employees in the fiscal year 2018-19 raked in Rs5.97 billion whereas Rs70.47 billion worth of tax was collected from employees of all provincial governments and other departments.

He said efforts are afoot to further broaden the country’s tax base as the database is being used to improve the tax collection with the government considering to phase out import-based duties and focus on domestic taxation.

He said the previous governments failed to revive or privatise Pakistan Steel Mills. “Today, the debt of Pakistan Steel Mills stands at Rs230 billion,” he revealed. He said the government has now decided to lease out the core steel mills operations to revive the Steel Mills.