Legislators, stakeholders decide to revive defunct Pakistan Steel Mills

A security guard sits in front of a wall with signs and slogans at the operation building at the Pakistan Steel Mills (PSM) on the outskirts of Karachi Feb 8, 2016.—Reuters
Updated 21 October 2019

Legislators, stakeholders decide to revive defunct Pakistan Steel Mills

  • Senate body decides to clear Rs14-15 billion of workers’ dues in 18 months, Senator Aurangzeb Khan tells Arab News
  • The mill’s closure has cost the country Rs50 billion during the last 14 months: Stakeholders

KARACHI: Pakistan’s legislators and stakeholders on Monday decided to revive the country’s largest lossmaking public sector megacorporation, the Pakistan Steel Mills, and clear about Rs15 billion belonging to its workers, a senator and stakeholders confirmed to Arab News on Monday.

A meeting of Senate’s Standing Committee on Industries and Production was held to review the revival plan of the Pakistan Steel Mills which has remained non-functional since June 2015 after witnessing a decline in its production since 2008.

“The steel mill will be revived and for that, we have scheduled an advisory meeting in the next 15 days that will determine our future course of action. Today’s meeting was attended by professionals and they have informed us that the mill is 100 percent in working condition. They also maintained that some vested interest groups do not want to run the steel mills,” said Senator Aurangzeb Khan, member of the standing committee.

“When and how to restart the steel mills will be decided in the next meeting,” he assured.

The Pakistan Steel Mills was constructed in 1973 under an agreement signed between the country’s administration and the erstwhile Union of Soviet Socialist Republic (USSR) in 1971. The Soviets also agreed to provide technical and financial assistance for the construction work.

The senator said that the accumulated dues of workers and stakeholders had increased to around Rs15 billion since the closure of the mill.

“The steel mill is closed and the workers’ dues have accumulated to Rs14-15 billion. Today we have decided that the dues will be paid in 18-month installments of Rs5 billion which will be released in six months each,” Khan said.

Pakistan is also seeking Chinese and Russian help to revive the steel mills, though the stakeholders informed the senate body they could revive it on their own with local expertise.

“We don’t need any Chinese or Russian experts; we can run the mill with local expertise. Machinery and specialists, if needed, will be allowed to hire,” Mumrez Khan, the convener of the PSM Stakeholders’ Group, comprising employees, pensioners, suppliers, dealers, and contractors, told Arab News.

The incumbent government of Prime Minister Imran Khan is looking at various options to revive the steel mills that include induction of professional management, but no final decision has so far been made in this connection.

“The daily losses are estimated to be around Rs120 million due to the closure of plants,” Mumrez Khan claimed, adding that during the last 14 months of the current administration the closure of the mill has cost the country Rs50 billion.

The stakeholders made the revival of the mill contingent on the reconstitution of the board of directors by inducting relevant experts and professional management.

They also insisted on initiating the accountability process against people responsible for its closure, asking the government to refer their cases to the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) and instruct the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) to recover the mill’s dues.

“The steel import tariff must be rationalized to provide level playing field to all the competitors in the country,” Khan added, claiming that “the revival of the steel mills will add Rs100 billion revenue.”

“I have informed the legislators that the accumulated losses of the steel mills have jumped to about $11 billion due to the closure of plants and imports of steel products,” he said.

Pakistan is also mulling to privatize this lossmaking public entity but no decision has so far been taken. However, it was decided that the defunct entity would be revived before taking any final decision regarding its privatization.

Spread over an area of 18,600 acres with 10,390 acres for the main plant, the Pakistan Steel Mills is located 40 kilometers from Karachi in the Port Qasim vicinity. The PSM had a production capacity of 1.1 million tons of steel which was expandable to 3 million tons per annum. The main PSM products included coke, pig iron, billets, cold-rolled sheets, hot-rolled sheets, and galvanized sheets.


Pakistan accuses India of using cyberspace as weapon, says cyber policy coming soon 

Updated 16 November 2019

Pakistan accuses India of using cyberspace as weapon, says cyber policy coming soon 

  • European disinformation watchdog uncovered 265 Indian websites spreading anti-Pakistan content
  • Pakistan is one of the world’s least cyber-safe countries

ISLAMABAD: Fawad Chaudhry, Pakistan’s Minister for Science and Technology, said on Saturday that India has launched a cyber war against Pakistan, days after a Europe-based watchdog cracked open a nexus of hundreds of dormant companies and 'fake media outlets' saying that it is promoting India’s diplomatic interests around the world, and kickstarting a conversation about cyber security in Pakistan.
EU DisinfoLab, a nonprofit organization that researches and tackles disinformation campaigns, said on Wednesday that it has uncovered 265 fake media outlets spread across 65 countries managed by an Indian network, with content “designed to influence the European Union and the United Nations by repeatedly criticizing Pakistan,” the organization said in a report.
“It’s a cyber war and they [Indians] are using cyberspace as a weapon,” Chaudhry told Arab News.
“Cyber security has become a major global issue,” he continued, and added Pakistan’s cyber security policy would be announced soon.
Investigating the network, the Lab traced digital prints linked to a group of Indian companies, NGOs, and think tanks, from a little-known company called the Srivastava Group.
Dubious news portals all based at the same New Delhi address and mentioned in the watchdog’s investigation included Times of Los Angeles, Times of Portugal, New Delhi Times, New York Journal American, Times of North Korea and The International Institute for Non-Aligned Studies (IINS), which is the same organization that reportedly invited 27 members of the European Parliament to meet Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and visit Kashmir, amid international attention on curbs on free speech and allegations of human rights violations in Kashmir.
On Aug. 5, New Delhi flooded Kashmir valley with troops, enforced a curfew and communications blackout, and scrapped the special legal status of the disputed region which both India and Pakistan own in part but claim in full. Since then, New Delhi has denied its part in any human rights abuses on different media outlets- many of which have turned out to be zombie websites.
Foreign Affairs expert Qamar Cheema said India wanted Pakistan to become globally isolated.
“It is India’s declared position to isolate Pakistan diplomatically and economically,” Cheema told Arab News.
“Both countries are vying to influence the domestic and international audience about their strategic and tactical narratives, but India has developed cobwebs in the virtual world. This is because of India’s IT achievements and expanding global reach,” he said.
“Pakistan is using traditional tools of diplomacy. India is using traditional tools, its web armies and data mining techniques to influence public opinions to which Pakistan may not be able to respond, lacking resources and state of the art IT infrastructure,” he continued.
The fake news websites republished contents from Russia Today and Voice of America, but the report said they also found a large number of articles related to minorities in Pakistan.
In Geneva, the investigating group found that timesofgeneva.com – an online ‘newspaper’ self-professed to be ‘approaching 35 years in business’ – published and produced videos covering events and demonstrations that criticized Pakistan’s role in the Kashmir conflict.
“Media and cyber space are increasingly being used as weapons to influence events and to project national interests. India has been doing it for many years, whether it is hacking our command and control centers... or planting stories about Pakistan,” Ambassador Vice Admiral (R) Khan Hasham Bin Saddique, President of Islamabad Policy Research Institute, told Arab News.
“India’s prowess in the IT field has undermined our national security interests,” he said. “It is time that Pakistan invests in human resource and technological competence because media and cyberspace are the components of 21st century warfare.”
In April, Dr Khalid Maqbool Siddiqui, Minister for Information Technology and Telecommunications, had announced that a comprehensive cyber security policy would be introduced soon.
Domestically however, the country has placed great importance on countering and policing the spread of content and information through special cyber laws-- but these were specific to cyber-crime not cyber-security, experts say.
“We have been creating cyber crime laws but not a cyber security policy,” Ammar Jafri, former head of the Federal Investigation Agency’s National Response Center for Cyber Crime wing, told Arab News.
Jafri was instrumental in drafting Pakistan’s first cyber security policy in 2012 which is still pending approval.
“We are one of the few countries in the world without a national computer emergency response team, cyber security policy and cyber security strategy,” he said.
“There are plenty of challenges that Pakistan faces in cyberspace that need government initiatives to confront. We do not need to reinvent the wheel. The cyber security bill can be reactivated with certain amendments.”
“This is the cyber era and we need to spend on cyber weapons to counter enemies of the state on the internet,” he continued.
Pakistan is one of the least cyber-safe countries in the world according to a 2019 Comparitech study sourced from Kaspersky Lab, International Telecommunication Union, and Center for Strategic and International Studies.