Privatization is No Answer


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Under the IMF dictation, the Federal Government is bent upon to sell everything in Pakistan to get more and more loans. The government has given a fresh commitment to the IMF promising it will sell PIA and Pakistan Steel Mills by March next. But it is facing resistance from the employees. Law enforcing agencies, on Tuesday, clashed with the peaceful rally of PIA employees marching against proposed privatization of the airline killing three protestors leaving eight injured, and four disappeared. According to unarmed protestors, law enforcing agencies opened fire when they were marching near the airport in the Southern economic hub of Karachi.

The current political scenario in the country is dominated by fanciful speculations, poorest governance, mega financial scandals, State aggression, uncertainties, rumors of secret deals with atomic role back, State assets grabbing. The bright spot in the scenario is that PIA employees are strongly protesting against privatization.

The privatization policy has already woefully failed in the country and has brought a disaster to its economy.  It is an absolutely unsuitable approach. Pakistan is a rich country which has been made poor by our extremely greedy ruling elites. Privatization is a drama being staged to get maximum loans from IMF on the one hand and to sharing the nation’s wealth among a few near and dear elites on the other. Most of our ruling elites are impervious to history and driven by a baseless ideology which suits them. By power and influence, they foist their ideology on rest of the poor society.

History of failure associated with the policy of privatization in Pakistan is very much there. It added no value to the quality of life of Pakistanis; rather it took away the jobs of hundreds of thousands of people snatching their source of bread and butter from them. It worsened the poverty, hunger, uneven distribution of wealth and unemployment situation of the country. As usual Contrary to the previous history, Prime Minister has once again pledged that no employee of the PIA will be sacked, and their perks and privileges will remain intact. He also very ridiculously claimed that the government was not going to privatize the PIA.

The privatization commission has shortlisted 31 institutions to ‘sell’ (in fact to be purchased by rulers themselves through front-men for pennies). After getting back the Ittefaq Foundry during 1978 with the blessings of late Gen. Zia-ul-Haq and then entering into politics, Business Empire of Nawaz Sharif and his family continually went on expanding with every passing day. After becoming Prime Minister during 1990, he initiated privatization process in the country to enrich his family and friends rapidly.

 Instead of disposing of really loss-making institutions, he started with the entities that were already running good generation profits very efficiently. The first fortune making entity on his hit list was highly profitable Muslim Commercial Bank with lowest bad loans ratio, having valuable real estate properties in almost all the big cities in the country. MCB was forcibly handed over to Mian Mansha as a result of an underhand deal instead of the highest bidder Abdul Qadir Tawakkal, which is controversial and under investigation even today.  After that, he carried on showering the public companies on his family members, relatives, cronies and friends and simultaneously continued expanding his business world over.

It is merely an excuse that the State cannot run business, and the private owners would do better. The truth is that relying on what is in view, the State can do and has been doing successful business the world over. It has already proven to be quite untrue in Pakistan where almost all of the privatized companies have failed to show any improvement. In fact, success depends on the management skills, ability, and sincerity of those at the helm of affairs. Privatization is not the answer to the current crisis of public entities but in changing the management and management style, deploying experienced CEOs and board members on merit, ending unnecessary political interference, and accountability.

The ruler class has itself destroyed the public corporations deliberately to justify later their transfer to ‘private sector’ without or nominal price. The rulers dole out lucrative jobs to cronies, oblige members of Parliament and overburden the State-owned corporations. The political cronies and relatives, not capable of running these entities are appointed to head these institutions and, in turn, misuse their powers making the state institutions into inefficient, loss-making sick units. There is no doubt that the ruling elites have pushed the State enterprises into white elephants. But the vital question is that why don’t their own businesses face any losses. The politicians of Pakistan are well experienced at politicizing their ruthless corruption. However, it has been observed that they can’t enjoy their looted wealth, and most of them meet a disgraceful end.

Prime Minister is using public resources as emperors causing a hefty fiscal deficit. He is misusing his authority causing massive losses to the national exchequer. P.M. Secretariat has today turned into a hub of corruption and corrupt practices.  Under the horrible tenure of PML-N the poor people of Pakistan are constantly facing extra-judicial killings like Model Town incident, Islamabad incident during PTI sit-ins, and now three innocent employees of PIA. A new trend has been seen in this brutal regime that the people falling prey to State aggression are held responsible for the incident. Almost every segment of society including young doctors, teachers, blind students, journalists, public employees, nurses, lawyers, and the even general public have faced their brutality while peacefully protesting for their genuine demands.

It is a bitter reality that poor governance, anti-worker approach, maladministration, confronting and weakening national institutions, assets grabbing and State aggression has always been the trademark of Nawaz Sharif family. Nawaz Sharif has always attacked every individual and every institution; he felt could get in the way of his power and his corruption. The privatization did by them previously has raised a lot of questions; first explain them before any further privatization. It is absolutely false that the people of Pakistan have given them a mandate for such types of self-enriching ‘reforms’ as are being done as they claim. Now he has announced that protesting employees of PIA will be ousted from their service and can be sent to jail for one year. No institution is there to make these asset grabbers accountable for the loss of institutions and kick them out of power corridors.

Such a bloody and brutal privatization as in Pakistan can’t be seen anywhere else. It is just a forcible grab of national assets. It is no more than the misuse of powers. On the one hand, the government has brought the PIA under Essential Services Act, on the other hand, it wants this ‘essential service’ to be grabbed in the name of ‘privatization’. Enough is enough; the ruling class has already sufficiently looted and raped this country. They should know the clock is ticking for corrupt rulers of Pakistan and nobody knows as to what is attached to it?

Shaukat Masood Zafar
Shaukat Masood Zafar
A well known freelance columnist writing for daily Pakistan Observer, and several other national and international websites and newspapers. Economy, Politics, and Agricultural & Rural Development are especially areas of his interest.


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