ISLAMABAD -  Senate Standing Committee on Industries and Production on Wednesday expressed concerns over the delay in the construction of Rashakai Economic Zone.

While reviewing projects to be launched in 2019, Senator Sitara Ayaz observed that ground-breaking of the industrial zone near Islamabad was virtually impossible, since land acquisition had not been completed yet.

Rashakai economic zone is one of the nine special economic zones, to be constructed in four provinces, Gilgit-Baltistan, FATA, and Azad Jammu Kashmir.

The committee showed displeasure regarding lack of incentives and was of the view that under present conditions it was impossible that the common man benefits from it. Chairman Committee Senator Ahmed Khan directed to form a sub-Committee to review the problems faced by locals in greater details. He stressed the need for this project to reap maximum benefits for those at the bottom of the pyramid.

Discussing the initiatives taken for the revival of the Pakistan Steel Mills officials apprised the participants that mill was established in 1985 with the techno-financial assistance of ex-Soviet Union at the cost of PKR 24.7 billion.

It earned an accumulated profit of Rs. 9.54 billion in 2007-08. But, later, global recession took its toll. The Committee was informed that in the year 2015 PSM was granted a 2.5 billion bailout package that led to 42 percent capacity utilization. But, owing to low gas pressure by SSGC, production declined. The facility was put on the privatisation list since long but on the directives of the Prime Minister it has now been delisted from the privatisation list, and an operational plan is being worked out.

Chairman Committee Senator Ahmed Khan, while evaluating the revival options presented by the officials, said that if a private party is successful in restructuring and reinstating this industry why it was not opted. Senator Kulsoom Parveen was of the view that short supply of gas and high interest rate of loans that were procured to run it were two major issues which contributed towards the huge losses.

She recommended that interest applied to the loan may be waived.

Senator Aurangzeb Khan stressed the need for strong action, so that the mill could contribute to the country’s economy. He said that this was a priceless asset and must be utilized to its full potential. The Committee recommended that members visit the PSM site and review issues on ground. It was suggested that Senator Nauman Wazir Khattak and Senator Lt. Gen retired Abdul Qayyum who was especially invited so that the committee benefits from their expertise and experience.