Home Business Bhutto Zardari Vows to Thwart Sharif’s Privatization Drive

Bhutto Zardari Vows to Thwart Sharif’s Privatization Drive

by AFP
Rizwan Tabassum—AFP

Rizwan Tabassum—AFP

PPP leader denounces ‘Mansha-ization’ of Pakistan.

Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, patron-in-chief of the Pakistan Peoples Party, has vowed to resist the planned privatization by Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s government of state-owned companies.

“We are against privatization 100 percent,” said Bhutto Zardari at a celebration in Karachi on Saturday to mark the 47th anniversary of the party his grandfather founded, “we will not let it happen.” Alluding to allegations and fears of crony capitalism, he added: “This is not privatization, this is personalization.”

Bhutto Zardari, 25, is the son of Benazir Bhutto, the former prime minister assassinated in December 2007, and former president Asif Ali Zardari. His party lost the May elections to Sharif’s Pakistan Muslim League (Nawaz), but retained power in its home province, Sindh.

Bhutto Zardari has accused Sharif of seeking personal gain from the planned selloff of some 60-plus state-run enterprises, including Pakistan International Airlines and Pakistan Steel Mills. While both PIA and the steel mills are loss makers, other companies on the block, like the Oil and Gas Development Company, are hugely profitable—making their planned sale questionable.

Pakistan’s privatization program was halted after the Supreme Court led by Chief Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry vetoed the sale of Pakistan Steel Mills in 2006. Sharif’s government intends to proceed with selling off state companies after Chaudhry retires on Dec. 11. Alert to accusations of nepotism, the Sharif government recently relabeled its privatization program a “public-private partnership.”

On Monday, Bhutto Zardari reiterated his concerns in a series of tweets. “I was hating on Mansha-ization and personalization, not privatization,” he posted, referring to Lahore-based businessman Mian Mansha, who bought state assets during Sharif’s previous governments and turned them around. Bhutto Zardari said if labor is given stakes in these companies, as was done during his father’s presidency, “they would run it much better than Mansha or [Nawaz Sharif].”

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