Government Sacks DISCO Boards Amid Massive Losses; Seaports Declared Strategic Assets


ISLAMABAD: The government has once again sacked the boards of nine power distribution companies (DISCOs) in light of their significant fiscal losses, amounting to Rs589 billion this year. This marks the second time within a month that the Cabinet Committee on State-Owned Enterprises (CCoSOEs) has taken this action, following previous decisions thwarted by political pressure.

Additionally, the government has designated Pakistan’s three major seaports, including Gwadar, as strategic assets.

The CCoSOEs appointed retired bureaucrat Himayat Ullah Khan as chairman of the boards for Peshawar, Hazara, and Tribal Areas DISCOs. The committee also decided to wind up Pakistan Tourism Development Corporation (PTDC), National Construction Limited (NCL), and Pakistan Environment Planning and Architectural Consultants Limited (Pepac), rejecting their bids for strategic asset status.

Despite a recent Rs5 billion approval for the Green Tourism Initiative of the PTDC by Finance Minister Muhammad Aurangzeb, the CCoSOEs’ move underscores a governmental shift towards either privatizing or dissolving underperforming state-owned enterprises.

The Finance Ministry stated that the CCoSOEs reviewed a Power Division summary recommending new board nominations for nine DISCOs. However, the boards of Sukkur Electric Power Company (Sepco) and Hyderabad Electric Supply Company (Hesco) were spared, despite projected losses of Rs59 billion and Rs53 billion, respectively.

The dissolved boards include those of Faisalabad, Islamabad, Gujranwala, Multan, Lahore, Hazara, Quetta, Peshawar, and Tribal Areas DISCOs. The Power Division reported no visible improvement in DISCO performance, forecasting a total loss of Rs589 billion for the current fiscal year.

New chairmen and independent directors were appointed across the affected DISCOs, with significant changes from previous recommendations. The boards were replaced due to massive financial losses, with Qesco and Pesco being the most heavily impacted, reporting losses of Rs138 billion and Rs137 billion, respectively.

The CCoSOEs also declared the Gwadar Port Authority, Karachi Port Trust, and Port Qasim Authority as strategic and essential, keeping them under government control rather than privatizing them. The Ministry of Maritime Affairs has been directed to ensure compliance with SOE governance laws and initiate necessary statutory amendments.

The committee further directed the winding up of PTDC and reconstitution of the Printing Corporation of Pakistan (PCP) board, demanding a viable business plan before making final decisions.

Story by Shahbaz Rana

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