I am the daughter of a man who served in PIA for 37 years

Those supporting PIA’s privatisation, remember Nawaz Sharif is only doing it to sell to his grand-daughter’s...

Saman Jafarey February 09, 2016
In wake of PIA’s possible privatisation, a lot of people have taken to social media to give their two cents worth. Fair enough, it is a debate of public interest. However, most of the statuses I have read are targeted towards PIA’s employees – not the organisation as a whole, but the employees alone.

Facebook statuses and subsequent comments have said things like,
“Good for nothing (employees)”,

“Useless employees”,

“They are being overpaid”, and

“Now who would want to lose a job which pays even when you are sleeping.”

I am the daughter of a man who served for 37 years in PIA.

All of my life, my father worked for the national airline and retired in 2010. Six years on, he is still passionate about the organisation. Many evenings, he is on the phone conversing with his former colleagues and friends about the inevitable doom of the airline and what could and should be done to rectify it.

My father does not fit any of the aforementioned generalised labels people have been very kind to pass. He worked hard for a living and he was loyal to the organisation. It is from my father that I learnt to work honestly and with complete dedication to any job I take. My father is an earnest man and he instilled the same values in my sisters and me. I am nowhere close to where I want to be in my career but my biggest strength is that I have never disappointed an employer.

So before you judge all employees by the same scale, let me ask you a question: How many of you are aware that every time the government changes, be it PML-N or PPP, the top management of PIA does too?

This is done in order to reflect the governing party. With a Punjabi government in power, PIA sees an influx of Punjabis all around and it’s the same with Sindhis when PPP wins an election.

I am not being overly righteous here, but surely, you should be made a general manager or a director based on your qualifications, achievements and merits rather than merely being associated to the prime minister, right?

Or maybe that’s just me.

These executives have come and gone with the country’s General Elections. I recall my father commenting on how people of various high positions don’t have the ability to construct a grammatically correct sentence in English, let alone understand the aviation industry. So yes, some employees are useless but they didn’t get the job based on merits. We all know how they got the job. If you want to blame somebody, question the government.

How many of you are aware of the lesser known or rather, more popularly forgotten fact that it was indeed PIA that helped to establish Emirates, Singapore Airlines, Somali Airlines, Philippine Airlines, Air Malta and Yemini. Today, Emirates is one of the leading airlines in the world. Yes, it was PIA’s “useless employees” who trained Emirates employees back in the day.

To reiterate, it is the government that has driven PIA to failure by placing incompetent men in high positions of significant importance and decision-making. Had they allowed for men like my father, and other honest men with experience in the organisation, to continue climbing the corporate ladder, PIA would still be one of the leading airlines today.

PIA has employed various people who are loyal to it. These loyalists have experienced PIA’s glory days and want to see them return. These employees include my father, his friends and countless others. For all those who are supporting PIA’s privatisation, remember Nawaz Sharif is doing it so he can sell it to his grand-daughter’s in-laws. It’s going to become one of their family’s businesses. You’re not going to benefit from it. It is a personal gain and a national loss.

When I asked my father his views on the possible privatisation, he commented saying,
“While we talk of privatisation, it is based on the presumption that those who will take over as the new management will honour merit, implement proper management policies, thereby avoiding cronyism and nepotism. The simple and honest fact is that these are biological traits which the public sector executives lack.

If our political leaders decide they will not use public sector resources to award or purchase loyalties of political workers and stop meddling in the running of PIA, it could benefit the airline. With liquidative contracts and just employment, PIA can perform smoothly after privatisation as well. PIA did prove to be lucrative till the 80s, even though it was a public sector organisation.

While discussing public sector functionality against privatisation, the only important factor is honesty and transparency. In the case of PIA, we have to make sure our financial advisors have expertise in the aviation industry.

PIA is an organisation in a developing country. It has done its best in order to provide jobs to the educated youth but this has been misused by politicians.”

When I asked my father about the 780 to one employee ratio circulating on social media, he said he was not absolutely certain about it. Whatever the ratio may be, I am sure it won’t be the ideal proportion. One must bear in mind, however, that many of the comparisons we are making are with airlines in developed countries that have a higher literacy rate as compared to Pakistan. These international airlines are not corrupted by political appointees disregarding merit.

Most business operations in Pakistan are frequently disrupted by power breakdowns, political strikes and so on. PIA has employed drivers and purchased vehicles to ensure their pilots and other crew members arrive on time and safely for their flight schedules. Is that not responsibility?

Oh, and the tax payer’s money – did you know that PIA has its own medical establishment? They have hospitals and clinics and all their employees (from peons to directors) get free medical and dental treatment along with their families. With PIA, you don’t have to be a manager to get your family treated for an illness, which I think is commendable given the inflation in Pakistan; even a clerk can afford decent medical treatment for his family.

To conclude, as I have digressed quite a bit, I am proud of my PIA background. I am proud that my father served the national airline. I am proud of my father and his friends. I am proud that there are innumerable employees who go to work relentlessly in order to make a difference in an airline which everyone is quick to judge and criticise. For if it was not for men like my father, this airline would have closed many years ago.

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Saman Jafarey The author is a law graduate. She did her LL.B (Hons) from the University of London and LL.M in Commercial Law from the University of Hertfordshire.
The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necassarily reflect the views and policies of the Express Tribune.

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najam | 4 years ago | Reply | Recommend I am amazed that opponents of her arguments are so polite to her. Had it been a male writer, there would have been curses, fun stuff, name calling, satire, and what not. I am all for equality of men and women especially when they have to stand in queue and hence i do not let them jump their turn. Well, let me cut to the chase. she needs to know that she enjoyed privileged life at the expense of tax payers. Yet she has the audacity to oppose the privatization of a cash blackhole just because she is its beneficiary. When Musharraf resigned from presidential position, staff of president house wept bitterly. Similar scenes are scene every time chair changes in prime minister house no matter how corrupt the person was. Oh wait, did you know what did Hitler's aides and beneficiaries think/do? I know your father served for such a long time, and I am sure he was an honest officer, but was he useful/productive? Was he able to change anything or at least tried? or did he just went about his job and thats it? Did he refuse perks and privileges at least after retirement, given that the prized national asset is wasting public money in droves?
SAJAD | 4 years ago | Reply | Recommend Full of generic statements.
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