ISLAMABAD: The government has brokered a deal through a close relative of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif to sell Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) to Abu Dhabi rulers, Senator Saleem Mandviwalla, former finance minister, claimed on Monday, terming the on-going privatisation process a facade.
In a statement issued on Monday, the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) senator claimed that the motive behind issuing a Presidential Ordinance to privatise the airline was to facilitate a deal that the government has already struck with the Sheikhs of Abu Dhabi.
Mandviwalla remained finance minister for a brief period during the last PPP tenure and currently heads the Senate Standing Committee on Finance and Revenue.
The government on Monday also increased PIA’s authorised share capital from Rs30 billion to Rs54 billion after it converted the Rs23.6 billion loan to the airline into equity.
“This deal has been brokered by Chaudhry Muneer, a relative of PM Nawaz Sharif and Shujaat Azeem, Special Assistant to Prime Minister on Aviation,” claimed Mandviwalla.
He said the Supreme Court of Pakistan has questioned the appointment of Azeem as a special assistant to the PM, ordering to remove him. He requested the apex court to take a suo motu notice of the privatisation plan and give a stay order.
The senator’s statement may give a new twist to the PIA privatisation, which could undermine the government’s efforts to sell the airline by June next year under a condition of the International Monetary Fund.
He gave the statement just 48 hours after the government promulgated an ordinance to remove the legal hindrance to PIA privatisation.
He said the ordinance is an indication that the government was feigning transparency in the privatisation process. He urged that a judicial commission should conduct an audit prior to privatisation.
Furthermore, he pressed political parties as well as workers’ unions to protest against the on-going deal, as he contends that it goes against the national interest and there was no representative of labourers present to oversee the deal.
Mandviwalla claimed that the government has already struck a deal with a Gulf airline. “In my view, the privatisation transaction has already been done and rest is just formalities,” he said while talking to The Express Tribune.
He said the government has already unofficially conveyed this to the financial advisers hired for carrying out the transaction.
Privatisation Commission Chairman Mohammad Zubair was not available for comments
Published in The Express Tribune, December 8th, 2015.