PIA sell-off bill deferred for three weeks

Government defers bill till April 11, forms 10-member panel to redraft the bill and suggest changes in it


Riazul Haq March 23, 2016
PHOTO: REUTERS

ISLAMABAD:


Former president Gen (retd) Pervez Musharraf’s departure has forced the government to abort its solo flight on privatising the national flag carrier for now.


On Tuesday, the government deferred tabling the controversial PIA sell-off bill in the joint parliament session till April 11 while forming a 10-member panel to convince the opposition on its proposal. The bill was on the agenda of the joint session’s second day with the first day marred with the government and the opposition taking jibes at each other over Musharraf’s exit.

Senate rejects PIA sell-off bill

But the debate over an alleged deal with the former dictator overshadowed the business once again.

After two-hour-long, closed-door discussions with the opposition parties, the government accepted deferring the bill for three weeks during which the ten-member body will redraft the bill and also suggest changes in it.

Finance Minister Ishaq Dar’s briefing prior to the joint session on Tuesday did not suffice in persuading the opposition to get the bill through with consensus.

The proceedings lasted hardly 15 minutes during which Dar read out the ‘agreed upon’ document that was adopted by the session. National Assembly Speaker Sardar Ayaz Sadiq also announced the outcome of the ‘out of session’ understandings.

He said the committee comprising opposition and treasury benches members would finalise the recommendations and changes to the bills by April 7. The session will resume on April 11.

Government tables PIA sell-off bill in Senate

Senators Mushahidullah Khan, Mir Hasil Bizenjo, Saeed Ghani and MNAs Khurram Dastagir, Naveed Qamar, Asad Umar, Farooq Sattar, Fazlur Rehman, Shahid Khaqan Abbasi and Zahid Hamid were announced as the committee members.

The Musharraf debate

An official in NA secretariat told The Express Tribune the opposition parties were successful in deferring the joint session’s agenda by grilling the government for not taking parliament into confidence over Musharraf’s exit.

The opposition, he added, was now in a position to try to reap maximum gains from the government over the PIA sell-off bill.

The proposal to convert the PIA Corporation into a limited company has been the bone of contention between the treasury and opposition benches since February. The bill has twice been rejected by the opposition-controlled Senate. The NA had passed the bill amid protests and boycotts by opposition members.

Morning huddles

Earlier, representatives of opposition parties held a meeting to chalk out a strategy on PIA and agreed on opposing the bill by all means.

Opposition Leader in NA Khursheed Shah, who chaired the meeting, said the bill would be opposed even outside the parliament if an attempt was made to bulldoze it through.

A few members suggested the issue be forwarded to the Council of Common Interests (CCI) for a decision “once and for all.”

Govt to split flag carrier into ‘good and bad PIA’

All’s still not well

Pakistan Peoples Party Senator Saeed Ghani told The Express Tribune the opposition believed the national airline could be improved without the passage of the bill.

Ghani, who is also a member of the newly formed 10-member committee, warned the government of “tough resistance” if the bill was passed forcibly through parliament. The resistance options include taking to the streets, staging protests and strikes as well, he added.

Published in The Express Tribune, March 23rd, 2016.

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