The government and opposition have finally broken the months-long deadlock over the controversial bill for privatising the national flag carrier. Both sides have agreed to introduce the proposal in the joint session with guarantees to protect employees’ rights and keeping the airline’s management with the government.
The decision was reached after three hours of discussions during the meeting of the Special Parliamentary Committee on Pakistan International Airlines held at the Parliament House on Wednesday.
There was no headway for two hours until Finance Minister Ishaq Dar came in to iron out the differences between Law Minister Zahid Hamid, who heads the PIA panel, and the opposition’s representatives in the committee.
The first two hours saw heated arguments between Hamid and PPP Senator Saeed Ghani, who curtly commented the opposition’s intentions should not be questioned about the bill.
The bill got the green signal in last meeting on April 29 when Dar assured the opposition the PIA’s management would remain with the government.
Consensus was also achieved on the retention of employees, their salaries, allowances and benefits, including pensions after the conversion of PIA from a corporation into a limited company.
Both sides have agreed that 51 per cent management of the new subsidiary (to be established) will remain with the government. The headquarters of the new airline will be based in Karachi and all public procurement rules will be followed for future constructions.
“The majority representation on PIA Board of Directors will be from the government,” noted PTI’s Asad Umar.
The treasury and opposition benches have been sparring over the PIA bill since February. The bill has twice been rejected by the opposition-controlled Senate while the National Assembly passed it amid the opposition’s protests.
The bill was later referred to a joint sitting of parliament which deferred the bill by referring it to a parliamentary body. The 10-member parliamentary panel will submit its recommendations by April 7 (today). The joint session has been convened on April 11.
The government was unwilling to accept the demand of Senator Ghani that it should withdraw all show-cause notices and termination letters issued to the PIA employees for participating in protests earlier this year.
Finance Minster Dar contended he was not the aviation minister but the matter could be resolved before the joint sitting of parliament.
PPP’s Naveed Qamar was cautious. “The gains we have made here today could be zero before tabling the bill, if the government does not pay heed to this demand,” he said.
PTI’s Umar said it was not a big deal for the government to quash such cases against the PIA employees.
The committee has also been tasked with suggesting changes to other bills on the agenda of the joint sitting. There were four more bills on the agenda of this committee, of which the Emigration (Amendment) Bill, 2014 and the Civil Servants (Amendment) Bill, 2014 were approved in previous meetings.
The committee deferred two pro-women bills after members of Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam-Fazl made some objections. Talks are still underway between the religious party and the government over the bills related to preventing honour killings of women and to make DNA tests a part of evidence in rape cases.
Published in The Express Tribune, April 7th, 2016.
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