KARACHI: A former governor of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa, Sardar Mehtab Ahmed Khan Abbasi, has been appointed adviser to the prime minister on aviation with the key objective of turning around fortunes of the loss-making Pakistan International Airlines (PIA).
“Originally, the idea was to appoint him as the PIA chairman. The government has now given him a bigger position (of aviation adviser),” a PML-N senator said.
A notification issued by the Cabinet Division said the president of Pakistan, on the advice of prime minister, has appointed Sardar Mehtab Ahmed Khan Abbasi as adviser to the prime minister with the status of federal minister with immediate effect.
According to a source, he has been appointed adviser on aviation.
There was speculation that Abbasi might be given the additional charge of PIA chairman as well. However, the chances of this are dim.
Abbasi would head PIA in the capacity of adviser and not as a full-time chairman, it was learnt.
Secondly, the PIA chairman must be a member of the board of directors, which he is not, as the board has powers to elect the chairman only and no one else.
A close aide of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif said Abbasi had expressed the desire to head PIA with the objective of fixing its financial problems.
“He expressed the interest when the (PML-N) government removed him as Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa governor and appointed Zafar Iqbal Jaghra (in March 2016),” he said.
A PIA official added that Abbasi had been attending the airline’s office for over two months now, but not on a regular basis.
Federal Aviation Division Secretary Irfan Elahi has been serving as acting PIA chairman since December 2016.
Earlier, Azam Saigol resigned from the chairman’s post on December 12, 2016 days after a plane with 47 people on board crashed in Abbottabad minutes after take-off.
Cash-strapped PIA reported in October 2016 a 2.3% increase in its accumulated losses to Rs267.56 billion in the quarter ended March 31, 2016.
Published in The Express Tribune, February 15th, 2017.