Govt ally opposes PIA sell-off

Minister says privatisation of airline will be transparent

Our Correspondent May 23, 2024
View of a Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) passenger plane, taken through a glass panel, at Islamabad International Airport, Pakistan October 3, 2023. PHOTO: REUTERS/FILE


The senators of the PPP, a leading party in the ruling alliance, on Wednesday opposed the privatisation of the Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) during a session of the upper house of parliament -- in a development that might threaten the fragile government set-up in the Centre.

PPP senators Quratulain Marri, Zamir Hussain Ghumro, Muhammad Aslam Abro, Poonjo Bheel, and Syed Kazim Ali Shah moved a calling attention notice over the PIA’s privatisation.

Speaking on the notice, Senator Quratulain said the PIA was the country’s national carrier and should be run under the public-private partnership mode.

She added that the salaries of the PIA employees had not been increased for years and the process of its privatisation was not transparent.

In response, Privatisation Minister Abdul Aleem Khan said the PIA’s accumulated loss had reached Rs830 billion.
He continued that it had to be seen who was responsible for unnecessary recruitments in the PIA.

“This loss was not accumulated during the tenure of a single government. It took a long period of time to reach here.”
The minister noted that it was not the job of a government to run businesses but its primary responsibility was making policies.

He highlighted that the PIA had only 18 planes, while there were 10,000 employees working in the airline.

Pointing out that eight companies were participating in the privatisation of PIA, he said the final bidding process would be broadcast live on TV and nothing would be hidden from the people and their representatives.

Read PIA board approves privatisation plan amid IMF talks

“I assure you that the privatisation of the PIA is taking place in a completely transparent manner.”
Aleem said 51% shares of the PIA were being given to private ownership.

“If more aircraft are added to the PIA’s fleet after its privatisation, the number of employees won’t be that high.”
The minister said the PIA had the best staff and pilots. However, he added that no government could afford to keep releasing Rs100 billion for the airline every year.

Islamabad has for years been pumping billions of dollars into cash-bleeding state-owned enterprises to keep them afloat, including the PIA which is in its final phase of being sold off.

Pakistan has listed 25 entities and assets on its privatisation list, including the PIA.

Privatisation of loss-making SOEs has long been on the International Monetary Fund’s (IMF) list of recommendations for Pakistan, which is struggling with a high fiscal shortfall and a huge external financing gap.

Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif recently announced that Pakistan would privatise all SOEs, with the exception of strategic entities -- broadening its initial plans to sell only loss-making ones.


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