ISLAMABAD: The government is committed to finalising the process of privatisation of loss making Pakistan International Airlines’ (PIA) core business before April 15, Minister for Privatisation Daniyal Aziz has said. Addressing a press conference in Islamabad, the minister emphasised that the government plans to sell only the core business relating to management and flight operations of the national flag carrier, whereas the rest of the business would remain in the government’s custody.
The government is also planning to establish another company under which all the fixed assets of PIA would be managed, he said. Aziz claimed that during the privatisation process, all legal rights and monetary benefits of PIA employees will be “fully protected”.
The minister said according to the PIAC Conversion Act, 2016, that was adopted unanimously by the parliament, the government was bound to complete the privatisation process by April 15 this year. He said PIA has been incurring losses for decades and is a huge burden on the national kitty, therefore the agenda of divesting the national airlines had always been a top priority of every government.
The total losses incurred by the airlines by March, 2017 stood at a whopping Rs325 billion, Aziz revealed. Privatisation reinitiated At its November 2, 2017 meeting, the Privatisation Commission headed by Daniyal Aziz had decided to “reinitiate” the process of privatising PIA— a commitment made by the PML-N government with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) when it secured a $6.2bn bailout.
A mammoth organisation buried under nearly Rs300 billion of debt, PIA had been spared privatisation in 2016 after it was converted into a public limited company (PIACL) by a joint session of parliament. Both Emirates and Etihad, two of the largest Gulf carriers, had shown interest in buying PIA before the government’s clumsy handling of the privatisation effort collapsed in 2016.
PPP opposes move Meanwhile, the opposition in the National Assembly rejected the government plan to sell-off PIA’s core business, holding the ruling PML-N responsible for the national flag carrier’s sorry state of affairs. Leader of the Opposition Khursheed Shah in a statement said the government’s privatisation plan is a cause of concern for not just PIA employees but the general public as well. He alleged that the government had failed to do anything for PIA’s betterment in the last four-anda-half years and “now wants to put the burden of its failures on PIA employees by privatising the airlines”.