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Pakistan to lose its national airline PIA

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Islamabad: Pakistan may soon find itself without any national airline after an ordinance set the stage for the privatization of Pakistan International Airlines (PIA).

An editorial “The PIA story” in a leading newspaper said that the PIA, which once used to be the pride of the nation and was rated as one of Asia’s best airlines in its early days, will be seeing a changed view of reality.

“The promulgation of the PIA Corporation Conversion Ordinance by the president…means that the corporation is now a limited company. This means the federal government will have less control over its affairs. The stage is thus set for privatisation – the way in today’s world to make things work,” it said.

There is already conjecture that a Middle-East based buyer has been found to take over the entity.

The decision is sure to have major consequences.

“PIA, by its own admission, has been building up huge losses for years. These stood at over Rs 119 billion two years ago. In the first quarter of this year, it ran up a loss of nearly two billion.”The editorial noted that the PIA question has been hovering for years and no one managed to find a way to save it.

“…It will now be feared that subsidies presently offered to passengers from remote areas such as Skardu and Gilgit who use PIA flights to reach their almost inaccessible homes will disappear. Costs for other passengers could rise too.”

It further added: “It is true PIA is overstaffed by an estimated 5,000 employees and has a ludicrous ratio of about 500 staff per plane (the average for airlines is 150 per aircraft). It also has a worsening safety, punctuality and regularity record.”

It went on to say that in a better world, perhaps, an attempt at managing PIA better could have kept it flying in the sky wearing Pakistan’s colours.

“Right now, it has effectively been stripped of them as it goes out of the state’s hands. If things go as planned, the most important question will be that of transparency in the whole process of the privatisation. The question of transparency – to avoid unsavoury deals, commissions and bad bargains, and to protect people/consumers in whose names such decisions are always taken – has haunted many an instance of privatisation in the past.” (IANS)

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American Friends of Balochistan welcomes Trump’s Tough stand on Pak

The American Friends of Balochistan (AFB) issued a statement Monday welcoming Donald Trump's stand on US-Pakistan relations, calling it a vindication of its own stand.

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Donald Trump is famous for his rude comments towards brown people. wikimedia commons
Donald Trump is famous for his rude comments towards brown people. wikimedia commons

Washington, D.C.– The American Friends of Balochistan (AFB) Executive Committee issued a statement Monday welcoming the President’s stand on US-Pakistan relations, calling it a vindication of its own stand.

The AFB said President Donald J. Trump has called out Pakistan’s constant bluffs with the US and pointed out a big chunk of American assistance was used against people of Balochistan in a secret, dirty war instead of the Taliban.

Khwaja Wali Kirani in Balochistan. Wikimedia Commons

“The United States has foolishly given Pakistan more than 33 billion dollars in aid over the last 15 years, and they have given us nothing but lies & deceit, thinking of our leaders as fools. They give safe haven to the terrorists we hunt in Afghanistan, with little help. No more!,” President Trump first tweet of 2018 reads.

The tweet was loved by nearly quarter-million Americans and retweeted 83,000 times in less than 24 hours.

The AFB executive committee said the US remains Pakistan’s top foreign aid donor, in addition to the money paid in expectation of cooperation in the Global War on Terror. Yet, for many years now, serving officers in the US Armed Forces have repeatedly spoken out about Pakistan’s perfidy in Afghanistan, which has cost the US lives, money and strategic credibility in the world’s eyes. Pakistan also remains a training ground for terrorism and a prime proliferator of nuclear weapons technology.

No country’s development and democracy have suffered more from Pakistan’s interference via state-sponsored terrorism than Afghanistan. US efforts to help the Afghans rebuild their nation are constantly sabotaged by reeling instability. India is another well-known target.

The AFB said Balochistan is a region rich in natural gas. It that has seen several bloody cycles of insurgency ever since Pakistan forcibly annexed the autonomous Baloch state of Kalat in 1948 in violation of a Standstill Agreement. A portion of historical Balochistan also sits on the other side of Pakistan’s border with Iran. Further, it borders Afghanistan to the north-west. Pakistan’s brutal record in this strategically located province that forms the northern lip of the key Straits of Hormuz has spiked in recent years.

“People of Balochistan tried their very best to work with Pakistan’s false promises of integration after forceful accession, but instead gave genocide to Balochs,” said the statement.

The AFB monitors the situation in Balochistan closely and is in touch with freedom and democracy activists on the ground. The AFB reiterated their call to the Pakistani government to cease violating the physical security of Baloch people, their freedom of expression, and end the policy of economic exploitation and genocidal violence.

A slow-motion genocide in Balochistan has claimed the lives of 35,000 Baloch people, 6,000 of whom were buried in mass graves while 21,000 are Victims of Enforced Disappearances, according to the Voice for Baloch Missing Persons. “The enforced disappearances situation in Balochistan is no different than what it used to be in Chile and Argentine in the 1970s and 1980s,” the AFB executive committee noted.

The AFB executive committee chimed in with similar sentiments expressed by policy experts in academe, veteran politicians, diplomats, intelligence chiefs, and human rights activists. Among them were former Afghan President Hamid Karzai, leading South Asia expert and former Pakistani ambassador Hussain Haqqani, several Baloch freedom and human rights activists cutting across party lines, former head of Afghanistan’s Directorate of Security Amrullah Saleh, and even normally fierce critics of President Trump’s administration such as Prof. Christine Fair, Provost’s Distinguished Associate Professor Georgetown University’s Edmund A. Walsh School of Foreign Service.

The AFB executive committee consists of Jane Eastwood Weisner, Najeeb Khan, Krishna Gudipati, Soumya Chowdhury and Habiba Ashna. The organization was founded by veteran Baloch journalist Ahmar Mustikhan, who is the president.

Hope and doubt have been expressed on whether the US president’s tweet and words will translate into actionable legislation. Mustikhan published a survey of some of these thoughts in an article titled “Wave of joy sweeps across Afghanistan, Balochistan & India over Trump’s first tweet of 2018”. 

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