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Pakistan to lose its national airline PIA

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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