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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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ISIS Announces New India and Pakistan Provinces

The "Islamic State Pakistan Province," in communiques issued via its global propaganda mouthpiece Amaq News Agency, took credit for killing a Pakistani police officer

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ISIS, New India, Pakistan, Provinces
FILE- An Islamic State flag is captured in this photo illustration. VOA

The Islamic State group says it has established a “province” in Pakistan, days after the terrorist organization used the name “Hind Province” for an attack it claimed in the India-ruled portion of the disputed Kashmir region.

Both of the divisions formerly fell under the “Khorasan Province” or ISKP — the name the Middle East-based terrorist group uses for its regional operations launched in early 2015 from bases in the border region of Afghanistan — according to the SITE Intelligence Group, which monitors jihadist threats.

The “Islamic State Pakistan Province,” in communiques issued via its global propaganda mouthpiece Amaq News Agency, took credit for killing a Pakistani police officer this week in Mastung, and it reported shooting at a gathering of militants linked to the outlawed Pakistani Taliban militant group in Quetta.

Both the districts are located in violence-hit Baluchistan province, which borders Afghanistan and Iran. Several separatist Baluch groups and sectarian organizations also are active in the province.

ISIS, New India, Pakistan, Provinces
FILE – Rescue workers and army soldiers gather at the site of a blast at a vegetable market in Quetta, Pakistan, April 12, 2019. VOA

There was no immediate reaction available from the Pakistani government.

Islamabad maintains there is no “organized” presence of IS in the country. Pakistani military officials say an ongoing nationwide military-led “intelligence-based operation” is primarily aimed at denying space in Pakistan to extremists linked to any terrorist groups.

The group released no details about the boundaries of the territory it is now claiming. In previous Islamic State propaganda, all of Afghanistan and most of Pakistan, parts of modern Iran and Central Asia make up the so-called Khorasan Province. IS also has spoken about creating its own chapter for the Indian subcontinent.

Marketplace expolsion

IS also took responsibility for last month’s suicide blast in a marketplace in Quetta city that killed 20 people and left nearly 50 injured. The targets of the attack were members of the ethnic Hazara Shiite Muslim community.

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On Friday, IS declared in a statement via Amaq the creation of “Hind Province,” while taking responsibility for clashes with Indian forces in Amshipora in the Shopian district of Kashmir.

IS has increased attacks lately in the region, including taking credit for the group’s Easter Sunday first-ever bombings in Sri Lanka that killed more than 250 people.

Observers say altering its provincial structure and fragmenting the “Khorasan Province” by IS could be aimed at bolstering its credentials after losing its “caliphate” in Syria and Iran, where the terrorists at one point used to control thousands of miles of territory.

“As ISIS [one of several acronyms used for IS] seeks to build and restructure foundations of insurgencies across the globe after its losses in Iraq and Syria, it is attempting to recruit also from Pakistan, a country with an existing jihadi militant population,” tweeted Rita Katz, the director of the SITE Intelligence Group.

ISIS, New India, Pakistan, Provinces
the terrorist organization used the name “Hind Province” for an attack it claimed in the India-ruled portion of the disputed Kashmir region. Wikimedia Commons

The suspected rebranding of ISKP comes as the United Nations earlier this week designated the “Khorasan Province” as a global terrorist, noting the group was formed in January 2015 by former members of the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) who pledged allegiance to Abu Baker al-Baghdadi, leader of the ISIS/ISIL.

The United States has already blacklisted ISKP as a foreign terrorist organization, and American troops are conducting regular airstrikes against the group’s bases in Afghanistan with the help of local forces, killing thousands of militants.

Analysts say American counterterrorism airstrikes and clashes with the Afghan Taliban have prevented ISKP from expanding its regional influence and the rebranding strategy could have stemmed from those challenges.

“Khorasan chapter has been struggling to establish a footprint in Afghanistan and the region in general, and they may be following al-Qaida’s strategy to create regional affiliates,” says Muhammad Amir Rana, who heads Islamabad-based Pakistan Institute for Peace and Studies (PIPS). (VOA)