In the wake of the Karachi and the Peshawar airport attacks, four airlines have refused to give aircraft to PIA on ‘wet leases’, which include the provision of pilots, crew members, maintenance and insurance, citing security concerns as the barrier for any perspective deal. Considering international carriers already advised their crew members against stepping off the plane when in Pakistan, the incidents at two of Pakistan’s most important airports will not have made foreign crews more eager to come to this country. PIA’s operative capacity decreased last month as wet leases for four aircrafts from Turkish and Czech airlines expired, and 26 domestic and international flights have been cut as a result, with only twenty five planes remaining at the national carrier’s disposal. In just six years, PIA has reduced the number of flights from over 51000 to less than 39000 per year. Our so-called ‘state asset’ last generated profit in 2004.

Less than a week ago, PIA did manage to secure a ‘dry lease’, one which only provides the aircraft, for an A-320 airbus for six years. And while this is good news, the PM’s approval of inducting 14 new planes into the fleet is likely to go to waste as no one seems keen on lending us their planes. Normally, this would have been compensated by increasing flights by international carriers, but the security lapse in Karachi and Peshawar burned that bridge as well. An additional year has been given to the government by the IMF to complete the sale of 26 percent of the shares of PIA, but time is running out for the airline to clean up its act. The government has tasked five separate consortia to formulate plans for the privatization, with the spoils going to the one that manages to complete the sale, added to the potential bonus of being granted future contracts in the sale of other national assets. However, the government must come to terms with the fact that in the short run, the state will have to continue bailing out the airline which costs billions daily, and if things keep going downhill, the revenues from the sale might be well below expectations.