The protracted Pakistan International Airlines saga got even longer, as the Senate rejects the PIA conversion bill after it was passed in the National Assembly. The move was always on the cards; the opposition holds a majority in the Senate and they had precious little in terms legislative victories against the PML-N government that is riding a wave of recent popularity. While the Senate is perfectly within it’s rights to send back the bill - in fact reviewing legislation is it’s purpose - it does feel that rejecting the PIA bill was done for the sake of rejection, rather than any legitimate policy concerns.

Of course, all is not lost for the government, if a bill is rejected by the Senate after being approved by the NA, a joint session of Parliament can pass the bill if it wants. Considering that the government has a large majority in the joint session and that it is gunning hard for the bill, unless there are MNAs that vote against party directions, the bill is ultimately going to to pass. The Senate knows this, and in effect this rejection is noting more than a delay which continues the uncertainty over the beleaguered airline - something that is not beneficial for it or the employees of the airline.

This unnecessary delay is more condemn able considering the overwhelming reasons for privatisation. The opposition hasn’t been able to present any arguments to stop the bill apart from the hardship suffered by the employees of the airline. Their concerns are justified, making the airline profitable and competent would require wide ranging reform which will see the destruction of jobs - but destruction of jobs is the only way the airline can be made to work. PIA is overstaffed; the average staff per flight in global airlines is 150, while PIA clocks in at a whopping 500. Shedding staff is a tough but necessary decision. Instead of delaying the inevitable the opposition should campaign to include clauses in the bill that would create alternative opportunities for the offloaded staff.

The PIA is dysfunctional without a doubt, and privatisation of the national carrier is also on the IMF mandate - it is time to stop playing the opposition for the sake of opposition. The PIA story needs to come to a close fast.