The major opposition parties staged a walkout from the proceeding of the National Assembly, over imposition of an ordinance by the government to privatize Pakistan International Airlines (PIA). Opposition Leader Syed Khursheed Shah strongly criticized the government for promulgating the PIA corporation conversion ordinance. He said they should first control the power outages, price hike and worsening law and order situation rather than selling off a national asset. This decision was made without consulting the masses, keeping them happy “with toys like metro buses”. Of course he is not right in his assessment. PIA has been faltering for decades, and the blame can hardly be put on electricity and buses. There is indeed a dearth of leadership to resolve the public issue.

In order to appease the public, the government has assured the house that the national flag carrier (PIA) is not being privatized but being turned into a corporate entity to give it decision-making autonomy.

PIA needs serious restructuring to remain a viable airline. However, saving PIA from losses is not the only motivation. Under a condition of the $6.2 billion IMF loan programme, Pakistan is inviting investors to participate in PIA’s privatization through media advertisements to sell off the carrier- a way to pay off debt, rather than generate wealth.

Growth takes place only when productivity from the existing resources keeps on increasing. The global experience shows that by and large, productivity actually declines or remains stagnant when the businesses are managed and operated by the government. However, in the case of Pakistan, fingers are always pointed as to why the government is in such a hurry. Some say a friend of the PM wants to buy it, while others say it is yet another ploy for the government to be seen as ‘productive’. The problem here is that the decision to privatise will not be a purely economic one. Corruption, ego and politics all come into play, causing privatisation to fail regardless.