The Senate Standing Committee on Finance Tuesday gave Competition Commission of Pakistan (CCP) one week period to submit report on substantial increase in airfares by the private airlines after strike by Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) employees.

The committee deferred the agenda of discussing the privatisation of PIA due to absence of Chairman Privatisation Commission Mohammad Zubair and other officials. Committee chairman Senator Saleem Mandviwalla showed concerns over the absence of top officials of the Privatization Commission from the committee meeting, which was supposed to discuss important issues of PIA’s privatization.

He said that Chairman Privatization Commission always makes excuses for not attending the meeting whenever it discusses privatization of PIA. The issue of PIA is sensitive issue, which should be discussed through negotiations, he added. Senator Kamil Ali Agha also criticized the government’s team for privatization.

The Senate’s body has discussed massive increase in airfares by the private airlines after strike of PIA. Representatives of Shaheen Airlines and Airblue briefed the committee. They did not agree with the committee member regarding increase in airfares. On this occasion, Committee member Senator Nasreen Jalil showed an air ticket in the meeting, which she purchased at higher rates.

The representatives of the private airlines said alleged that travel agents had charged the massive fares from the passengers during strike of PIA in last seven-eight days. The Committee Chairman showed displeasure on it by saying agents could not be allowed to loot the people at their own will.

Committee member Senator Kamil Ali Agha said that private airlines should have taken action against agent if they charged more than normal fares from the passengers. Dozens of people have lodged complaints about higher fares collected by the private airlines, he added.

The officials of the CCP informed that they had already taken action on the issue. We have written letters to private airlines to get details of the fares, they added. The committee asked the CCP to present the report on substantial increase in airfares by the private airlines by February 15.

The Senate Standing Committee on Finance also showed concerns over the forced tax recovery of Rs 850 million from China Harbor Engineering Company Limited by attaching bank accounts by the Federal Board of Revenue (FBR). Committee chairman asked how much refund will FBR pay if its losses case in the high court.

However, a member of the FBR defended the forced tax recovery. Rehmatullah Khan Wazir FBR Member (Inland Revenue) Policy informed the committee that China Harbor Engineering Company Limited was defaulter of Rs2.1 billion, which forced the FBR to forced tax recovery according to its law.

Senator Ilyas Bilour demanded of the government to make legislation for forced tax recovery of any company. He said that FBR had also recovered Rs55 million of another company. Senator Talha Mahmood said that government should make amendment in the law.