The debate around the privatisation of the national carrier, Pakistan International Airline (PIA), has been making rounds in the system for quite a while now. The ad-hocism exhibited by the government to privatise the carrier right before the next general elections, without giving the process due time in order to be completed effectively, is raising many concerns. The reason is primarily that such ad-hoc efforts have not produced any results in the past and we have only witnessed further deterioration of the national airline.

Now that the Supreme Court (SC) of Pakistan has taken notice of the situation, this turns the table around. The process of privatisation can no longer be initiated without the permission of the SC and the order has been passed because several national assets were being privatised on a low cost, which is a concern for the economy of the country. While the SC must be commended for its action because ad-hocism was not the route to be taken in the privatisation of carrier incurring loss after loss despite the government bailing it out every time, there are certain concerns which need to be addressed.

The SC has directed to put the name of PIA directors of the last ten years on the Exit Control List (ECL). This will restrict them from leaving the country, allowing the authorities to question them when needed. However this selection of years randomly will make the investigation go haywire. A proper investigation should be launched in order to find out what causes these losses and who is responsible. Once that is established, only the movement of those individuals should be restricted. The move at the moment might please the public which is distressed by the service of PIA, but in the longer run, the scope of suspects without investigation will set the wrong precedent.

At the same time, another major concern is labelling PIA staff as traitors and enemies of the country. While there should be accountability of why policies are not working out and who is responsible for that, the failure of a national airline does not make anyone a traitor to the country. Financial mismanagement is a problem but it is not treason, corruption and kickbacks are a crime but they are not treason either. So at this point, what is needed more than a blown out of proportion response is a targeted strategy to turn the situation of the carrier around and penalise those responsible.