It is funny how the opposition parties vehemently opposed ‘any and all forms of privatisation’ for Pakistan International Airlines, but find the Conversion Bill to be different than privitisation. It would be rather embarrassing (and not altogether surprising) if many parliamentarians thought that a ‘public limited company’ does not pertain to its liability, but the fact that it’s still owned by the government. But news flash, a public limited company with shares on the open market will be privately controlled, there will be layoffs initially, and everything that opposition decried will be implemented. So why has all the noise died down now?

The fact that the conversion bill is inching closer towards being passed is a very welcome development. And while opposition parties, PIA employees and other detractors of privatisation are supplying excuse after excuse of why this is not the best of ideas, one does not need to search too far to see a shining example of when this strategy worked like a charm. Muslim Commercial Bank (MCB) has a come a long way from when it was privatised in 1991.

Currently the second largest bank by asset valuation, and an employer of over 20,000 (from 8000 in its nationalised days), MCB is a beacon of hope for all state assets that have been run into the ground. Simple business acumen dictates that the national carrier will follow the same pattern. Profit as an incentive is the failsafe for any public venture looking to go private and there is no better testament to that than the turnaround engineered by the Nishat Group with MCB. If it can work once, why not try it again.

Instead of engaging in political wrangling on a redundant issue, the opposition would be better placed in focusing its energies towards ensuring that the process of privatisation and the transitional phase is completely transparent. To this day, even though MCB has been absolved of all accusations against it, complainants keep popping up, just because there is no path that will make everyone happy. The same is true for the PIA.