The PIA Dilemma


PIA is the very embodiment of how a once glorified national icon and a profitable state owned enterprise became a casualty of the corruption that perverts public sector corporations. Where the airline had become a vestibule of political cronyism, over-staffed with appointees of various political parties, regardless of merit, the new reports of PIA’s management promoting junior officers having no aviation experience on senior slots bypassing qualified senior ones, adds to the list of maladies that have infested the national carrier.

Such instances of covert patronage and discrimination have interminably corroded the airlines performance and reputation bringing it to the brink of ruin. The airline has long been used as a brokering chip to further personal and political interests

With a massive infusion of over 400 crores every year which barely keeps PIA afloat, the airline is knee-deep in debt and losses despite the recent facelift. With the establishment haggling over the privatization of PIA, the administration might deem this an opportunity to milk the enterprise for all its worth. The issue of privatisation, as a policy measure of PML-N government as well as of Musharraf’s regime, remains obscure as it broaches selling off government assets to local or foreign buyers at prices lower than their market price and not necessarily to the highest bidder; the process of such privatisation is not absolutely transparent and in the end contributes in an increase in the national debt rather than being alleviated from these proceeds. An equitable decision regarding the revival of the airline, with complete compensation to the encumbered employees should be envisaged. Between the incumbent government pushing for privatization, the vehement resistance by the opposition and now the prohibition by the SC barring any move to privatize the national asset, the carrier cannot be grounded as another ground for the playing out of politico-judicial strife in the face of incurring further losses and closing off routes.

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