The government had previously announced that Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) would not be privatised. Instead, a strategic partner will be sought who can inject new capital and efficiency into the airline, while the ownership would be shared. The PIA unions beg to differ, saying that the government’s plan is the same as privatisation and have been protesting about the issue. On Monday they threatened to lock the airline head office today in protest.

Reports suggests that there is some confusion over what the workers think will be the impact of selling part of PIA. A pilot has said, “What sort of strategic partnership will it be wherein 26 percent of the shares will be sold to private partner, he will take over the administrative control but will not sack any employee”. Well it would be exactly that, a shared partnership, and does not amount to a whole-sale privatisation at all.

Private-public partnerships exist all over the world, and they work if the right people are hired (and fired). PIA can’t be allowed to run as it is, and the reform has to come at the top. Someone has to have enough of a stake in the national enterprise, to whip it into shape. Where there is no profit being made, there will be no innovation or reform, that’s how capitalism works.

However, the union workers have one point to make; if the airline is privatised, or partially sold, it may not operate the airline on routes like Northern and coastal areas which are not profitable and have to be subsidised. This is very valid criticism, and the government has to make sure that all routes are covered, but this does not take away from the fact that the loss-making enterprise needs some drastic changes. While privatisation may lead to some routes being missed, the status quo will make the airline fail all together.