ISLAMABAD - The government has finally decided to find a way forward about its plans to privatise Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) through Parliament to pacify protesting employees and the opposition parties, sources said on Wednesday.
“After the Senate, a parliamentary committee to look after PIA affairs is also being constituted in the National Assembly,” parliamentary sources told The Nation.
The move is being regarded as only viable option left with the government after the opposition parities in the parliament rejected the Presidential Ordinance promulgated earlier this month for privatisation of the national flag carrier.
Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP), the main opposition party in the parliament, blasted the government on its initiative to privatise a “profit earning” public organisation and boycotted the proceedings of the National Assembly.
Leader of the Opposition in the National Assembly and senior PPP leader Syed Khurshid Shah censured the government for selling the national assets in order to fulfil its commitments with international donor agencies including the International Monetary Fund (IMF).
The development also followed a biting protest by the PIA employees despite Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s public explanation that no PIA employee will be laid off as a result of the privatisation.
Later, statement by the powerful Finance Minister Senator Ishaq Dar that the government is seeking a strategic partner by selling 26 percent shares of the national flag carrier compounded the crisis as the protesting employees took the statement as a pinch of salt and termed it a ‘sinister move’.
They called off their protest after the prime minister announced a committee to help defuse the protest by engaging the employees through talks. But, the move fizzled out leaving the government to seek resolution of the problem through the Parliament.
The government plans to shed 26 percent PIA shares and auction some of the international routes to make PIA financially sound.
The natioal airline has been running on subsidy as it has to discharge the financial liability of billions of rupees loans that it acquired over the decades.
According to senior government officials, the privatisation plan envisages a fleet of 100 new aircraft from its current tonnage of 35 plus aircraft.
“A parliamentary committee of the National Assembly has been constituted on PIA and a notification about it will be issued in a day or two,” said a ruling party MNA, who enjoys close relations with Senator Ishaq Dar.
Requesting not to be named he said the government will try to convince the opposition parties over promulgation of the Presidential Ordinance in this regard.
“To the best of my knowledge, the government will not withdraw the presidential ordinance,” he said, adding that a middle course would be sought to proceed with PIA privatisation plan.
Chaired by Mushahidullah Khan, Senate’s House Committee on PIA held its first meeting on Tuesday and discussed the Terms of Reference (TORs).
The committee chairman supported his party colleague that government will not withdraw the Presidential Ordinance. “This will open a new Pandora box. No President will promulgate any ordinance in future”, he said. He also loathed the opposition for unduly politicising the matter.