LAHORE  - The Joint Action Committee of Pakistan International Airlines (Jacpiae) has come hard on the government’s decision of privatising the national airline and warned the government to oppose its designs by adopting all possible options like strikes, wheel jam, operational shut down and rallies.

Convenor Jacpiae Captain Sohail Baloch has said that it is strange why the government decided to own the liabilities and give away 26pc shares with administrative rights. President of Society of Aircraft Engineers Pakistan (SEAP), Shoukat Jamshed was also present on the occasion. ‘It is unfortunate that decision makers did not consider some important points which could have helped the government not to take this unpopular decision of privatisation,’ said Suhail.

He further added that privatisation never produced desired results in Pakistan especially when it comes to transparency, so we are not optimistic about the turn-over of the airline, the government is expecting through selling the chunk of shares. ‘The decision of selling 26pc shares with management control and still taking responsibility of the liabilities is a strange decision that needs to be discussed critically,’ he added.

Suhail said that PIA has had a strategic value and served as a helping hand to the govt. when it comes to connecting people from far-flung areas like Gilgit, Chitral, Gwadar, Zhob. PIA also plays an important role in the country’s defense, details of which cannot be shared publicly. He further added that the government is not realising that there are no other arrangements for the jobs PIA do for the country.

He said that majority of airlines worldwide are operating on very low profits whereas most of them are making both ends meet with the help of their respective governments. Even our neighbour bailed out its airline, which is normal practice for other international airlines, but the dilemma of PIA is that all rulers have been speaking loud about PIA’s losses yet continued with the policies of nepotism and promoted corruption, he added.

Capt Baloch said that this is for the first time that PIA management and employees are working in tandem to save each penny possible and are striving to streamline the operations to bring back the airline’s past glory. But, he added, the government instead of supporting the employees’ initiative is trumpeting privatisation band unnecessarily, creating confusion and demoralising employees.

He further added that the government has not provided any roadmap in this regard as how just a management control can save the airline from deep-rooted issues conducive in its downfall like political appointments, corruption, inefficiencies, out-dated engineering facilities, maintenance issues, depleting routes, non-airworthy aircraft, imprudent contracts, declining service standards, lack of reliability and punctuality, pilferage and theft, lack of quality manpower, training and job rotation and high interest loans resulting in higher financial costs etc.

Baloch added that every government blames the employees for the ills of PIA whereas it is the top management appointed on cronyism and nepotism that creates hurdles for the growth of the airline. ‘Every government posed privatisation as panacea for all the ills this airline is suffering from since long by dint of corruption, non-professional high officials, political interference etc.,’ he added.

President Society of Engineers and Deputy Convenor Jacpiae Shaukat Jamshed added that privatisation is not a viable solution for PIA, instead the government should implement the orders of Supreme Court by appointing honest and capable Chairman and MD on merit and should constitute a judicial commission under the serving judge of SC to investigate the airline’s downfall. He added that the Government through this privatisation initiative will only end up increasing unemployment and subsequently lawlessness. The control given to like-minded people on just 26pc shares will only drain out a national asset.

The government must realise that privatisation or downsizing or retrenchment is not an option for PIA at the time when domestic, regional and international competitors keep expanding in all directions, he said, adding that the need of the time is that the government should diligently work to devise a good strategy to reclaim due market share of PIA.

‘No doubt, it would be a tragedy to privatise the airline which has got the potential to compete with the best airlines in the world. There is enough time that the government can compensate for its decision of selling shares of the airline with management control if it involves or at least listen to the stakeholders of the airline and pay heed to their suggestions,’ he suggested.