LAHORE - The three serving army officers will advise retired General Yasin Malik for restructuring and improving the state of PIA and CAA which have already wasted over Rs250 billion of the poor tax payers money.

Brigadier Hamid Usman, Col Atif Dar and Wing Commander Zulfiqar will reportedly help Gen Yasin, who is also country’s defence secretary, only in straightening up the Human Resource (HR) departments of these two state owned corporations, which suffered heavy direct financial losses, besides consuming mammoth sovereign guarantees and cash injections and drawing liabilities.

As per a report of HR department of the national flag carrier, doubtful educational degrees of more than 2,000 PIA officials are being verified. But the fake degree holders continue to enjoy the perks they have been availing for last several years. Some of these fakers were sent on retirement with full perks and privilege and they have joined foreign airlines, thanks to the PIA management which did not take any action against the cheaters.

Reportedly some influential dodgers whose degrees have been challenged in the Lahore High Court by their colleagues are still serving in marketing department of PIA Lahore. The court had also sought reply from PIA MD. Instead of waiting for the court decision, the management has promoted them and gave them lucrative posts in different groups. The third Quarter 2012 Financial reports acknowledges a net loss of Rs22.42 billion during July to Sept 2012, while Accumulated Losses have hiked from Rs42 billion in March 2008 to Rs141.303 billion as of Sept 30, 2012 i.e. net rise in losses of 336.4%. Aviation analysts estimate that Total Accumulated losses for Dec 2012 are over Rs158 billion.

Scores of PIA flights were stranded at international airports for lack of spares involving stay of thousands of passengers in hotels. Revenue passenger Kilometres decreased by 11.8% due drop in seat factor, flight cancellations etc. PIA’s current liabilities exceed its current assets by Rs123.475 as on Sept 30 2012, as compared to Rs88.22 billion on 31 Dec 2011.

Only the time will tell up to what extent these new military advisers succeed in collaring the bad eggs and putting the PIA on a flight of success. For past 5 years PIA and CAA have been in the hands of President Zardari’s cronies like Obaid Jatoi, Fazal Pechuha, Aijaz Haroon, Yusafzai etc as if this state asset was akin to spoils of war by invading conquerors and now it seems it is the turn of powerful Ministry of Defence (MOD) to have a piece of whatever is left of the pie. PIA is an airline with a mix of new and old aircrafts, with an average fleet life that matches the world’s most profitable airline South West, except that with a fleet of over 600 aircrafts total number of employees on SouthWest Airline’s payroll are 46,000, as compared to PIA whose schedules are based on 39 aircrafts while the actual serviceable fleet strength varies between 22 to 25 aircrafts and employees exceeding 23,000. It is no rocket science to conclude that half the fleet is grounded because funds were not available to procure essential technical spares for proper maintenance, and then there was the suicidal criminal decision to appoint a single unknown vendor located in Dubai, with first right of refusal, which led to grounding half the fleet.

Strangely, Finance Ministry has placed $46 million and another Rs12 billion – as per the outgoing finance minister – to buy new aircraft as part of Rs100 billion bailout to PIA, but no money to pay for spares or even fuel to keep aircrafts flying has been sanctioned. An aviation analyst opined, “Perhaps the lure of more kickbacks in heavy purchase deals makes funds available for buying new aircraft and ignore the other needs.”