PPP Senator objects to PIA’s ‘selected privatisation’

Staff Report

Islamabad: PPP Senator Saleem Mandviwalla has raised concerns regarding Pakistan International Airlines’ (PIA) “selected privatisation”, saying that the procedure was not being conducted in a transparent manner.
The formal process for the divestment of Pakistan International Airlines Corporation (PIACL) kicked off on Friday after the Board of Privatisation Commission appointed a financial adviser for the transaction.
The airline has been plagued with crisis after crisis as Pakistan State Oil (PSO) has refused to supply fuel to the national airline due to payment issues. The weeks-long ordeal led to the cancellation of hundreds of flights, pushing the national carrier to the verge of collapse.
Speaking on the divestment process, Mandviwalla said he had gotten to know about a meeting on the issue chaired by Interim Privatisation Minister Fawad Hasan Fawad. He alleged that PML-N stalwart Saad Rafique, who is also a former railways and aviation minister, had also attended the meeting.
“Now you tell me what is this? You (PML-N) are saying we (PPP) agreed to the privatisation and allowed the caretaker government to do so, but if a previous minister is attending that meeting then this is selected privatisation instead of being transparent,” Mandviwalla said.
The senator said he was concerned that the airline would be sold to “whoever you want however you want”.
“There will be no transparency and then obviously, the people we will protest. We will protest politically and PIA employees, everyone, will protest. People will go to court as well,” he added.
Questioned whether he thought the PML-N was “on board” with the privatisation process, Mandviwalla said: “[Obviously], the PML-N is doing it.”
The senator again questioned the capacity in which Rafique attended the meeting.
Asked to comment on the perception that the airline would be sold to those affiliated with the PML-N, the senator this was not a mere perception but “a fact”.
“When you do privatisation like this then you must have prepared a buyer and done an agreement with them that ‘no one else will bid in the privatisation so we will give to you’,” Mandviwalla said. He reiterated that privatisation carried out in such a manner would not be acceptable to the PPP and the party would protest against it.
Earlier, PPP Senator Raza Rabbani had also opposes PIA’s privatisation in all its forms and said: “It seems questionable that PIA planes were functioning normally when the fuel supply was abruptly halted and then resumed.
There should be an investigation into the precise events.”
He had sought an inquiry into PSO’s refusal to supply fuel. “Through a deliberate campaign … PIA is being prepared for a loot sale,” he had said.
The PIA’s recent descent came after the government said in August it would privatise the airline as part of a fiscal discipline plan agreed under an International Monetary Fund bailout.
This made some stakeholders question whether the national airline was being prepared for “a loot sale” through a deliberate campaign. The government’s plans have also ignited concerns among PIA staff, who are worried about their job security and benefits.