ISLAMABAD: While the government is still to get its controversial bill for restructuring the Pakistan International Airline (PIA) adopted by parliament, it has already started working on setting up a new airline in the public sector.
On Thursday, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif received a detailed briefing on how to make the new airline competitive in the international aviation sector.
“Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif presided over a meeting on aviation affairs at the PM House. It was attended by Minister for Finance Muhammad Ishaq Dar, Secretary of Aviation Irfan Elahi and other senior officials of the government,” said an official statement released after the meeting.
The participants, it said, gave a comprehensive presentation to the prime minister for steps being taken for creating “a premier airline that should be a reflection of the past image of the national flag carrier internationally”.
The meeting reviewed progress on bringing Pakistan Airways on a par with international airlines. The prime minister directed the authorities concerned that the crew and staff of the new airline should be trained by best institutions and state of the art service for passengers, not less than of international standards, must be ensured.
Except core business, rest of the services of the new airline, should be outsourced to meet professional standards, the prime minister was quoted as saying.
He also stressed that the airline should set high service standards for being the face of the country in the world.
“There should be lean management structure for optimising airline’s efficiency and service delivery, and emoluments structure should be commensurate with the quality of human resource,” the prime minister emphasised.
“This is absolutely ridiculous,” commented Asad Umar of the PTI, when his reaction was sought on the government’s decision to go ahead with the Pakistan Airways, while it was still in discussion with opposition parties.
Mr Umar is part of the 10-member committee which the government and opposition had agreed to form last Tuesday and it was tasked with preparing recommendations for improving flight operations of the debt-ridden PIA and turning it into a viable entity by making the PIA Corporation into a public limited company.
Mr Umar said that on the floor of the house, the government presented a different stance and at the committee level, ministers had an altogether different argument to present.
“Even during today’s meeting, I and Mr Naveed Qamar of the PPP asked if the government was serious enough to have the committee-level discussion,” said Mr Umar.
The PTI lawmaker said that throughout the meeting, there had been serious trust deficit between the government and opposition over the issue of PIA. “I personally think with this kind of attitude the committee will not be of any use.”
A senior government official privy to the meeting told Dawn that the decision to have a second public sector airline had been taken long ago, and had nothing to with the PIA’s restructuring. However, a PPP lawmaker who had been part of the discussion, said that “in one of the meetings, we were told some of the PIA employees will be accommodated in the new airline, hence, the government couldn’t say that the new airline is a separate issue”.