Caretaker Prime Minister Anwaarul Haq Kakar on Thursday directed authorities to expedite the privatization process of the Pakistan International Airlines (PIA), amidst reports of the airline facing a severe funding crisis that has grounded several flights.
Chairing a meeting on the national flag carrier’s operations, Kakar instructed caretaker Privatization Minister Fawad Hasan Fawad to oversee the privatization process and complete it on a fast-track basis. Emphasizing the need to expedite the process, the interim prime minister said it would result in the provision of a reliable service to consumers and raise the standards of the national flag carrier to match global airline standards. He further directed all relevant stakeholders to find an immediate solution to matters related to privatization.
Last week, PIA submitted a report to the Economic Coordination Committee (ECC) of the federal cabinet, informing it that five of its 13 leased aircraft had been grounded due to a paucity of funds. It warned that an additional four planes could be grounded as soon as Sept. 15 if it were not provided an emergency bailout of Rs. 22.9 billion. This plea was rejected by the ECC.
The ECC further rejected a request for deferment of payments of Rs. 1.3 billion per month to the Federal Board of Revenue (FBR) and Rs. 0.7 billion per month to the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) for embarking charges. The report warned that if it were not granted urgent funding, Boeing and Airbus might suspend their supply of spare parts by mid-September.
Amidst the financial crunch, PIA has reportedly grounded several aircraft, with several domestic and international flights cancelled.
Meanwhile, PIA human resource department head Athar Hussain on Thursday refuted media reports about the carrier’s financial situation, claiming it would continue its operations. Addressing a meeting of the Senate Standing Committee on Aviation, he briefed the committee on various matters concerning PIA, providing a complete roster of employees detailing their qualifications, experience, designations, present postings and acting charges, particularly within Group IV and above.
The committee’s chairman ordered an investigation against a PIA director who had claimed that operations could be suspended by Sept. 15. He also said that no one other than the spokesperson or the PR Department of the airline should issue any statement to media.