Landing rights given to 108 foreign airlines in 2015Pakistan
ISLAMABAD: The Special Parliamentary Committee on Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) saw heated debate on Monday over the question of landing rights, with opposition lawmakers questioning the wisdom of extending this facility on a reciprocal basis when PIA did not have the capacity to fully benefit from the arrangement.
The committee was informed by a PIA representative that the government had given landing rights to 108 foreign airlines in 2015 alone.
PTI leader Asad Umar, who disputed the figures presented by the PIA management regarding their liabilities, asked: “How could the national flag carrier become a profitable organisation if the government gives away landing rights to 108 foreign airlines?”
Responding to the query, a CAA representative said landing rights were given on a reciprocal basis. “We allowed Qatar Airways 77 trips to Pakistan in a month, and PIA was permitted even more trips to Qatar, but it could avail only seven trips due to a shortage of aircraft,” he said.
The official said that if PIA could not provide its services on any route, it would be unfair to passengers to deprive them of the facility of other airlines.
Finance Minister Ishaq Dar said that the government was trying to increase the number of flights by inducting more aircraft in the fleet. “Recently, we have purchased a few more planes, taking the total strength of PIA’s fleet to 40. We aim to increase it to 80,” he said.
Sheikh Rashid Ahmed told the committee he was present in a meeting in Qatar where the Qatari government gifted a plane to Pakistan. In return, it obtained landing rights in the country.
Another highlight of the meeting was the revelation that Aviation Adviser Shujaat Azeem ran a private catering firm, Royal Airport Services, which did business with 80 airlines. “How can the Aviation Division chief do justice to his public office when he is running a huge private business,” Sheikh Rashid complained.
The consensus on Monday seemed to be that the crippled national flag carrier could be revived through efficient management.
The government informed the parliamentary body that it had no plans to privatise PIA, but that the statutory body would be turned around into a corporate entity.
PIA Chairman Nasir Jaffar and other senior officials gave a detailed briefing to the committee members, showing total liabilities of Rs254 billion, which they said were increasing by over Rs50 billion a year.
The meeting, chaired by Zahid Hamid, will meet again on Monday to finally decide how the PIA can be turned into a viable and profitable entity.
IT minister Anusha Rehman said that a culture of professionalism should be introduced in PIA so that only competent individuals are inducted.
PPP Leader Naveed Qamar, defending his party’s government, said that overstaffing was not PIA’s only problem, as projected. “If PIA is privatised today, there will be no significant cut in the number of its employees,” he claimed.
The meeting was informed that the PML-N government had inducted hundreds of employees in PIA as well. According to a PIA official, 300 new appointments were made in 2010, 650 in 2011, 435 in 2012, 300 in 2013, 200 in 2014 and 400 in 2015.
But the finance minister claimed that new employees were appointed on posts that had fallen vacant after retirements and that presently, PIA’s total staff had come down from 17,000 to 14,000 in a couple of years.
Read: Is PIA salvable?
Published in Dawn, January 12th, 2016