Is there any intention to privatise PIA, SC asks federal govt


–Court tells govt to explain whether certain profitable routes of PIA had been given to other airlines, including Airblue

KARACHI: The Supreme Court on Saturday asked the federal government whether there was any intention to privatise the Pakistan International Airline (PIA).

The court asked this while Chief Justice of Pakistan (CJP) Mian Saqib Nisar was hearing a miscellaneous application filed against the planned privatisation of the national airline. Justice Faisal Arab was also a member of the apex court bench that was hearing the case at its Karachi registry.

The court issued notices to PIA chairman and ministry of defence directing them to submit their respective replies about any intention of the government to privatise the PIA. The court’s order sheet also asked whether certain profitable routes of the national airliner had been given to other airlines, including Airblue.

The court directed the federal government and PIA chairman to ensure submission of their reports within one week and fixed the matter at the principal seat Islamabad in the second week of April.

On March 7, the federal cabinet had approved the privatisation of PIA, more than two weeks after a related cabinet panel gave the go-ahead to privatise the loss-making airline. The approval was granted during the cabinet’s weekly meeting presided over by Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi.

Following the cabinet’s approval, the privatisation process was to formally start immediately, a move that triggered opposition from public circles and political parties, in particular the Pakistan Peoples Party.

“The incumbent government would push to complete the privatisation process before the expiry of its tenure in June and the arrival of the caretaker set-up,” sources had said.

In an apparent bid to skip backlash, a statement issued by the PM office did not directly mention the approval of PIA’s privatisation and contained a veiled reference to a previous meeting of the Cabinet Committee on Privatisation (CCoP) held on February 16, in which the government gave the go-ahead of the PIA and the Pakistan Steel Mills (PSM) privatisation in the name of ‘restructuring’.