PIA could face closure within two years: Saad Rafique

PIA could face closure within two years_ Saad Rafique

ISLAMABAD: Federal Minister for Aviation and Railways Khawaja Saad Rafique on Friday warned that the Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) could face closure within a year and a half if the national fag carrier was not restructured.

Addressing the National Assembly during the farewell session, Rafique emphasised that the best way to operate airports globally was through private operators.

He cited examples of India, which has outsourced management of its eight airports. He also talked about several successful outsourced airports, including the Istanbul airport and the Medina International Airport.

Rafique, a central leader of Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz, clarified that outsourcing airports did not mean selling or privatising.

He stressed that no employees would be laid off, and job security would be ensured along with all applicable benefits.

He noted that Pakistan needs to adopt the practices followed by South African Airways and Air India, bringing in foreign direct investments and ensuring transparency and merit for private investors.

Referring to PIA’s holding company, Rafique pointed out that it has a debt of Rs740 billion. He asserted that the company should be restructured, and certain shares should be divested to attract substantial investments.

He also acknowledged the need for operational efficiency and competitive measures to compete with powerful airlines in the region.

Speaking candidly about the state of affairs, the federal minister blamed the prevailing “dirty politics” where institutions were filled with surplus employees instead of the necessary ones, resulting in the their decline.

However, he refrained from delving into the intricate details, stating that it was not the right time for such discussions.

Rafique expressed hope that flights to the United Kingdom would resume within three months.

He shared that negotiations were under way with five airlines, one being PIA, and four private carriers.

He believed this would be welcome news for Pakistani expatriates in the UK and hinted at the potential for resuming flights to European Union countries and the United States afterward.

He assured the National Assembly that the upcoming government would take the restructuring process forward, safeguarding the rights of all employees.

The minister also mentioned the possibility of turning PIA into a profitable entity by introducing transparent and merit-based private investment.

Read more: PIA suspends employee for harassing female staff member at Canadian hotel

He pointed out that PIA’s routes have great value but are currently underutilized.

Rafique highlighted that the recent legislation was the final hurdle in reviving PIA’s flights, which incurred losses of up to Rs70 billion annually due to former minister Ghulam Sarwar Khan’s “foolish and ignorant” statements.

Wrapping up his address, Rafique vowed to steer PIA and the railways in the right direction.

He asserted that the expertise of operators who run airports worldwide, will be brought in by the upcoming government, as private expertise was required in this sector.

Rafique also raised concerns about the railways’ production units, which were also running at a loss, suggesting that the it needs to attract skilled professionals to improve operations.


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