Pakistan has seemingly shelved plans to privatize the national flag carrier, Pakistan International Airlines (PIA), saying it is only seeking a strategic partner to sell 26 percent stake in the core business.
Finance Minister Ishaq Dar, in a statement issued at the weekend, said there was no plans whatsoever to privatize PIA. The statement came in the wake of ongoing protests by the PIA workers against plans to sell the airlines.
The privatization of PIA was initially part of the plan after the government of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif took over in 2013.
Chairman Privatization Commission, Mohammad Zubair, had earlier given the outline of the plan saying that the loss-making PIA would be split into two companies and the core business would be sold to an international airliner.
That plan has now been shelved, as per the Finance Minister, as the government will now only sell up to 26% share in its core business to reputed international strategic partners. He assured the protesting workers that there will be no layoff and the government was committed to turn the entity into a profitable business even if there was not buyer.
With a plan to privatize the airlines, the government had actually initiated the restructuring for PIA to make it lucrative for investors.
According to the Finance Minister, the number of operational aircraft available with PIA has increased from 18 in June 2013 to 38 at present. This figure will rise to 40 by the end of this year. Similarly, the average aircraft age has been reduced from 14 years to 9 years and the government is aiming to bring it further down to 6 years.
In addition, he said, the on-time performance of PIA has improved to 82% which is comparable with the top Middle Eastern airlines.
The minister clarified that the Ordinance recently issued by the government, converting PIA into a company was only aimed at freeing the PIA management from government control and enabling it to take its decisions promptly and independently in a transparent manner in the best interests of the company.
“Conversion of PIA from a corporation to a company will ensure higher protection to all shareholders which will increase investor confidence leading to increased investment in the company,” the Minister said.