LOSS MAKER: Pakistan’s national carrier is in crisis

PAKISTAN will try to privatise its national airline before gen­eral elections due this year, pri­vatisation minister Daniyal Aziz said.

Pakistan International Airlines (PIA), which is leaking money and losing market share to Gulf-based rivals such as Eti­had and Emirates, has been hit by management turmoil in re­cent years, as well as a 2016 crash that led to 47 deaths.  

The privatisation of loss-making entities that were draining the exchequer was a prior­ity for the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) party when it swept to power in 2013.  

PIA was among 68 state-owned companies earmarked for privatisation in return for a $6.7 billion (£4.86bn) International Monetary Fund package that helped Pakistan to stave off a default in 2013.  

Despite some initial success, the process stalled in 2016 after staff protests caused havoc with PIA operations and the govern­ment passed a law that effec­tively made it impossible to privatise the airline.  

But Aziz, chairman of the Privatisation Commission, said last Sunday (14) that new plans have been drawn up to sell off PIA. He added that he would take the proposals to the cabi­net committee on privatisation, chaired by prime minister Sha­hid Khaqan Abbasi.  

“Next step would be going to the cabinet committee … may­be even next week,” Aziz said.  

The impetus to sell PIA has grown as the airline has piled up huge losses estimated at about $30 million (£22m) a month. To­tal debt stood at 186bn rupees (£1.3bn) at the end of 2016.  

When asked how soon could a buyer could acquire PIA, Aziz said: “Tomorrow morning. If you have the money, come and buy it.”