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PROTECTING THE ECONOMIC SKIES

Striving to liberalise the economy, the Nawaz Sharif regime in 1993 set about deregulating the aviation industry. The bureaucrats of the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) in cahoots with their private sector partners in crime at that time misled the Nawaz government, circumventing the spirit of liberalisation to suit certain vested interests. This open-ended approach was against the national interest and PIA took a sustained hit. While “letting a hundred flowers bloom” was a positive move for domestic skies, a proliferation of non-sovereign, fly-by-night operators started a cut-throat price war on the Dubai-Karachi-Dubai sector.

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Keep PIA Flying!

Facing multiple crisis simultaneously, most of them man-made, Pakistan’s workforce and institutions remain amazingly resilient. In many ways PIA is symbolic of the nation it is the national flag carrier of. Beset by extraordinary interference over the years, both during military and civilian rule, thanks to the competency of its core staff PIA is still operating. For this miracle one must give credit to PIA’s pilots, cabin crew and ground engineers, and most of its management and ground staff.
Rs 32 billion loss during 2012 (overall Rs 100 billion during the PPP regime) and US$ 2 billion accumulated debt puts the govt into a potential no-win situation. PM Mian Nawaz Sharif constituted a four-member committee to restructure and reform PIA. Separating Aviation Division from the Ministry of Defence (why was it there in the first place?), he tasked them with examining the challenges being faced and recommend remedial measures and proposals thereof. Federal Secretary Defence Lt Gen (Retd) Asif Yasin Malik successfully contained further erosion during his short tenure as ex-officio Chairman PIA, his observations would be helpful.

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