SC bars govt from privatising PIA without its permission

The Supreme Court on Thursday barred the government from proceeding with privatisation of the Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) without its permission.

Chief Justice Mian Saqib Nisar passed the order while hearing a case pertaining to a suo motu notice against sales of national assets on lower prices.

Irked by the heavy losses of the national flag-carrier and its proposed privatisation, the chief justice said that he may constitute a judicial commission to calculate and redress the losses incurred upon the airline.

“Who is responsible for the loss of Rs360 billion? We want to know the cause of the loss and viewpoint of PIA’s employees on the issue,” the chief justice said.

“Those who have ruined this national asset are oppressors, enemies and traitors,” said the CJP, adding that all the current advisors of PIA have no experience in the relevant field.

The bench ordered the airline to submit terms and references to calculate the losses of PIA.

Heavy losses

Earlier in today’s hearing, the chief justice had ordered authorities to place the names of all former managing directors of the Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) on the Exit Control List. However, he withdrew the order in the second half of the hearing but bound the former officials to have permission of the court before leaving the country.

PIA’s lawyer informed the court during the hearing that the national flag-carrier has suffered a loss of Rs360.39 billion during the last 17 years.

“The government of Pakistan owns 96 per cent stakes in the airline. Since April 2016, PIA has been functioning as a public limited company. It is being run as per a corporate model,” he added.

He said that the board of governors of the company consists of 11 members, a majority of whom are appointed by the government.

“Aviation secretary is the chairman and member of the board. Irfan Illahi is the elected member of the board and secretary E&D is also a member of the board,” he said.

The lawyer said that other airlines had taken advantage of reduced petroleum prices but PIA had failed to do the same.

The CJP-led three-member bench directed the counsel for the airline to submit a report on the deficit suffered by PIA during the last nine years, and to separately state the deficit of each year and highlight who the managing director of the airline was during that year.

The court also ordered submission of a list of all chairmen, advisors, and managing directors of PIA.

The apex court also directed the federal government to submit a reply on the issue. “Does the federal government intend to privatise the airline?” the chief justice asked and directed the attorney general to appear before the bench.

The bench adjourned the hearing for 14 days.

Separately, the court dismissed a petition against the PIA administration. The petitioner had contended that only influential candidates were provided opportunities for internships in the airline. The court rejected the petition while citing the absence of any law on internships.

Source: Dawn

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