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Senator Farhatullah Babar on PIA Privatization

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Islamabad November 9, 2015: Opening discussion on his motion on PIA affairs PPP Senator Farhatullah Babar called for inquiry into the reasons behind granting unlimited traffic rights to the Middle Eastern carriers pushing the PIA into a bottomless loss making enterprise just when there is talk of its imminent privatization.

The huge advantages offered by a market of over 15 million expatriates and a 49% reduction in fuel costs in the first quarter of the current year due to falling fuel prices has been washed as PIA is thrown to the wolfs raising serious questions that must be probed, he said.

PIA losses have often been blamed overstaffing and political interference. While PIA is certainly over staffed it should also be borne in mind that its current salaries bill of around 16-17 % of the revenue is within the limits of 25 % practiced in the industry.

Commercial aviation can flourish only under fair competition but the freedom enjoyed by the three ME carriers in Pakistani skies has denied the PIA fair competition making it loss making enterprise so that it can be sold dirt cheap.

He said that states own the air space over their territory and negotiate commercial aviation treaties keeping in view national interests and fair competition. Bilateral agreements specifying each to pick up and drop passengers in the other country, the frequencies per week and the type and capacity of the aircraft and the destination are all subjects of hard nose negotiations which have been totally ignored in the case of the 3 ME airlines namely Emirates, Abu Dhabi and Qatar.

The PIA has been burdened with unfair competition which is a sure recipe to drive the PIA out of business.

Giving examples he said that previously Qatar Airways had 4 weekly flights to Islamabad and Lahore. During the last two years Qatar Airways flies 14 weekly flights to Islamabad besides having been given additional new routes of Sialkot, Faislabad and Multan.

Houbara hunting permits to gulf Shaikhs may be a corner stone of our foreign policy according to the FO but destruction of the national carrier cannot and must not be the corner stone of our aviation policy he said.

He said that PIA was the first airline in Asia to acquire a Boeing 707. It was the first in Asia to operate purely cargo flight. It played a pivotal role in nation building by launching projects like PIA Shaver, precision engineering and giving jobs to talented sportsmen. It achieved great successes even when there was no expatriate traffic.

He called for inquiry into forcing unequal competition on PIA rendering it a loss making entity so that it could be sold cheap.

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