PPP, JI, unions oppose PIA privatization plan

KARACHI: Pakistan People’s Party (PPP), Jamaat-i-Islami (JI) and several unions at a seminar on Wednesday opposed decision of Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) government to privatize Pakistan International Airline (PIA).

Addressing the seminar on ‘Privatization of PIA, a disaster for Pakistan’ organized by Pakistan International Airline Corporation Employees (PIACE), a union, at Karachi Press Club, PPP Secretary General Sindh Taj Haider said that all labour unions should unite on a single platform to resist government intention to privatize PIA. “PPP will not accept decision to privatize PIA and consider it as illegal and unconstitutional.”

Haider said that in 1990, more than 180 government institutions were privatized but the nation could not be pulled out of debt yet. “We are still asking IMF to help us in stabilizing our economy, so it is evident that privatization will never help overcome financial crisis.”

PPP leader said that it was the responsibility of government to provide jobs to people but there was reverse action in Pakistan as government was eager to expel people from their institutions and make them jobless.

He said that extra staff of the PIA could easily be minimized if government increases the fleet of the airline. “Similarly, PIA should run its planes on new profitable routes like Karachi to Baghdad which would help several people to visit holy places in Iraq.”

Taj said that if government implemented its decision to privatize the airline, then it would be considered as anti-labour act and PPP would resist against it with full might.

Jamaat-i-Islami Karachi chief Hafiz Naeemur Rehman said that he was hopeful that if government privatized PPI, the airline employees would stop every activity of the airline and force government to revert the decision.

Rehman said that PML-N chief Nawaz Sharif had promised the nation that he would not beg for money from IMF but just before his oath-taking ceremony, his party leaders were involved in negotiations with IMF officials to finalize deal.

He said that JI along with labour unions of PIA would foil attempt by the government to privatize the institution which had the potential to generate profit.

Speaking on the occasion, renowned economist Shahid Hassan Siddiqui revealed that without the consent of provinces, Finance Minister Ishaq Dar and Abdul Hafeez Shaikh had given assurances to IMF on behalf of provinces for privatization of PIA.

“PPP and Jamat-i-Islami are in government in Sindh and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa respectively and are opposing PIA privatization, then who had given assurances on behalf of their provinces in a meeting of Council of Common Interests,” he said, adding that the government had submitted a fake document with IMF.

Siddiqui said that government had assured IMF that by June 30, it would privatize the airline in order to minimize its debt. He said that unions and political parties should remain ready to foil attempt to privatize PIA. Siddiqui said that government should abolish privatization commission and instead, form a commission to analyze whether this privatization has positive or negative implications on our economy.

Convener of Joint Action Committee of PIA and President PALPA, Sohail Baloch, said that whenever new administration comes in PIA, it focuses on expenses caused by excess employees. He said that out of 100 percent expenses of PIA, only 16 percent was spent on employees while 56 percent on fuel.

“Expense of fuel can easily be reduced to 40 percent. We have saved Rs 43.5 crore in terms of fuel with the cooperation of Pakistan Air Force,” he said, adding that in November, PIA debt had reduced to Rs 1.2 billion in a month from Rs 3.5 billion monthly.

Secretary General PIACE Ubaid Ullah, President People’s Unity PIA Employees, PIA Cabin and Crew Association official Nasrullah Afridi also spoke on the occasion.

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