LAHORE: Foreigners are among about 100 people who have applied for the posts of managing director and chairman of the Pakistan International Airlines (PIA), according to sources.
PIA officials told Dawn a three-member committee had begun finalising the names of applicants who would be asked to appear for interviews. The committee comprised former bureaucrats Rauf Chaudhry and Ejaz Nadeem and well-known educationist Shams K. Lakha.
A foreign airhostess is among those who have applied for the post of managing director of the airline. However, while formulating a final list of candidates to be sent to the prime minister for consideration the committee will have to keep in mind that bearers of dual nationality are largely barred from holding important positions in the country.
The sources said the authorities should have included an aviation expert in the committee. They added that Shahid Aslam, who was the PIA’s managing director during Nawaz Sharif’s last tenure as prime minister, was again emerging as a strong candidate for the coveted post. Aviation experts hope that “a thorough professional” will steer the airlines out of its financial crises. The PIA has to be run on professional and modern lines by competent and energetic staff, the experts say. Operating an airline is a highly complex and technical job.
It is also a time-sensitive one as the passenger and cargo cannot wait. Late decisions translate into loss of opportunity, resulting in massive losses, they say.
The sources said the airline had 19,000 employees and, therefore, downsizing could be required. “Reduce your expenses and enhance your revenue. For that purpose revolutionary steps will have to be taken,” an expert said, suggesting that the new managing director should have autonomy vis-a-vis operational and administrative affairs.
Meanwhile, it will be interesting to see if the managing director and the chairman work in unison for the betterment of the organisation. In the past those occupying the two positions were almost always at daggers drawn.
The managing director would face all kinds of problems because of interference from the chairman and his associates. Although the executive authority lay with the managing director, he could not exercise his powers fully in the presence of a chairman, an expert observed.
When a chairman had a strong political background, political interference became a major issue for the airline. In such a scenario, especially when two separate people were holding the two top posts, no reform could be brought about in the airline, said a senior PIA official.
He said if the same person was holding the two positions, he was able to effectively handle the political and other pressures.
“The story of PIA’s losses is a complex one. But one aspect to which all agree is that the management has to be independent and free of any government pressure and interference.”