LAHORE: The PIA board has renewed its call for “hiring a foreigner with vast experience of running an airline” to streamline the affairs of the national carrier just over a month after the appointment of its new managing director, former Air chief Rao Qamar Suleman.
The proposal to hire a foreigner to run the affairs of the national airlines was mooted by one of the directors, Makhdoom Ahmed Mahmood, at a meeting of the board in Islamabad on Monday and was endorsed by majority directors including its chairman, Chaudhry Ahmed Mukhtar, who is also Defence Minister. The proposal will now be debated in the board’s next meeting scheduled for May 15.
Mr Mahmood, who is also member of the Punjab Assembly and is close to the PML-N leadership, told Dawn he had raised the issue of hiring a “thorough professional from abroad” because the national carrier could not afford further deterioration. “The hiring process should start immediately,” he said.
He was of the view that a foreigner would be in a much better position to take “independent” decisions and resist political pressures.
“In countries such as Singapore and Qatar they have experienced foreigners to run their national airlines. Why can’t we have one in Pakistan?,” he asked. Chaudhry Ahmed Mukhtar said he had endorsed the proposal of Mr Mahmood because he too wanted improvement in the PIA.
“There is no harm in hiring a foreigner if he has what it takes to turn the national carrier around,” he said.
He said Mr Mahmood’s proposal was not new as a similar proposal had been also discussed by the board before Rao Suleman was given the job. He said the board’s decisions or proposals were not binding on the government, the majority shareholder in the PIA.
It is not clear if the board is going to adopt the proposal and how the government and the new PIA managing director going to react to it.
The managing director of the PIA has not attended the last two meetings of the board nor has approved the minutes of the meetings.
Sources say he did not attend the board meetings because the government had not fulfilled its commitment to also make him PIA chairman.
Relations between him and the incumbent chairman are also said to be pretty sour on account of use of powers.
While the managing director could not be contacted for his point of view despite repeated efforts to reach him through a PIA spokesman, Chaudhry Ahmed Mukhtar sought to dispel reports of his differences with the new boss of the national carrier.
“I have good relations with the managing director and we regularly consult each other over the airline’s matters.”
He said the chairman did not have any administrative powers to run the affairs of the organisation.
“As chairman I assist the board on various issues,” he said, adding that as an ex-officio PIA chairman he had expressly delegated all the administrative and financial powers to the managing director from the time of assuming charge since 2008.”