ISLAMABAD, July 16: The Pakistan International Airlines has urged the Senate Standing Committee on Defence and Defence Production to allow relaxation in procurement rules for purchase of aircraft in special circumstances.

A meeting of the committee presided over by its chairman Mushahid Hussain Sayed here on Monday was informed by the PIA management that sometimes the lengthy procedure adopted by the Public Procurement Regulatory Authority cost the airlines heavily.

PIA Chairman Air Marshal (retd) Rao Qamar Suleman told the committee that sometime ago a Gulf state had offered PIA to buy certain aircraft at throwaway prices, but PPRA procedure took up to three months. “When we informed them about the problem, they laughed.”

He said the PIA should be given autonomy because it needed some freedom to take certain decisions quickly.

Members of the committee assured the PIA chairman that they would support the proposed legislation.

The ministry of defence informed the committee that a draft law to grant autonomy to the PIA was under vetting process in the ministry of law and justice.

“The defence ministry is fully ready to grant autonomy to the PIA,” Defence Secretary Nargis Sethi said. “The proposed amendments to the PIA Act had been presented to the cabinet last year. The Cabinet Committee on Restructuring of Public Sector Enterprises is examining the business plan and other things for the revival of national carrier.”

The committee was informed that the PIA had been facing huge liabilities and its earnings were declining because of its old fleet of aircraft.

Rao Qamar said the airline handled 5.7 million passengers a year and 64 per cent of them travelled on short routes. At present the PIA had aircraft suitable for long flights and if they were operated on short routes the airline would suffer more losses, he added.

“PIA has finalised a business plan and it will be presented to the prime minister for his consideration,” he said.

Members of the committee, including Tahir Hussain Mashhadi, supported the PIA’s plan for acquiring aircraft on an urgent basis and said that in the short term lease was a better option than purchasing planes.

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