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PIA officials’ absence irks Senate panel

Updated December 06, 2016


ISLAMABAD: Members of the Senate’s special committee on PIA expressed their extreme displeasure on Monday over the absence of top officials of the national flag carrier from a crucial meeting and warned that a privilege motion could be moved against them, including the chairman and the chief executive officer (CEO).

The committee’s convener, Mushahidullah Khan of the ruling Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N), later formed a three-member sub-committee to review the performance of departments and sections of the Pakistan International Airlines to make recommendations for improvement in services.

The meeting was convened to discuss issues pertaining to the airline’s performance and operations, including the revenue target of 21 per cent, impact of the premier service, default in payments to the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) and Pakistan State Oil (PSO) and upgrade of the PIA fleet.

The sub-committee, comprising Muzaffar Hussain Shah (convener) of the PML-F, retired Lt Gen Abdul Qayyum of the PML-N and Farhatullah Babar of the PPP, has been tasked with looking into various issues with which PIA was plagued and complaints against it aired from time to time. The sub-committee has been given two months to submit its report.

At the outset of the meeting, Mr Khan got infuriated when he was informed by lowranking PIA officials that both top officials were out of the country despite having intimation of the meeting schedule.

He regretted that the top PIA officials and several senior directors were not present at the meeting despite having been given a two-week prior notice, saying that the present management was neither giving importance to the committee nor following its directives.

“I will not let them get away from accountability by parliament,” said Mr Khan, while issuing a warning that the committee could consider moving a privilege motion against the PIA officials for their “non-serious” attitude.

Farhatullah Babar asked whether the purpose of establishing a separate airline company for which a bill was passed by parliament had been achieved.

Talking to Dawn after the meeting, Mr Khan said he would also take up the issue with Senate Chairman Raza Rabbani for further action. He said it was not for the first time that the PIA bosses had ignored the parliamentary committee and he could not tolerate it anymore.

He said the committee had asked the PIA management to submit the “revival plan” for the airline which last year had suffered a loss of Rs14 billion. It had been asked to submit the plan before the next meeting for critical evaluation by the committee.

“The revival plan should give all details, including how the management intends to address the issue of default in payments owed by PIA to the PSO,” Mr Khan said.

He said that the committee’s members were surprised to know that the people working at senior positions in the airline had no experience of administrative and human resource management.

He said that earlier the management used to blame the employees’ union for the airline’s poor performance. Now, he said, the union was not creating any problem for them and, therefore, the management had no excuse.

According to a handout issued by the Senate Secretariat, the committee’s chairman observed that the PIA chairman and the CEO should be able to prioritise things according to their importance and that the parliamentary committees should be given priority over other engagements and meetings.

The committee was informed by PIA directors present at the meeting that the airline had outstanding payments to the PSO and CAA for many years, occasionally leading to delays in flights and other hurdles.

The members asked PIA to finalise an agreement with the PSO and CAA on how these payments would be made, along with a time frame. They suggested a third-party evaluation to enhance the operations quality and generate revenue.

The PIA representatives told the committee that although the airline was operating at a loss, there had been a 37pc increase in the number of passengers.

The committee sought a detailed report along with all documents containing approvals and correspondence of the tender process of the PIA’s obsolete A310 aircraft.

It also sought details as to who approved sending the aircraft on rent to Malta for exhibition and permitting its use in a film shoot which might have political and religious implications.

Published in Dawn December 6th, 2016