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ISLAMABAD: The government on Tuesday assured the parliament that the management of Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) will remain with the government, while 49 per cent shares will be sold by April 15, as stipulated under the PIAC Conversion Act of 2016 approved by the parliament.

This was stated by Privatisation Minister Daniyal Aziz both, to Senate Standing Committee on Privatisation and National Assembly, in response to a calling attention notice that had been moved by the PPP members.

Briefing the members, the minister said the government intends to separate transport business from the airline’s assets and the entity would be owned by the state.

In this transaction, the majority shares and management control will remain with the state, he said.

The transport model has been approved by the recent meeting of the Cabinet Committee on Privatisation, separating air transport business from non-air transport business.

Various assets and liabilities, that are not part of air transport business, will be shifted to a new company which is yet to be named.

Referring to the management and audit accounts, Daniyal Aziz said that by separating the transport business, the investment rate of PIA will be restored making the national flag carrier a positive equity company.

The privatisation minister said that PIA’s privatisation is not possible soon. The process is going on for the last 30 months. Financial advisers have prepared reports on various assets and liabilities that are not part of the air transport business.

The standing committee headed by Senator Mohsin Aziz of PTI expressed its annoyance over the absence of Prime Minister’s Adviser on Aviation, Sardar Mehtab Khan Abbasi from the meeting.

Responding on the issue, Mr Daniyal Aziz said that he took the reign of privatisation in September while Sardar Mehtab Abbasi also took charge as advisor on aviation.

At one stage, after a heated debate, Saleem Mandviwalla staged a walk-out from the meeting, but joined later.

Sherry Rehman put numerous questions on the airline’s privatisation and the existing aviation policy. She questioned the minister as to who is running PIA’s affairs these days while criticising the role of the former adviser, Shujaat Azeem.

She said that PIA has lost a great deal of business due to the aviation policy of the government, with closing down of international routes, which under the open sky policy went to other airlines.

Senator Rehman asked as to why PIA is going down while air traffic has gone up by 40pc.

She added that lots of overseas Pakistanis have expressed deep concern over the reported selling of PIA, and want the national flag carrier to continue its operations.

The issue of PIA’s privatisation also echoed in the National Assembly on Tuesday, where Danyal Aziz stated that the government was bound to complete the privatisation process under the PIAC Conversion Act 2016.

Replying to a ‘Calling Attention Notice’ moved by Syed Naveed Qamar and others, Mr Aziz explained that the government will retain 51pc shares of PIA’s management control.

Published in Dawn, February 21st, 2018