ISLAMABAD: The management of the Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) informed the Supreme Court on Friday that vested interests were bent upon ruining the national flag carrier.

Opponents in unions, status quo proponents and other elements in PIA are acting against the interests of the corporation, says a 23-page report submitted to the apex court by the PIA management through its counsel Asim Hafeez.

Such elements are causing obstruction in the implementation of steps and decisions taken or intended to be taken by the management by creating hindrances, hurdles and thus adversely affecting the pace, progress and execution of decisions deemed indispensable for the transformation of the corporation and reclamation of its lost glory, it adds.

The report has been submitted to the SC a day before the scheduled hearing of the matter related to the replacement of the Pakistani flag on the tail of PIA aircraft with the picture of ‘markhor’. A two-judge SC bench comprising Chief Justice of Pakistan Mian Saqib Nisar and Justice Munib Akhtar will take up the matter on Saturday.

In the report, the management has pleaded before the SC to allow it to proceed with the execution and implementation of commercial decisions about the planned change in the livery and re-branding of PIA as approved by its board of directors which has decided to adopt markhor as a symbol of PIA’s revival, new and fresh look — an integral part of the transformation and turn-around strategy.

Management submits report about its decision to have picture of markhor on aircraft’s tail

The PIA management has conceded that the corporation had accumulated losses of Rs356 billion ($3.56 billion) till 2017 and that its balance sheet is now very weak with total liabilities amount to Rs406 billion against assets of Rs111 billion. Today PIA is only able to continue operating due to government’s financial support, the report says.

The report recalls how PIA was one of Pakistan’s iconic companies with a great history, having many achievements in the past but now needs urgent revitalisation and turnaround. Over the last decade, the company has operated in the challenging business and political environment of Pakistan that has had a severe negative impact on its performance, the report concedes, acknowledging that PIA has suffered a massive reputational loss with its brand value becoming a liability rather than an asset which requires substantial and urgent value restoration work.

Though the PIA’s workforce has significant technical airline/aviation industry experience, it disastrously lacks expertise and core competence that are vitally important in operating the corporation successfully, it says.

The company has been operating most routes on losses, has far too many employees for the size of operations and has lagged in the current business environment. Its business model and operations are not capable of making profits and turning its performance around.

Last year, the report says, PIA was incurring losses, had a large number of aircraft grounded, suffered from de-motivated staff, political interference, revenue leakages and little if any inter-departmental coordination. At the leadership level, in addition to attending to particularities, the new management had to set a new direction, align departments and people to the airline’s objectives, find resources for priorities and initiate a combination of short-term and strategic actions.

The report says PIA operates like an old-fashioned government department rather than a modern business and has a change-resistant culture with stifling bureaucracy, capable of derailing good initiatives and young high performers’ talents.

Likewise, corruption and over staffing have paralysed the company along with unions assuming unjustified shadow management roles in operational areas due to their political linkages, the report says, adding the unions and associations have perfected tools to obstruct management drives at revival with malice.

Moreover, the existing aviation policy has been detrimental to the local industry and unjustifiably works to the advantage of Gulf-based airline companies which have usurped a large part of the airline industry’s market share with a major impact on PIA.

Published in Dawn, June 30th, 2018

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