PM okays outsourcing management of three key airports

Published December 31, 2022
Prime Mini­ster Shehbaz Sharif chairs a meeting to discuss matters pertaining to aviation and airports in Islamabad on Friday. — PID photo
Prime Mini­ster Shehbaz Sharif chairs a meeting to discuss matters pertaining to aviation and airports in Islamabad on Friday. — PID photo

ISLAMABAD: Reviving a dec­i­sion taken by the government of his PML-N in 2017, Prime Mini­ster Shehbaz Sharif on Friday issued directives calling for initiating the process of outsourcing the management of three major airports in the country.

In April 2017, the then prime minister and PML-N supremo Nawaz Sharif had approved the policy to outsource the management of the country’s three main airports.

Chairing a meeting held to discuss matters pertaining to aviation and airports on Friday, PM Shehbaz gave a go-ahead for outsourcing of Jinnah International Airport Karachi, Allama Iqbal International Airport Lahore and Islamabad International Airport under the public-private partnership.

According to the Prime Minister’s Office, Shehbaz Sharif said that under the outsourcing process all relevant departments should take the required steps efficiently, adding that transparency must be ensured during the exercise.

The meeting was informed that outsourcing of airports is a “normal profit-seeking practice” throughout the world.

The officials concerned told the participants that initially Islamabad airport and Lahore airport would be outsourced under the public-private partnership. The outsourcing of airports would not only provide revenue to the government but would also help improve facilities for international travellers, they added.

The meeting was also briefed on the performance of Pakistan International Airlines. It was informed that the national flag carrier had collected revenue worth Rs172 billion during 2022 — highest in the history of the airline. Four new A-320 planes have been added to the PIA fleet as part of expansion of its network. Wide-body aircraft are also being included in the fleet.

Expressing satisfaction over PIA’s performance, PM Shehbaz appreciated the role of Aviation Minister Khawaja Saad Rafique and relevant officials.

“This is the policy that was approved by the Civil Aviation Authority in 2015,” Information and Broadcasting Marriyum Aurangzeb had said in 2017 while briefing the media following a cabinet meeting.

“By including private companies in the public sector, the management of airports will be outsourced,” she had said then, adding that the new policy would first apply to Karachi, Lahore and Islamabad airports.

During its tenure, the PTI government at a cabinet meeting on June 23, 2021 had allowed the outsourcing of the country’s major airports and road network to raise around Rs1.8 trillion to meet the budget deficit.

Strongly reacting to the federal government decision, Aircraft Owners and Operators Association (AOOA) announced it would move court against it.

More than 80pc aircraft owners and operators in Pakistan are currently members of the association.

AOOA Patron Imran Aslam Khan termed the move “a great excess to be committed with the coming generations” and vowed not to allow the government outsource the airports. He warned Qatar authorities and an investment group that they would challenge the decision in the court.

Published in Dawn, December 31st, 2022

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