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Does PIA need a chairman?

January 13, 2013

THIS is apropos of the notice issued by the Supreme Court to the defence secretary in the PIA case. There is always a mad race to become PIA chairman to enjoy lifetime free travel facility.

To be fair there is no need to appoint a chairman for PIA who also acts as chairman of the Civil Aviation Authority board.

What is required is to have a qualified managing director who is not a pilot and empowered. At present, the PIA managing director and director-general of the CAA are treated as just two officers who are politically appointed serving under the ministry of defence.

As a result, all decisions by the ruling elite have to be implemented. They are hardly allowed to work independently and, in fact, most of their time is consumed in answering queries and attending meetings in the ministry of defence.

Under the circumstances to blame PIA is not fair. Who does not know that 50 per cent of the employees are surplus, as observed by the apex court?

What is the justification for employing 17,000 people, excluding 2,734 daily wage earners, for a fleet of 45 aircraft out of which 28 are operational?

In most countries, CAAs work under ministries of transport, civil aviation or communications. There is a need to go through the report prepared in 1995 by M/s Arthur D. Little and NatWest on PIA. They recommended a separate ministry of aviation be set up and the CAA split into four companies so that its commercial and regulatory roles could be separated.

The CAA and ministry of defence opposed it but as a compromise agreed to set up a ministry of aviation only to wind it up after the Benazir government was dismissed.

In March 1999, Nawaz Sharif revived it but it was abolished by Gen Musharraf after the coup. It is hoped that the Supreme Court will take notice of these issues.