Have all the parties concerned in the case for PIA really lost it?

Published: February 3, 2016

Two of PIA's ATR 42-500 turbo-prop aircrafts had to make emergency landings after suffering from technical faults. Both landed safely with one engine off, September 3, 2011. PHOTO: COURTESY ATR

The business of the state is to run the state and to govern it for greater public good. There are no two opinions about this. That, in this day and age of corporatisation and decentralisation, means the state should not be running banks, airlines and factories. Rather it should focus on setting up regulatory authorities and let them run companies which provide these professional services.

The jury is still out on the economics of privatisation of State assets. The previous examples of PTCL and UBL are being bandied about on how the imperatives of transparency and profitability were bypassed. But what about the human cost of such measures? The International Monetary Fund’s conditionality’s, and election promises made in the manifesto of PML-N state that, “PIA shall be transformed into a profitable and reputed airline of the region,” notwithstanding.

The morphing of transformation into the PIA privatisation fiasco has now translated into a tragedy after the death of two of the protesting workers in Karachi. This will understandably overshadow the narrative of the colossal loss to the national exchequer because of years of accumulated mismanagement and inefficiencies, political meddling and downright corruption from all the parties who are now pointing fingers at others.

All these factors had snowballed into the debate on privatisation. Not restructuring, not right-sizing, but privatisation, because the rot had set in too deep.

Again, understandably, the employees are the ones making the loudest noise because they are the directly affected party. They are the first to feel insecure in the event of the change in status quo. The debate of whether they were employees on merit or otherwise has to be taken place on another level. But the employees also need to understand that the clamour did not generate too much public sympathy because of the abysmal level of services the travellers had been exposed to.