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Monday March 04, 2024

Interim PM Kakar wants privatisation of PIA on fast-track basis

Chairing a meeting on issues related to PIA, the interim prime minister says the process must be expedited

September 15, 2023
Pakistans caretaker Prime Minister Anwaar-ul-Haq Kakar (right) chairs a meeting on the economy in Islamabad, Pakistan, on August 15, 2023. — PID
Pakistan's caretaker Prime Minister Anwaar-ul-Haq Kakar (right) chairs a meeting on the economy in Islamabad, Pakistan, on August 15, 2023. — PID

ISLAMABAD: Caretaker Prime Minister Anwaar-ul-Haq Kakar on Thursday gave caretaker Minister for Privatisation Fawad Hasan Fawad the task to oversee the process of privatisation of Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) and directed him to complete it on a fast-track basis. Fawad was the former principal secretary to ex-prime minister Nawaz Sharif.

Chairing a meeting on issues related to PIA, the interim prime minister said the process must be expedited. He directed all the relevant stakeholders to find an immediate solution to matters related to privatisation. During the meeting, the prime minister was briefed on the progress of privatisation process of PIA. He also welcomed the new caretaker privatisation minister to his team.

Sources said PIA’s employees have not received salaries for the month of August because of the financial crisis. The Aviation Division has requested the government for immediate release of Rs23 billion as bailout package. However, the Ministry of Finance has dismissed reports that the government was going to extend any financial support to PIA to bring it out of the current crisis. There are also reports that PIA had grounded 14 out of 31 aircraft in its fleet due to insufficient funds.

Meanwhile, in an interview with a private TV channel, Prime Minister Anwaar-ul-Haq Kakar said that he came to know about his new role as caretaker PM just a couple of days before taking office. “I was told my name was among two to three candidates for the caretaker PM slot and I was asked to be mentally ready for the new responsibility,” the caretaker PM said. In the political history of the country, there had been a perception that Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, Nawaz Sharif and Imran Khan were the favourites of power circles so “it is not surprising for me that such an impression is also being built about me,” said PM Kakar.

He resolved that the government would defend every inch of Pakistan’s land and protect every Pakistani citizen, both on the western and eastern borders. “We will defend every inch of our land and will try to protect every soul who we consider to be a Pakistani. We have no doubt or fear to express this position... No one should have any misunderstanding,” the prime minister said.

He said through his letter to the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP), President Arif Alvi just gave a suggestion, not a decision, on the general elections, and until a court verdict, his letter had no legal binding. He said the caretaker government was there to assist the process of holding elections in a transparent way.

About the controversy on the mandate for deciding the election date, the prime minister said parliament had passed a law that was also assented to by the president. He said as there was no judicial conclusion as yet, the government was bound by the prevailing law. However, it would adhere to any court verdict on the subject.

To a question about the duration of caretaker setup, he said he could not give any definite timeframe, however, any timeline would be within the ambit of law. Expressing his trust in the ECP, the prime minister said being a mandated body, the commission would come up with a definite timeline for the elections. To another question about NAB law amendments, the prime minister said parliament had an inherent right to legislation. He said while interpreting the law and Constitution, the judiciary should also strike a balance to avoid any interference in other institutions’ domains.

Kakar termed terrorism and economic challenges as existential threats to Pakistan and said that he would vote for a political party in the next elections that possessed an agenda for economic revival.

The PM said that the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf chief should be given facilities in the prison that he was entitled to as a former prime minister. Asked whether the proposal for banning the PTI was put forth before his cabinet, he said the government would decide as per merit.

Discussing the May 9 incident, he said on that day, the political workers tried to create unrest. He said the PTI chief could not analyze the factors of his ouster from the government on realistic grounds and due to the very reason, he could not get any political mileage in the long run.

The prime minister said within 48 hours of its formation, the caretaker government made an intervention and also formed a steering committee under the finance minister. He said the administrative response had already been initiated by taking the provincial governments on board.

Asked about the sustainability of the ongoing operation against power theft and smuggling, the prime minister said the appropriate application of force needed to be done consistently. He said the process had started for the first time to curb illicit trade and it would continue as now an institutional mechanism was in place.

Regarding the visit of Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, he said the dates would be decided mutually as Pakistan desired it to be of a prolonged duration. He said that the state would have to decide how to deal with the menace of smuggling. “It is not our job to bring the value of the dollar under Rs250,” said the premier, adding, “If we stop illegal activities, the value of dollar will automatically start depreciating.”

To a question about the ECP’s letter on political appointments in the caretaker setup, the prime minister said the government would try not to appoint a person who was an office-bearer of any political party. He said the ECP had not expressed any dissatisfaction but rather gave an advice, which the government received with respect. Asked about the whereabouts of missing journalist Imran Riaz, Prime Minister Kakar said he did not have any specific information in that regard.