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March 17, 2018

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PIA’s hasty flight into privatisation

ISLAMABAD: A ‘push from the top’ and ‘hurry to sell Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) before 31st May’, the last day in government for the current PML-N set-up, has led to a feverish activity within the Privatisation Commission to the bafflement of official machinery, much of which remains not on board.

The News has learnt that Federal Minister Danyal Aziz, who recently announced to sell the national flag carrier before 31st May 2018, has not consulted anyone, not even the secretary or the consultants in the commission, before finalising the presentation for the privatisation of PIA.

"This frantic and feverish effort to sell the PIA before the end of May may not have been possible without a nudge or push from the top," commented a senior official on condition of anonymity. When pressed further as to who that "someone" could be, the official only quipped: "Someone higher than the minister" withoutfurther elaborating. However, as the situation stands, the government despite the promise and declaration from the Privatisation Minister to dispense with once "the pride of the nation" as PIA was until the end of 80s, the goal or aspiration as some see it, may remain unmet.

Background interview of more than three senior officials and two federal ministers, who had been part of all important meetings, told this correspondent that Secretary Privatisation openly told Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi that in short time privatisation or sale of 49 percent shares of PIA was not possible. But government still aims to privatise PIA before 31st May 2018, stated a federal minister privy to this important development.

Officials handling the privatisation affairs in past told this correspondent that if government decided to privatise PIA, it should have to adopt a process which needs at least six months’ time. They stated that first of all financial advisor (FA) has to be appointed to evaluate the organisation. In past government had appointed financial advisor but now he is not working.

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