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Privatization of PIA

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Public corporations were created with taxpayer’s money to accelerate economic and social development. However now increasing evidence indicate that due to the constant undue interference of the politicians most of the public enterprises have lost their efficacy. Firstly the political leaders from PPP as well as PML (N) inducted their relatives, party workers and those who paid handsome amounts to their MNAs / MPAs, in the public corporations almost three times more than actual manpower requirement of the relevant institution. Secondly they appointed their incapable friends and cronies to head these institutions for their personal greed. Thirdly, by design, they gave the targets to their political appointees to completely destroy these institutions to pave the way to grab them in the guise of so-called privatization for pennies. Will rulers leave the keys of their chests with a servant whose integrity is doubted? Why is privatization being continued when the past experience shows it is a fundamentally flawed policy? In fact, their main focus is to grab the precious real estate assets of these entities. Today either these entities are not able to contribute strongly to development, or perform their public service functions ineffectively or inefficiently.

The failed privatization policy has shown that those promoting it offer false promises. Elections are contested and won on promises to keep public entities in public hands by restructuring them in the real sense. But when they assume power they start privatization process (in fact plundering) of profitable public companies without adequate public deliberation resulting in cost increases, reduced access to vital services, as well as diminished service quality, and have failed to protect against corruption. Privatization not only deprives us of protection, but it also endangers us with the dire threat of corporate misconduct.

It is not easy for a nation of 200 million people stand on the sidelines helplessly watching one person selling everything in Pakistan to his nears and dears for pennies and leading our country down towards a path of destruction simply because of his greed and hunger for power. With every passing day, people are getting frustrated as they are being pushed towards living even below the poverty line and no one is there in the government to represent them. Cruel, selfish rulers are pushing them towards the uncertain future. A fear has penetrated into their hearts that nothing is going to be changed until getting rid of these corrupt politicians.

Consequent upon a deal brokered by Chaudhry Muneer, a relative of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, and his Special Assistant on aviation, Shujaat Azeem, as a first step to privatize and to hand over the PIA to sheikhs of Abu Dhabi as per commitment, a Presidential Ordinance has been issued on 6th December bypassing the Parliament and without seeking its approval before making a decision to sell it. Earlier in October, Privatization Commission had refused to give even any sort of briefing to the Parliamentary Committee on the privatization of PIA and Pakistan Steel Mills in a bid to avoid expected criticism from the masses and lawmakers.

The rulers addicted of plundering the nation resources are playing with nation’s future only to carry on their luxuries and minting money from international bidders. There is no exaggeration to say that PML (N)’s policies have virtually halted the growth of our economy. PIA is being privatized on IMF dictation opening new doors of corruption and nepotism. The government, in a written assurance given to IMF, had agreed to privatize the PIA by March 2016. Like false pledges in the past deals, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has once again ‘ordered’ that no PIA employee be sacked due to the privatization. The rulers want to sell everything in Pakistan to friends, relatives, and cronies for pennies. The privatization of Pakistan Steel Mills, the power distribution companies including FESCO, IESCO, LESCO and other entities are on the hit list that would be privatized by the next year 2016.

Politics in Pakistan today has become the most lucrative business, with the fastest gains in fortune. Quaid-e-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah would be ashamed of the greedy, fearful, and corrupt country it has become if he were alive today. Why privatize? We should return to the public alternative to privatization, in which government continue to develop infrastructure, and public-sector companies to deliver the service. It is government intervention that causes economic inefficiencies. It is no rocket science to conclude that incapable, incompetent and corrupt person if appointed to head any public corporation, would result into losses and bankruptcy of that organization as has been done in most of the public companies.

Instead of Prime Minister, an Independent Commission for executive appointments, following predetermined procedure based on merit, should select the CEOs, Board Members, and other senior executives for the public companies. Once they are appointed, they should be subject to strict accountability by the same Commission. The affairs of these entities should be strictly regulated. It would provide greater flexibility, control, and comparative efficiency. If the government is serious to rescue PIA, The government should immediately withdraw the ordinance issued for privatization of the PIA, and it should hire a team of experts through proposed Commission to run the affairs of the PIA smoothly. PIA is not loss making institution; by design, it has been made loss-making merely to justify its privatization.

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