PIA’s liabilities and assets to be transferred to holding company as privatisation process enters next stage. What will the timeline look like?

Former governor of the State Bank, Tariq Bajwa, has been appointed chairman of the 11 member board as plans for privatisation enter the vital phase-II stage.

ISLAMABAD: Plans to privatise Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) have entered phase two with the appointment of an 11-member board that will oversee a holding company that manages the national carrier’s assets.

The government, it seems, is in a hurry to complete plans for the privatisation of the PIA. Part of the reason could be that Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif’s finance team is currently gearing up to enter yet another programme with the International Monetary Fund (IMF). Back in June 2023, Shehbaz Sharif’s previous government had agreed to overhaul loss-making state-owned enterprises under a deal with the IMF for a $3 billion bailout. The PIA represents the largest and most significant of these SOEs.

Not the first time

The deal was struck at a time when Pakistan was teetering on the edge of default. The PDM government had no choice but to agree even though different governments throughout the country’s history have shied away from having the stain of privatising Pakistan’s national airline on their track record.

Plans to privatise PIA, however, seem to continuously get hampered. This is not the first time that the airline has reached phase II of privatisation either. Back in January 2018, the then PML-N government had first announced it was planning to establish another company under which all the fixed assets of PIA would be managed.

There was also an attempt by Anwar ul Haq Kakar’s caretaker cabinet to privatise PIA. However, these plans were thwarted when the ECP invoked Article 230 of the Constitution, outlining the caretaker government’s roles and limitations, and stopped them from completing the process.

The government, however, was also facing increasing pressure because of the debt burden being caused by the PIA. In February this year, the Finance Ministry and the Privatisation Ministry locked horns over the transfer of the national carrier’s debt liabilities worth Rs 1.7 trillion to the government.

What are the steps ahead? 

As things stand, the government has to go through a detailed 30 step process to privatise the national airline.

A significant hurdle in the process involves obtaining No-Objection Certificates (NOCs) from around 35 lenders, a task with an unpredictable timeline due to PIA’s financial struggles. This step is critical for maintaining the airline’s operations and is indicative of the complexities involved in the privatisation efforts. Compared to past privatisations, such as the Heavy Electrical Complex which took two years to transition to new ownership despite concluding the Sale Purchase Agreement in 2022, the PIA privatisation stands out for its complexity. Achieving this within a year would be considered a significant accomplishment. Despite prior commitments to Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif for a swift transaction, possibly by June 2024, sources critique these promises as overly optimistic.

Part of the preparation involves PIA’s division into two separate entities, a process entailing multiple steps itself. The liabilities and assets of the PIA will now be transferred to the PIA Holding Company. The holding company will be led by former Governor State Bank of Pakistan Tariq Bajwa as Chairman.

 

Ahmad Ahmadani
Ahmad Ahmadani
The author is a an investigative journalist at Profit. He can be reached at [email protected].

12 COMMENTS

  1. It will be interesting to see how the government navigates the challenges ahead to achieve its goal of privatizing PIA.

  2. Punjabi Mafia of Land Grabbers are after Assets of PiA as offices all over the world that are more expensive then the airline itself are required not the Airline , this is main reason this so called investigative journalist called ot biggest loss maker in SOE whole this is not Fact but a lie , it NHA and Electric Discos that are bigger than PIA as loss making and also the Railway why not sell them ? before

  3. Regarding the remark about Punjabi Mafia of land grabbers are after PIA assets, it might be true but I must mention here that Mr Tabba a renowned businessman of our country was offered PIA and few loss making Discos but he refused based on his own experience because his previous investments were not guarded by government which were promised and he had very bad experience

  4. The actual reason of PIA loss is the OPEN SKY policy initiated back in 90’s by the then N LEAGUE government.
    Also three major competitors and their countries government are a main cause of PIA loss, which include EMIRATES, SAUDI and QATAR.
    Lastly, incompetent management and involvement of government’s corrupt beaurocracy ( their catastrophic decisions ruined the airline, incompetent top management hired by a non professional entity ( means having big zero experience of civil aviation and civil airline operations). Also there is no system of ACCOUNTABILITY( because very big guns are looking after it , no one can name them)

  5. PIA once ‘great people to fly with’ helped other airlines to set up and flourish. Incompetent top management can never deliver. I’m sure the new owners will hire professionals to deliver and the same PIA of today will be rubbing shoulders with emirates, Etihad and Qatar in very near future with flying colors, should keep the name atleast.

  6. I hope PIA gets a proper recognition after this…because its flights are banned here in UK 🇬🇧. I hope all goes well and it becomes a stronger and proud airline of our country…with a topnotch crew and management. ❤️💛💙

  7. Amazingly all are talking about privatization but not a single person is asking to investigate that why PIA came to this end? what are the causes? an airline builder is ditched but why? why only in Pakistan it is happening again and again?

  8. PIA, Railway and Discos must be privatized at priority. Look at PTCL after its privatization, if you call for any complaints, after accomplishment of work, they ask you are satisfied from our employer and organization. Look how much communication companies working in competition with each other and spreading the network day by day. Thanks to General Musharaf who had done this work timely. Now WAPDA, Steel Mills, Railway, PIA privatized as early as possible to save the country, and workers of these organizations.

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