The newly appointed caretaker minister for privatisation Mr Fawad Hasan Fawad has told the management of Pakistan International Airlines to draw down operations and gradually bring things to a point where the airline could be shut down in the first quarter of 2024. Fawad Hasan Fawad was principal secretary for the former prime minister Mian Nawaz Sharif from 21 November 2015 to 1 June 2018.
PIA is grappling with the aftermath of the infamous speech of Ghulam Sarwar Khan and later the country’s financial situation especially the dollar crisis has brought the airline to a point where it has limited means to continue its flight operations. Since the airline was incorporated into a private limited company it has been borrowing from the market instead of taking money from the government. However, the government of Pakistan has been providing guarantees for all these loans.
Privatising or shutting down PIA is a major task and Mr Fawad Hasan Fawad has dragged himself into a swamp that has taken many giants over the past many years. Not only he is playing on a weak wicket that is caretaker government but he is also underestimating the task. Without a political consensus where all political parties are on board, it will be impossible to deal with the unions as well as the fallout if the plans fail to materialise. But the most important question is, whether this caretaker government has the mandate for undertaking such a huge task.