Islamabad: Followers of Pakistan International Airlines will always believe the national carrier is in the doldrums. For those who have worked for the airline, the story is different.
Captain Nadeem Khan Yousafzai, former PIA managing director, belongs to the latter group.
“It is time to take firm decisions concerning the fate of PIA; make it or break it,” said Yousafzai, who served as the airline’s managing director in 2011.
The federal government, since 1990, has been actively considering selling the airline to the private sector due to persistent losses, but Yousafzai argues against the intended move.
He advised the concerned heads in Islamabad to save the airlines from further destruction and alleged that wrong decisions would lead the company nowhere. “In fact, those officials who are preparing the ground work for PIA’s privatisation are after its assets that are worth billions of dollars,” he added.
The former MD criticised policymakers and said both the employees and the top management were responsible for the current state of affairs.
However, he refused to comment on the reports that a few top officials had already decided to hand over the airline to a Saudi Arabian commercial party.
He did not blame any individual for bringing the airline on the brink of financial crisis. However, he said that those who effectively turned international air traffic from Karachi to Dubai were certainly responsible.
“If someone sincerely wants to know the cause of the worsening financial situation, they should first determine as to who sold out the precious routes of PIA,” he added.
Independent business circles believe that the privatisation of PIA was aimed at obliging ‘favourites’ and opening new avenues of corruption.
Selling of precious routes to foreign airlines has been a serious concern among the employees for the last five years.
Yousafzai, a former PIA pilot, was appointed the new managing director of the airline after a weeklong strike held by pilots and other employees in 2011.
The staff had accused the PIA top management including its MD Captain Aijaz Haroon for selling precious routes to Turkish Airlines. The strike came to an end after the government asked Haroon to resign and cancelled the MoU signed between Turkish airlines and PIA.
Yousafzai said that a few high-ups in Islamabad are trying to misguide people by telling them the entity is incurring losses. “Such propaganda is aimed at preparing the ground for privatising the airlines at throwaway prices.”
As for over-staffing, he said it was not a very serious issue and the surplus staff could always be exported to foreign airlines. “Several Pakistani engineers and other technical staff are already working for the gulf airlines since many years,” he said.
Despite the fact that the PIA staff has been working without salary since nine months, Yousafzai believes the airlines is still the best commercially viable entity. “PIA has helped establish 22 airlines in different parts of the world when it was one of the three top airlines.”