LAHORE - Since the loss of last third quarter of PIA was more than Rs.13.58 billion and unfortunately Pakistan’s economic crisis does not offer fiscal space to the government to continue pumping over Rs 38 billion annually to keep it operational. The present government seems to be in a state of confusion, because while it talks about semi privatisation, it has allocated funds for leasing of more aircrafts, without any change of management, given their poor record for implementing Business Plans which envisage profits and revenue generation, but in actual fact only losses have increased. So powerful is nexus of corrupt mafia within PIAC and its subsidiaries, that even Umra and Haj pilgrims were fleeced by creation of artificial shortages and cartels, by few travel agencies in league with senior executives of airline and yet nobody has till today been held accountable. In the case of PIA Investment, had it not been for Saudi partner’s decision to part ways, the executives of PIA-IL spared no effort to disinvest Government of Pakistan of their assets. The decadence of human resources and caliber of executives in PIA is a direct consequence of politicised appointments of incompetent persons at helm. In 2008, Director HR Hanif Pathan on assumption of office gave to himself back dated seniority and promotion with financial benefits as if seniority in service is sole criterion, although he was not found competent by promotion boards in interim period. This precedent, in violation of merit and seniority continues to be followed even today, when former Advisor on Aviation approved back dated seniority and promotion of two brothers of a PML(N) Senator and others with political clout.
Third quarter losses from July to September 2013 of Rs13.58 billion have exposed incompetence of present management serving under a bureaucrat Chairman to surmount the colossal problems that years of mismanagement, institutionalised corruption and abuses of discretionary powers by the mediocrity that dominates the executive corridors of PIA, who given a free hand managed to exceed the 6 monthly losses in just 3 months, whilst the Federal Government is indecisive. Last nail in coffin of PIA was driven during past 5 years, with PPP led coalition government turning a blind eye to pilferage, whilst overburdening organisation with more surplus recruitments in violation of merit in all cadres and yet simultaneously re-employing employees sacked by previous regimes, while indulging in selective termination of regular permanent employees in July 2008 to favor others. Merit, integrity and caliber became a victim of cronyism and greed, while PIA Total Accumulated Losses which stood at Rs42.4 billion in March 2008, mounted by Sept 2013 to Rs183.58 billion, i.e an increase of over 450pc. The momentum of a nose down collapse of this airline requires drastic evasive measures, not business as usual, which requires a total change in management, business plans, stringent financial oversight, regulatory controls, even if it requires recourse to either a general redundancy, or mandatory early retirement, failing which closure of PIA seems to be the ugly reality staring in face.
There seem to be no solid plan to restructure PIA on pure commercial basis as state-owned corporation, or an organisation which is planned for privatisation, and instead what is visible, is business as usual.
Decision by this government to induct 5 more aircrafts on lease, based on Business Plan painting rosy pictures of a recovery would meet same fate that previous BP for induction of B777 submitted in 2002 met, because of corrupt mediocrity that is to implement, is more or less same. There is no doubt that PIA needs a medium-range aircraft, but it would have been more beneficial if type selected correlated to maintenance and operational expertise that exists within airline, because these aircrafts were to replace B737-300 in use. What PIA needs is a total shake-up of its Marketing and Customer Services departments, which require services of professionals with integrity, headed by executives with known credibility, who can lure back the vast potential of ethnic Pakistani expatriate traffic that once formed backbone of revenues, so vital for survival as a going concern, instead of an airline keeping afloat on regular dole-outs by cash starved national exchequer. Unlike Railways, which meets public transportation needs of majority Pakistanis, an airline caters to requirement of small minority, who have other alternative private and foreign airlines offering them more affordable and reliable options.