ISLAMABAD -  A parliamentary committee on Tuesday grilled the government on the contradictory stance of federal ministers on privatisation of the Pakistan International Airlines and directed to put privatisation of the national flag carrier on hold till the next government takes office.

Senate Standing Committee on Privatisation and Statistics has observed that hurried privatisation of the PIA will put the next government in a lot of problems when it will come to the implementation of the privatisation.

The committee noted that the incumbent government had only four months left in office; therefore it should not privatise the national flag carrier before its term expires.

The senate body recommended that carving-out process might be conducted and evaluation procedures might also be followed but the actual privatisation should be put on hold till the next government took office.

The committee also grilled the government on the contradictory statements of the Federal Privatisation Minister Daniyal Aziz and Adviser to the Prime Minister on Aviation Sardar Mehtab Abbasi, on the privatisation of the PIA.

Committee member Senator Saleem Mandviwalla said that Sardar Mehtab Abbasi had recently ruled out the possibility of the national flag carrier's privatisation before election.

Abbasi had recently said in Senate that the government was about to complete its tenure, whereas it was quite impossible to complete the process of privatisation within next two months as the process takes years to be completed.

The privatisation process may take three to five years. 

However, he said that Daniyal Aziz is working to privatise the PIA before the end of the tenure of the incumbent government.

Another committee member Nasreen Jalil has also asked why two federal ministers are contradicting each other on the privatisation of national flag carrier.

Daniyal Aziz informed the committee that the PIA’s liabilities had swelled to Rs350 billion.

The government had decided to complete the process of separating non-core assets from air transport business of PIA by April this year as per the PIA Corporation Act, 1956, amendment to which was unanimously passed by the parliament in April 2016.

All political parties in the parliament had jointly passed the PIA Act on April 15, 2016 to turn the corporation into a public limited company.

That law required the government to take certain steps including transfer of non-core assets from the PIA’s air-transport business to a separate entity during the validity period.

Under the parliament’s act, the management control of the PIA would continue to remain in the hands of the federal government and that it would not be able to divest more than 49 per cent shares to any third party.

The minister for privatisation said that the federal government would carry out valuation of the assets of the company and its subsidiary companies carrying on air-transport business by a recognised valuator before transferring shares of the companies to a third party.

He informed the committee that the government was working to privatise the PIA, the SME bank, Marri Petroleum and the Pakistan Steel Mills.

These public-sector entities are wasting billions of rupees every year.

The committee was given detailed briefing on privatisation of the Pakistan Steel Mills and the fate of its thousands of employees.

The committee was told that the mill had 11,500 employees and a total of Rs188 billion liabilities.

The committee was told that the transaction model approved by the Board of Privatization Commission would be a 30-year lease plan of the plant and the core land of the Pakistan Steel Mills.

The committee observed that the federal government should have Sindh Government on board regarding the lease agreements so that no issues arise later regarding land of the mill.

The committee was assured by the privatisation minister that the committee’s concerns as to why the UBL and the HBL were given 6-7 per cent discounts during sales of shares would be responded to in detail in the next meeting.

The meeting was held under the chairmanship of Senator Mohsin Aziz here at the Parliament House, and was attended among others by senators Nasreen Jalil, Saleem Mandviwala, Malik Najmul Hassan, Saeedul Hassan Mandokhel, Minister for Privatisation Daniyal Aziz, secretary privatisation and other representatives from the ministry.