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PIA reforms


July 10, 2020

No doubt, Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) was once recognized as the number one airline of the world. Various regional airlines, which received training and infrastructure support by PIA, are now in a better position to secure a lion’s share in the world market due to professionalism, high class services and safety standards. On the other hand, it's a pity that today PIA is in hot waters.

On various occasions, I have termed PIA our most valuable national asset and expressed my sincere wish for its revival. The recent statement by Aviation Minister Ghulam Sarwar Khan, on the floor of parliament, over the issue of the ‘dubious licences’ of the Pakistani pilots resulted in a hue and cry on a larger scale. Even during the National Assembly session, I saw that the minister was criticized by several opposition members.

In response to the minister’s statement, inquiries have been reportedly initiated at the national and global levels; pilots with fake degrees could be fired, some engineers and technical staff may also terminated, many others may face legal action, and in some cases, the doors of some countries may also be closed to us. However, the good news is that all such steps are being taken by the elected government of Pakistan and not by any other country. The timely decision has therefore saved the institution from further collapse and thereby secured the innocent lives of travelers.

Unfortunately, the poor performance by past PIA administration was another key factor for facing the worst kind of crisis, not only financial but related to mismanagement, lack of leadership, irresponsible staff attitude, nepotism, political involvements, union strikes, corruption and what not. There were frequent reports of flights narrowly escaping from accidents, emergency take-offs, unnecessary delays, and cancelled flights even with confirmed air tickets. Such unwanted situations were bringing a bad name for the national carrier. However, the current management seems to be quite capable of handling the situation in a professional way. In my view, the presence of political appointees on a larger scale is still a big challenge for the administration.

On different talk shows, I had emphasized the significance of making the inquiry report public in order to identify mistakes and ensure safety in the future. Now, we should put our best efforts to ensure that such tragic incidents must not happen again. We must face the realities wisely and bravely in order to make decisions for the betterment of the entire country. If we are serious about the revival of PIA, then there is a dire need of taking solid steps and strict decisions. This national institution must be restructured and made free from political influence at any cost. All incompetent and unskilled staff must be shown the door. Employees that are neglecting their duties are the real culprits of PIA’s downfall.

However, we must not forget that there is also a good number of dedicated, well-qualified and experienced employees serving PIA. During the process of restructuring, such sincere staff must not be harmed. Their positive contributions must be acknowledged by the management. Like other international organizations, PIA must also ensure to implement employee reward and recognition systems for the sake of motivating sincere staff at individual and group levels.

There is no doubt that the present government, instead of indulging itself in political appointments, is keenly interested in bringing reforms in the national institution. In this regard, several decisions are being taken to restore the dignity of Pakistan. A proper system of check and balance is being promoted throughout the country. Elimination of black sheep, causing embarrassment in several departments, is being initiated. Such actions are also boosting the confidence of people on the honest leadership.

However, the only practical solution for the revival of PIA is to implement the rule of 'right person in the right place'. In this way, the revival of PIA will also become a success story for reforms of other national institutions.

The writer is a member of the National Assembly and patron-in-chief of the Pakistan Hindu Council.

Twitter: @RVankwani