PPP Senator Saleem Mandviwalla cast doubt on Sunday about the “alleged privatization” of Pakistan International Airlines (PIA), voicing serious concerns that the appropriate procedures were not being followed in the privatization of this state-owned asset.

During an interview on a private TV channel, Mandviwalla revealed that he had become aware of a meeting related to the “disinvestment of PIA,” chaired by Interim Privatization Minister Fawad Hasan Fawad. Notably, the meeting included the participation of PML-N stalwart Saad Rafique, who had formerly held the positions of railways and aviation minister in the last PDM government.

The PML-N asserts that we (PPP) approved privatization and sanctioned the caretaker government to proceed. However, if a former minister is partaking in that meeting, it appears to be more of a selective privatization rather than a transparent process”.

The formal initiation of the divestment process for Pakistan International Airlines Corporation (PIACL) occurred on Friday, marked by the appointment of a financial adviser by the Board of Privatization Commission.

Meanwhile, the national flag-carrier has been ensnared in a series of crises, further intensified by Pakistan State Oil (PSO) withholding fuel supplies to the airline due to payment issues. This prolonged predicament has led to the cancellation of numerous flights, pushing the national carrier perilously close to the brink of collapse.

Voicing his apprehensions, the PPP senator underscored his concerns that the airline could be sold “in any manner and to anyone of your choosing.”

He continued, “There will be a lack of transparency, and inevitably, there will be protests. We will articulate our political opposition, and PIA employees, among others, will hit the streets. Legal actions will also be pursued,” he further stated.

In response to inquiries about the PML-N’s stance on the privatization process, Mandviwalla confidently stated, “[Certainly], the PML-N is supporting it.”

Senator Mandviwalla reiterated his reservations about the role played by Rafique in the meeting. When asked to comment on the perception that the airline could be sold to a favored individual within the PML-N, the senator emphasized that this was not a mere perception but “an undeniable fact.”

“When you carry out privatization in this manner, you must have already identified a buyer and forged an agreement with them, ensuring that ‘no one else will bid in the privatization, and we will grant it to you,'” Mandviwalla asserted. He reiterated that the PPP would not tolerate privatization conducted in such a manner and underscored that the party would actively protest against it.

Earlier, PPP Senator Raza Rabbani vehemently opposed the privatization of PIA in any form, expressing doubt about the seemingly smooth operation of PIA planes amid the abrupt halt and subsequent resumption of fuel supply. He called for a comprehensive investigation into the specific events.

Rabbani also demanded an inquiry into PSO’s refusal to supply fuel, stating, “Through a deliberate campaign… PIA is being prepared for a loot sale.”

The recent challenges faced by PIA unfolded after the government announced in August its decision to privatize the airline as part of a fiscal discipline plan agreed upon under an International Monetary Fund bailout.

This decision raised concerns among stakeholders, prompting questions about whether the national airline was being prepared for “a distressed sale” through a deliberate campaign. The government’s intentions have also stirred apprehension among PIA staff, who are uneasy about their job security and benefits.

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