Uncertainty for PIA gets lifeline

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AMRAIZ KHAN
LAHORE The Supreme Court of Pakistan seized with a petition by AM Arshad Malik has been convinced by arguments of AG Pakistan to allow the petitioner to resume as Chairman PIA vacating the Sind High Court orders restraining him to hold this office while being an active serving officer of PAF. Their Lordships have ordered PIA management to furnish a “thorough business plan” and various business contracts it had entered with both international organizations and details of liabilities it has been burdened with. AM Arshad Malik has the choice to either assume role of AM Nur Khan and his result-oriented management or fade away like Zafar Chaudhry or Viqar Azeem. Air Marshal must take concrete steps to immediately reduce Direct Operating Cost (DOC) of the airline whose scheduled flights have been reduced by almost 69%. Fuel Cost must reflect 69-70% reduction. All employees on contract must be immediately relieved with option to call them back as and when the situation improves and flight operation requires their service. All regular employees must be asked to go on Earned Annual Leave and in departments where they are in surplus they can be ordered to utilize all their accumulated earned leave. All Fake Degree holders should be sacked following Administration Rules laid down in PIA Service Rules. All employees involved in criminal offence like Smuggling etc even if they have undergone punishment ordered by courts must be relieved. Lease of aircrafts must be cancelled or suspended under Force Majure Clauses and foreign training suspended till such time the operational requirements require their service. AM must approach Federal Govt to seek waiving Parking Charges and reduction in Landing Charges or if possible exemption Mr. Malik must proceed to weed out all fake degree holders since several such officials are holding key posts in airline. New PIA head should enforce financial discipline in executive corridors, by ensuring transparency in all lease and procurement contracts. He must ensure that Financial Reports of both PIA and its subsidiaries must be subject to scrutiny by Auditor General of Pakistan and all executives must follow rules and abuse of powers must cease. Rules like retirement at age of superannuation must be strictly followed and there should be no conflicts of interest. His decision to move Operational Hub of PIA to Islamabad must proceed because almost 78% of traffic originates from northern hubs. While allowing trade unions to function, there should be total ban on all unions affiliated with various political parties or regional groups. Nepotism and cronyism must cease and promotions, appointments and any recruitment should be strictly on merit. The Board of Directors needs to be rejuvenated and not become a Jirga dominated by council of elders, some of them over the age of 75 years. Rapid developments in commercial aviation demands need to upgrade minimum educational qualification for initial induction and preference for best qualified talent available in the country. All employees who face any criminal charges or are engaged in smuggling etc must be axed and preference be given to those holding single Pakistani nationality, so that do not escape accountability. To begin with Chairman Arshad must review that it was brainchild of Nur Khan who after taking over an airline on verge of collapse after 1971 debacle and mismanagement by likes of Zafar decided in 1978 to sign Lease Tenancy Agreement with Millstein Brothers who were owners of 1015 room Hotel Roosevelt located in Manhattan New York as a tenant. Subsequently efforts of Haseeb Hassan, resulted in Saudi partner Prince Feisal joininh them in 1979, injecting cash and becoming 50% share holder of joint partnership with PIA in a 20-year lease with option to purchase at fixed price tag of $36.5 Million. It was because of Saudi partnership that BOD was constituted with equal representation and an office based in NewYork where henceforth meetings would be held. The practice in PIA was that GM Special Projects was made head of all subsidiaries such as PIA Shavers, PIA Duty Free Shops, Hotel Inn and Midway Hotel etc all of which were 100% owned by PIA and boosted its revenues. Most of these subsidiaries were brain child of Nur Khan and were established during his tenure. PIA also owned Hotel Scribe in Paris and other prime properties. In 1998-99 when 20-year lease period matured PIA exercised the “Purchase Option” with a fixed price of $36.5 Million. PIA Investment MD surprisingly agreed in 1999 for almost double the fixed price and former MD Arif Abbasi decided to go to court and in 2000 PIA finally became sole 100% owner of Hotel Roosevelt after court decision in its favor. Nur Khan had vision of investing in hotel hospitality business, which he considered had much in common with commercial aviation. The legal requirement of PIA owned Hotel Roosevelt being run by PIA Investment and holding its Board meetings in USA ceased once PIA became sole owner of all hotels including Roosevelt in NYC or Scribe in Paris. Despite 100% ownership of both hotels by PIA, the BOD unnecessarily continues to hold its meeting in New York or Paris where it obliges board members with complimentary stay and PerDiem in US Dollars along-with free lodging, complimentary transport etc. Per-Diem of PIA Investment MD and Director Finance etc is non-accountable $300 per day with free boarding, lodging, meals, complimentary transport etc, which is much higher than even PIA executives.

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