A national embarrassment

Daily Times

21st January, 2021 01:22:33 printer

A national embarrassment

That the Irish government had to get the Malaysian government to impound an aircraft of the Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) because the national flag carrier just forgot to pay the lease for the plane is nothing short of a national embarrassment. The government’s explanation, that the payment was somehow missed because of the pandemic has, instead of controlling some of the damage, reduced the country to the laughing stock of the world. Now the government has even more egg on its face than before because all its promises of returning PIA to profitability, and sorting out all outstanding issues of all other State Owned Enterprises (SOEs) as well, are ringing rather hollow.

Let’s not forget that this comes on the heels of the previous round of embarrassment caused by none other than the aviation minister, Ghulam Sarwar Khan, himself when he admitted in the national assembly that too many of PIA’s pilots didn’t have legitimate licenses. Nobody except the government was surprised when the rest of the world reacted with utter shock and a number of countries banned PIA pilots from flying in their airspace out of fear of unnecessary accidents. That particular episode marked such a low in our political history that even the prime minister had to admit that the issue was handled very badly.

This is not one of those things that the government can blame previous administrations for. While it is true that the rot in SOEs started setting in long before PTI came to power, it is equally true that its actions have not improved the situation at all; rather things have become much worse. And the aviation minister ought to be the last man to blame previous governments since he was part of no less than two political parties before joining the party now in power. And the government’s many plans to restructure SOEs have also gone nowhere. First, when Asad Umar was finance minister, there was a lot of talk about some holding company that would take bad assets from these companies’ books and then sort them out, then when Hafeez Sheikh came there was talk of more traditional reorganisation before putting SOEs on the market, yet despite all sorts of claims and promises we are no nearer to making anything better at all. So far this government has done a fine job of pointing out all the problems, but not done much at all to solve any of them.