THIS refers to the news item ‘PIA moving head offices to Islamabad next month’ (Dec 21). One is at a loss to comprehend the reason for this and the circumstances that motivated the people at the helm of affairs to contemplate shifting the PIA head offices to Islamabad.
The reason for this decision given in the press release is not very convincing. The exercise is an expensive affair and involves logistics, hiring a corporate office and accommodation for employees. It is a known fact that Islamabad is an expensive city compared to Karachi. So, can PIA afford to execute such a luxurious venture in these challenging times?
At a time when the national airline is in the red and its flight operations have been reduced, both domestically and internationally, and while more and more international airlines are being given landing rights at different local airports, nothing explains this drastic step in the face of tough competition and falling revenues.
Would it not be wise to privatise or liquidate the airline instead of carrying this extra baggage to Islamabad? Would it not be better to float a new airline?
If the step has been taken to displace its employees and force them to opt for the recently-launched voluntary separation scheme, which, to my knowledge, has not been successful so far, it is not justifiable. This is an unprofessional approach and seems unethical too.
If the intention is to belittle Karachi’s importance, which contributes 60 per cent revenue to the national economy, it is an ill-conceived idea and does not bode well for the future. This will only further alienate the cosmopolitan city.
Lastly, and more importantly, shifting of PIA head offices to Islamabad is bad news for the youth of Karachi, who already suffer because of the quota system as far as federal jobs are concerned. This step will further marginalise Karachi’s people in the job market in the public sector as well, which, in turn, will be a cause of further frustration and desperation.
On another and rather serious note, Islamabad was unable to take care of the only elephant it had in the zoo. How will it manage this white elephant?
THIS refers to the recent decision by the government to shift PIA head offices from Karachi to Islamabad. The solution to PIA’s troubles is not transferring its head offices as it will only transform one set of political appointees into another set of similar appointments.
At this sensitive juncture, this decision will have national security implications that will be exploited by Pakistan’s enemies. Pakistan Railways is in a similar, or even worse, situation, but no one talks about moving its facilities and head office from Lahore to another city.
The real solution is PIA’s privatisation, or at least a professional management independent of political interference.
To give an example, PIA has a codeshare agreement with Turkish Airlines for US destinations and may be getting some referral fee. But it can earn much more.
For some reason, Canada has not banned flights to Toronto, and PIA can sign codeshare agreement with Air Canada — a win-win deal, and another reason for Canada not to ban PIA — to take all US passengers. Incidentally, Toronto is also a US Customs and Border Protection post, and the transfer will not be a problem.
True, PIA has to gain public trust, but it can do so gradually. It can then have 14-hour direct flights from all major Pakistan cities, such as Karachi, Lahore, Islamabad, and a decrease in travel time will be a boon for all travellers.
The duration of North American flights is always an issue, and it will be a game-winner for PIA compared to Gulf carriers. Pakistani diaspora loves its country and Pakistanis will like to contribute to the wellbeing of their homeland.
However, we also want safety and quality for our families. Before overseas Pakistanis commit to their national airline, we need a 100 per cent commitment from PIA that it will get its act together in terms of flight safety and cabin quality.
Northbrook, Illinois, USA
PIA is moving its headquarters to Islamabad. Perhaps people of Karachi should prepare themselves to hear similar news about Karachi Port Trust and Karachi Shipyard and Engineering Works soon!
S. Nayyar Iqbal Raza
Published in Dawn, December 31st, 2020