THE news that PIA is shifting its head offices to Islamabad with all its paraphernalia is a shock for the people of Karachi. The airline has well-established infrastructure and facilities in the city built over the last six decades at an enormous cost that will become redundant if the airline’s head offices are moved to the capital.
To establish new infrastructure in Islamabad from scratch, such as hangars and overhaul shops, flight operations, technical ground support, flight kitchen, simulator, full-fledged training centre, IT centre, etc., the government will need an enormous amount of money.
The airline has been suffering massive losses and is saddled with liabilities of hundreds of billions of rupees. It is already on life support from the government which is doling out billions of rupees out of taxpayers’ money to keep national carrier afloat.
Under the circumstances, the decision to shift the head offices to Islamabad appears skewed, if not crazy. Karachi is the largest city besides being a business and financial hub. It contributes 65 per cent revenue to the federal government and 95pc to the provincial government.
Airline headquarters in the world are generally located in large commercial hubs rather than in a state’s political and administrative capital or the seat of the government.
Strangely, political parties belonging to Karachi and Sindh have not raised the issue. It would not be surprising if tomorrow the rulers in Islamabad consider shifting the Pakistan Steel Mills to Islamabad and then plan how to take the Arabian Sea to Islamabad.
Unfortunately, Karachi is being denuded of its rightful place in the national affairs.
Published in Dawn, January 19th, 2021