–Chief Justice Nisar seeks report on PIA deficit during past nine years along with list of MDs, advisers
–Court withdraw decision of placing airline’s former MDs on ECL
–CJP hints at reviewing amnesty scheme, says those who have foreign bank accounts and assets abroad will face stern action
ISLAMABAD: Chief Justice of Pakistan (CJP) Mian Saqib Nisar on Thursday directed the federal government to seek the apex court’s approval before proceeding with the privatisation of the Pakistan International Airlines (PIA).
The Supreme Court (SC) on April 1, had taken notice of PIA’s decision to give up profitable routes to other airlines and its intended privatisation by the government.
During the hearing, the CJP first ordered authorities to place the names of all former managing directors (MDs) of the PIA on the Exit Control List (ECL). However, he later withdrew the order but bound the former officials to get the court’s permission before leaving the country.
“Those who have ruined this national asset are ‘oppressors, enemies and traitors’,” the chief justice opined and said that he may constitute a judicial commission to calculate and redress the losses incurred upon the airline.
The court appointed economist Farogh Saleem as amicus curiae for an investigation into the losses incurred by the PIA. Saleem sought two-week time to furnish the Terms of Reference (TORs) for the investigation.
Regarding the privatisation of PIA, the apex court directed the federal government to submit a reply on the issue. “Does the government intend to privatise the airline?” the chief justice asked and directed the attorney general to appear before the bench.
Giving government’s take on the issue, AG Ashtar Ausaf Ali informed the court that the privatisation was approved by the Council of Common Interests (CCI). However, he added, it was unlikely that the process will be completed during the tenure of the current government.
RS260.39BN LOSSES DURING LAST 17 YEARS:
As directed in the previous hearing, PIA’s counsel presented a 9-year audit record and informed in response to a query that the organisation’s share is being sold at Rs 5 at present.
The PIA counsel further informed the court that the airline suffered Rs 260.39 billion losses during last 17 years. The breakdown of the losses was Rs 44 billion in 2013, Rs 37 billion in 2014, Rs 32 billion in 2015, Rs 45 billion in 2016 and Rs 44 billion in 2017.
“PIA’s former managing director Bernd Hildenbrand, a German citizen, is on the run,” PIA’s lawyer informed the court.
“The government of Pakistan owns 96 per cent stakes in the airline. Since April 2016, PIA has been functioning as a public limited company. It is being run as per a corporate model,” he added.
He said that the board of governors of the company consists of 11 members, a majority of whom are appointed by the government.
“Aviation secretary is the chairman and member of the board. Irfan Illahi is the elected member of the board and Economic Affairs Division secretary is also a member of the board,” he said.
Other airlines had taken advantage of reduced petroleum prices but PIA failed to do the same, the lawyer admitted.
The CJP-led three-member bench directed the counsel for the airline to submit a report on the deficit suffered by PIA during the last nine years and to separately state the deficit of each year and highlight who the managing director of the airline was during that year.
The court also ordered submission of a list of all chairmen, advisers, and managing directors of PIA.
Later, the court quashed a petition against the PIA administration that pertained to ‘favouritism in award of internships’. There are no laws regarding internships, the court said.
On March 31, the apex court asked the federal government whether there was any intention to privatise the PIA. Following that, the court had then issued notices to PIA chairman and ministry of defence directing them to submit their respective replies. The court’s order sheet also asked whether certain profitable routes of the national airliner had been given to other airlines, including Airblue.
CJP HINTS AT JUDGING AMNESTY SCHEME:
Separately, CJP Nisar also hinted that the apex court could review the government’s recently announced tax amnesty scheme, and warned individuals who have assets abroad and maintain foreign bank accounts of a stern action.
Hearing a case related to the ownership of state land, the chief justice said that the court might examine the amnesty scheme, adding that they will not let state assets be given away. The chief justice also directed to fix for hearing soon the case related to the assets and accounts of Pakistanis in foreign countries.