ISLAMABAD: Speaking on the floor of the House, PPP Parliamentary Leader in Senate, Senator Sherry Rehman, expounded on the resolution she moved against the shifting of Pakistan International Airline’s (PIA) headquarters to Islamabad.
Rehman put forward three questions that need urgent clarity from the government, “First, if the government is not shifting PIA headquarters to Islamabad, as it claims, then why is it opposing the resolution? It suggests something is not right. Second, we heard that it was decided to shift the headquarters to Islamabad because their representatives have to attend Senate and parliamentary committee meetings. Has this not always been the case? The government should give a definitive statement about the motivations behind the move. Lastly, why is this entire process being kept so secretive? It is unfortunate that we are forced to ask this question”.
“A couple of days ago, the issues surrounding the move were raised in the Aviation Committee headed by Senator Mushahidullah, in order to have some semblance of clarity as to what exactly is going on and how can we move forward through the proper mechanisms in place. However, the Minister was absent for the third time,” said the Senator.
Rehman added, “There’s a general view that the government is trying to centralize every service, authority, and just about any activity or resource to Islamabad. PIA’s headquarters has always been based in Karachi. Legally, the government’s move goes against the Pakistan International Airlines Corporation (Conversion) Act, 2016 (PIACC), Clause 7 (2 ) which clearly states that PIA’s headquarters (as well as that of its subsidiary companies carrying on air-transport business) should be in Karachi”.
Rehman further went on to say, “Aside from that, Jinnah International Airport happens to be Pakistan’s biggest airport and will remain so. Let me tell you, the traffic in Islamabad has not increased to the extent that it has in Karachi. This is because Karachi is the commercial hub of Pakistan. There are various examples to support that airline headquarters are based in the country’s commercial hub”.
Speaking on the questionable reallocations of crew and officials, the Senator said, “I have also received a letter stating that around 40 to 70 officials including crew members, pilots and officials were informed overnight that they will be shifted to Islamabad without proper notice being served in advance, without being facilitated in terms of their accommodation and allowances, and without prior discussions with the Collective Bargaining Agent (CBA). This does not happen anywhere else in the world. Why is the government moving 70 officials overnight? This shows that there is a hidden agenda. If the government has a justification for any of this, now is the time to voice it”.
“The government is crippling Pakistan’s commercial hub because it lacks political control there. It is taking Karachi’s flights and re-routing them to Islamabad, it is trying to strip Karachi of its commercial base, of its roots, of its power to hold PIA in a commercial centre and you are telling us with your one-unit behaviour that this is not happening? It has marginalised the role of the Collective Bargaining Agent (CBA) and is trying to choke the unions by imposing the Essential Services Act. It should explain on what pretext it has decided to do so,” concluded the Vice-President PPPP.