The government has decided to privatise the Pakistan International Airlines, beginning with 26 per cent shares.

Presiding over a meeting on the PIA at the Prime Minister’s Office on Thursday, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif directed the ministry of privatisation and civil aviation division to initiate the process of privatisation of the national flag carrier.

He also ordered the authorities concerned to ensure transparency and adherence of all relevant ‘codal’ formalities and guidelines of superior courts in the process.

A government official told Dawn that the prime minister gave a shrug when it was pointed out that the decision would be opposed at various levels and the PML-N would be criticised for selling out the national airline.

Mr Sharif told the meeting that the government was not in a position to bear a monthly loss of Rs3.3 billion and argued that the only way to redeem the old glory of the national airline was to involve the private sector in its affairs.

The PPP has announced that it would oppose any government move to privatise the PIA and Pakistan Steel.

Leader of Opposition in the National Assembly Syed Khurshid Shah told his party’s workers on Wednesday that any attempt to put the jobs of thousands of people at the mercy of the private sector would be resisted.

The Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf said it would not support PIA’s privatisation but it wanted revival of the airline through a comprehensive plan.

It said the PML-N government had announced that it would appoint professionals in state enterprises, but surprisingly now it was planning to sell them off.

But the PM’s Office said in a statement that the decision to privatise PIA would not only help provide quality service to people but also improve the overall image of the national flag carrier locally and internationally.

The prime minister allowed privatisation of 26 per cent shares of the PIA in an open and transparent manner to make it competitive and service-oriented.

A source told Dawn that PIA’s management would be transferred to the buyers.

The prime minister said the government was fully committed to reforming and restructuring all ailing state enterprises.

He directed the PIA management to focus on operational efficiency, cut down wasteful expenses and promote qualified professionals to compete in the modern day environment of air transport industry.

Earlier reviewing the performance of the airline, the prime minister expressed deep concern over mismanagement in its affairs and said he was saddened to observe that the airline had not come up to people’s expectations.

He was briefed on the problems and issues afflicting PIA, such as its ever declining service standard, lack of reliability and punctuality, pilferages, poor quality of manpower, training and job rotation, ageing fleet, overstaffing and high loans at exorbitant financial cost.

He directed the PIA management to cut down losses in the short term to make the airline a viable entity for privatisation.

Mr Sharif also directed that all policy decisions to revitalise the public sector organisation would be made by its board of governors.

He ordered full transparency in the decision-making process to protect public interest.

Finance Minister Ishaq Dar, Information Minister Parvez Rashid, Petroleum Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi and senior officials attended the meeting.