Senate Standing Committee on Aviation in its meeting on Thursday was given a briefing on the privatisation of PIA properties inside and outside Pakistan including Roosevelt Hotel in New York along with the recommendations of Task Force in each property. The Committee recommended that till the pandemic persists the question of any change in current status of any PIAC properties including the Roosevelt hotel should be overruled as at this time the world is holding onto its properties instead of giving them away and even if there are chances of the site being declared a heritage/landmark site it should still be kept in possession and other measures like improving management to maintain profitable status should be taken.
The meeting was held under the Chairmanship of Senator Mushahidullah Khan here at the Parliament House on Thursday and was attended among others by Senators Sherry Rehman, Faisal Javed Khan, Mustafa Nawaz Khokhar, Shaheen Khalid Butt, Asad Ali Junejo, Minister for Aviation Ghulam Sarwar Khan, Secretary Aviation and officials from the ministry, CAA and PIAC.
The Committee was told that the Roosevelt hotel was bought in 1999 and it earned 424 million dollars in profit since 1999 till 2019. However the building is very old and requires continuous renovations which need a lot of money. Added to it is the fact that the post pandemic situation has resulted in loss of business in most hotels worldwide and it is being estimated by professionals that it will take 3 years for it to return to routine business. It was also told that there are chances that the building is declared a heritage site in a few years which would mean that the renovation permission will be very limited.
The Committee did not buy the argument that the privatisation is being done due to loss of business resulting from COVID since it was in 2019 when the task force was first notified and observed that the way it is being hasted shows that there is some anomaly in the deal. The Committee members strongly opposed privatising the hotel and observed that the hotel is in prime location in New York and should be kept in possession even if it is declared a heritage site and should be taken to make it profitable again and Pakistan’s wealth should not be steered in a way
While discussing the inquiry being conducted in fake licenses of pilots in the country the Committee was told that the investigation was initiated in 2018 in which initially licenses and exam records of 2017 and 2018 were examined and then all exams since 2010 when the exam system was digitised were analysed. The inquiry found out irregularities in cases of 262 pilots from a total of around 850 pilots. The inquiry among other recommendations has recommended changing the overall exam pattern. Licenses of 28 pilots have been terminated after investigations and more cases are being examined on daily basis.
The Committee members were of the view that even if 262 pilots had irregularities in their licensing or exams the statement coming from the minister damaged an already deteriorating airline and it will take a lot of time to restore world’s confidence in our pilots again. The minister, however, was of the view that it may look damaging in short term but for future is important to show the world through actions that we are improving our systems.