ISLAMABAD: Minister for Aviation Khawaja Saad Rafique said that Islamabad International Airport would be outsourced for a period of 15 years to improve its operational activities.
In response to a calling attention notice in National Assembly sponsored by MMA lawmaker Maulana Abdul Akbar Chitrali regarding the outsourcing of the airport, the minister clarified that the move does not equate to privatization. Instead, it aims to bring in proficient operators to enhance airport operations, he said.
Khawaja Saad Rafique emphasized that open competitive bidding would be ensured, allowing the best bidder to be given the opportunity to operate the airport. The process, he said will be profit-oriented, ultimately benefiting the national exchequer.
The International Finance Corporation will serve as the consultant, and already 12-13 companies have shown interest in participating in the bidding process, he added. The minister assured that the process would be transparent and adhere to all rules and regulations.
However, the minister clarified that the runway and navigation operations would not be included in the outsourcing process.
Highlighting the success of outsourced airports in other countries like India and Turkiye, Khawaja Saad Rafique mentioned that even Madina airport has been efficiently outsourced to deliver enhanced services.
The minister also stressed the need to restructure Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) to address its substantial deficit, which has reached Rs. 80 billion this year and is projected to increase to Rs. 259 billion by 2030 if not dealt with appropriately.
He asserted that no employees would be laid off, and all existing staff would retain their job security and privileges. However, he also mentioned that best practices would be implemented to ensure facilities at airports are efficiently managed.
Regarding the future plans for PIA, Khawaja Saad Rafique informed that the total liability of PIA amounts to Rs. 742 billion, with only 27-28 planes currently operational. He urged the necessity to save the institution and underscored the importance of the restructuring legislation, which has been approved by the National Assembly in the previous sitting.
To address the deficit, the minister revealed plans to restore flights to the UK within three months, followed by the resumption of flights to the US and Europe.
Khawaja Saad Rafique issued a warning that immediate reforms were crucial to prevent further escalation of the deficit in the coming days. He acknowledged that a statement from a former federal minister for Aviation had created problems for PIA.
However, he assured that all audits and tests have been successfully cleared, demonstrating the government’s commitment to transparency and accountability.
Furthermore, as the minister overseeing the Railway portfolio, he recommended engaging industrialists to invest in the railway sector instead of opting for privatization.