The Pakistani government has announced that it is aiming to privatize the beleaguered, state-owned Pakistan International Airlines before elections this year. In a statement to Reuters, Privatization Minister Daniyal Aziz said that the government is aiming to restart sales of state-run businesses, in an effort to cut government spending.

Pakistan International Airlines is the national airline of Pakistan, owned by the government since beginning operations under British rule in 1947. While the airline provides vital links to smaller cities throughout Pakistan, as well as international connections, the airline has been hemorrhaging money in the last two decades, and last made a profit in 2004. Records from 2005 to 2014 show that the airline carried nearly a million fewer passengers in 2014 rather than 2005, and at the end of 2016, its debt totaled $1.8 billion dollars.

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Aziz said that the government is aiming to pass laws in Parliament that will allow the government to sell the airline, reversing legislation passed in 2016 making it that the government could not relinquish control of the airline.

Both Emirates and Etihad, two of PIA’s largest competitors, showed interest in buying PIA in 2016, but the government backed out of negotiations then. In order to make the airline more enticing to a potential buyer, Aziz said that the airline is also aiming to split up the carrier, with the airline business being separated from the airline’s catering, hotels and maintenance operations.

PIA currently operates 37 aircraft to 52 destinations across Asia, Europe, the Middle East and North America.

Featured image by Asuspine via Wikimedia Commons.

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