PIA Chairman Saeed Officially
Sacked, Kirmani Named New Airline Head
M T Butt
April 17: As predicted by the South Asia Tribune on April
1, Chairman of Pakistan’s national airline, Choudhry Ahmed
Saeed, was finally shown the door by Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz
on Saturday, April 16. Tariq Kirmani of Pakistan State Oil (Left)
was also named the new PIA Chairman.
departure came as his frantic lobbying efforts get an extension
from General Musharraf failed in the face of stiff opposition
not just in the Prime Minister’s camp, but within the airline
and in political circles.
last ditch effort he made was to arrange a presentation of his
successes to General Musharraf on April 16, but PM Shaukat Aziz
ordered that in the absence of Musharraf, who has gone to India,
he would take the presentation. When Saeed said what he had to
say, Shaukat Aziz started questioning him probingly and Saeed
event started turning sour when Saeed understood that Shaukat
would not let him get away without firing him. He then surrendered
and said his resignation was already with the PM's Office to which
Shaukat Aziz said his thank yous and announced than PSO's Tariq
Kirmani, who has also gone to see the India-Pakistan cricket match,
would be the new PIA Chairman. Till Kirmani returns, the PM Secretariat
will oversee PIA affairs, it was announced.
in another desperate attempt Saeed had arranged a quiet dinner
last week at the home of Musharraf’s Bridge buddy, Brig
(retd) Niaz, where not only Musharraf but his close aide Tariq
Aziz was also present. Aziz and Niaz, who had been instrumental
in getting Saeed appointed to the job, tried their best to convince
Musharraf to retain Saeed for another year, but in vain.
contract as Managing Director expired on April 14, but he kept
clinging on in the hope that Musharraf may do something to save
him. “At times Saeed even issued veiled threats saying that
if he was booted out, all that had happened would be unveiled
and Musharraf himself may be dragged into the massive corruption
that had continued for over four years,” a source in the
knowledge of the discussions of the dinner meeting revealed to
South Asia Tribune.
tenure turned out to be a period in which PIA purchased the largest
number of aircraft, sold the largest number of aircraft and awarded
contracts which were neither necessary nor cost effective. Some
were filthy expensive and outrageously nonsensical like changing
seats of all PIA aircraft, even those where the new seats could
was a period in which one person enjoyed the powers of the Chairman
and MD and did what he wanted, for himself and his friends, leaving
the airline in massive debts and unable to meet its debt obligations
without government grants,” a PIA official said.
South Asia Tribune has published details of almost all
of these shady deals, as and when they were done, with all the
documentary evidence which was available. Never could the PIA
Chairman deny any of these deals, nor he seemed to care, as he
was backed strongly by General Musharraf and his friends who rule
biggest challenge for the incoming Chairman, Tariq Kirmani, would
be how to handle the dirty mess Saeed has left behind.
is very possible that Musharraf may have agreed to let Saeed go
on the condition that the New Chairman would not dig into his
misdeeds and not expose his corruption, but that would leave Kirmani
with an unwanted baggage, too heavy to carry on an airline sinking
under its own weight.
Kirmani has the assurance that he is backed by the Prime Minister,
who himself had snubbed Saeed several times in the last few months,
specially after all the projections of huge profits turned out
to be fake based on false promises.
Aziz had refused to inject more money into PIA after the first
shot of Rs 20 billion could not turn the airline around and Saeed
misused his influence to go on a purchasing spree, often declaring
publicly that he was buying the most expensive planes because
he liked them and without worrying whether his airline could afford
Aziz, being a finance man himself, knew the implications of what
Saeed was doing and thus when Saeed came back to him in the last
few weeks for another shot of Rs 20 billion, this time through
loans raised from the market on government guarantees, Shaukat
Aziz said nothing doing, at least to Saeed.
with Kirmani in the pilot’s seat, Shaukat Aziz may have
to dish out more cash to PIA, just to cover up for the losses
and the financial mess Saeed has left behind.
would be interesting to see how Kirmani would justify the wrong
decisions Saeed made costing the airline and the country billions.
“If he does not justify those decisions, Kirmani would have
to indict Saeed and put the blame where it lies before he attempts
a take off. But if he says Saeed was right, then he would be in
a difficult situation to keep following the same track,”
a market analyst said in Karachi.
interesting would be the fate of the gang of cronies Saeed had
gathered around himself after throwing out the cream of motivated
professionals from all departments. “The three poor but
rich retired colonels, who were lobbying for Saeed to save their
own skins, would now be running away from the country if Kirmani
replaced them, like the two top men who were eased out by Saeed
weeks before his own exit,” a former PIA executive said.
was so keen on controlling all the departments which handled purchases,
finances, commissions and kickbacks that he abolished the entire
Purchase and Stores Department, brought the Finance Department
under his direct control and negotiated all deals himself. Ultimately
that annoyed the Prime Minister and his close associates and Saeed
was caught in the web of his over confidence based on friendship
with Musharraf’s buddies.
challenge for Kirmani would be how and whether he brings back
the professional talent shunted out by Saeed because of his personal
likes and dislikes, mostly his whims.
are several cases of senior PIA executives who were ousted because
they would never have gone with the damaging decisions Saeed and
his gang. But these people were always loyal to the PIA and in
many cases sacrificed their careers because they could not join
those openly and blatantly working against the interests of the
of these executives even sought legal remedies and in most of
the cases won in courts, but Saeed refused to reinstate them because
he thought they would create hurdles in his grand designs. Now
Kirmani would have to decide who was sacked for what reason and
who should be brought back.
would be unfortunate if Kirmani covers up Saeed’s misdeeds
or protects the corruption of his cronies, just because exposing
all this may embarrass General Musharraf or his close friends.
Even if some people have to be protected, the rape which took
place with PIA has to be exposed and corrected. Otherwise replacing
one yes-man with another would not mean a turn around for the
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