The recently re-elected Prime Minister of Pakistan will continue efforts by previous administrations to partially privatise PIA - Pakistan International Airlines (PK, Islamabad International). Local news outlets report that Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif chaired a March 6, 2024, meeting about the matter and asked for a final implementation schedule, saying he would not tolerate “laziness” or “carelessness.” Sharif wants to complete the privatisation process by mid-June.

Sharif kickstarted the most recent effort to privatise PIA while his previous PDM administration held power between April 2022 and August 2023. The caretaker administration, led by Anwaar-ul-Haq Kakar, was in power between August 2023 and February 2024 and pushed on with divestment efforts. PIA's privatisation, and the whole or partial privatisation of other state-owned entities, is connected to a June 2023 USD3 billion IMF bailout package.

Immediately before the February 2024 general election, the Electoral Commission of Pakistan asked the interim government to put the brakes on the sale process, arguing the procedure exceeded the caretaker administration's mandate. The plan involves selling 51% of the airline and its management rights to a foreign entity.

Last-ditch bids to break the airline into two separate corporate entities, shift PKR622 billion rupees (USD2.23 billion) in debt to a new holding company, and obtain no-objection certification certificates were close to being finalised in the run-up to the election but now appear not to have been settled.

At last week's meeting, advisors and ministers reportedly told Sharif that his mid-June timeline can only be met if the new government can quickly resolve these issues. PIA lost PKR60.71 billion (USD217.7 million) in the six months to June 30, 2023. Of all the country's SOEs, PIA is the most significant drain on taxpayers' funds.

According to ch-aviation PRO airlines data, PIA flies to 31 destinations in 12 countries. Its fleet includes 34 aircraft. However, 16 are inactive, including seven (out of seventeen) A320-200s, two (out of four) ATR42-500s, one (out of one) ATR72-500, two (out of six) B777-200ERs, one (out of two) B777-200LRs, and three (out of four) B777-300ERs. Recently, PIA successfully repatriated two A320-200s from Indonesia after striking to deal with AirAsia Aviation Group to buy them. Both have now returned to operating scheduled services for the carrier.

Separately, the Pakistan State Oil (PSO) company has proposed introducing a levy of up to PKR4 (USD0.014) per litre of jet fuel to recover the PKR21.7 billion (USD77.8 million) that PIA owes it. The state-owned PSO is reportedly unhappy with plans to park its debt in a holding company.