Given that an elected administration will assume power in the coming weeks, it is important to question why the state-owned firms’ privatisation and restructuring are being suppressed by the caretaker administration. Just a few days prior, the ECP had instructed the caretakers to concentrate their efforts on “routine” affairs and prevented the interim administration from making changes to the FBR. In a similar vein, the election monitor had also prevented the interim administration from reorganising PIA. Regrettably, the guardians have disregarded the ECP’s particular directives concerning the flag carrier, after the federal cabinet authorised a PIA restructuring plan on Tuesday. Additionally, the First Women Bank’s privatisation has been approved by the cabinet.
By disobeying the ECP, the caregivers—who will shortly return to their regular jobs—are conveying what kind of message? The general public is informed by this kind of action that even those who are meant to uphold the law can disobey it at will. Furthermore, one may wonder why there is such a rush to privatise state-owned enterprises or streamline the tax code. The caretakers’ authority is restricted to managing daily operations and conducting elections; this authority is about to expire. Therefore, why is the temporary structure making choices that will have a big impact on the state and taxpayers? The ECP has reminded the administration of its limited position, so even if one were to consider the (limited) powers provided to the caretakers by the last parliament in July 2023, the choices being made by the temporary set-up seem to be a “creative” translation of these rules. There is no question that taxpayers cannot afford to continue footing the cost for loss-making SOEs like PIA, which haemorrhages hundreds of billions of rupees in losses. These entities must be privatised. An accounting of SOEs’ finances is necessary. However, this work shouldn’t be hurried through and should instead be left to the new parliament, which will answer to the people.
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