The federal government has once again come to rescue the Pakistan International Airline (PIA) as it almost got banned from landing in Saudi Arabia.
The finance ministry issued another Rs. 2.5 billion for the prospective Hajj pilgrims so that the long-pending dues to the Saudi General Authority of Civil Aviation (GACA) could be cleared.
The dues had been piling up for the airline’s regularly scheduled flights, and GACA had demanded PIA to clear the past dues at the earliest or face a ban.
The government had to intervene because such a ban could have proven destructive for the national flag carrier, especially with Hajj season around the corner.
Federal Minister for Aviation Ghulam Sarwar Khan defended the move of unusual routing of funds by saying that it was necessary to save PIA from default.
He said the funds were used to clear PIA’s dues which had been adding up due to ill-planning by the previous governments.
Ghulam Sarwar confirmed that PIA owed billions of rupees to GACA, had been on its default list and was on the verge of being banned from entering the Saudi airspace.
He explained that the government usually pays PIA for its services after the completion of Hajj program. But, as this was a matter of urgency, the airline got the payment in advance.
He assured that there would be no delay in PIA’s Hajj operations which will continue from July 4 to September 14.
As per government data, as many as 78,000 pilgrims – 13,000 more pilgrims than last year – will travel on 350 PIA flights.