Daily PeghamISLAMABAD: Minister for Petroleum Shahid Khaqan Abbasi has withdrawn from a committee set up by the government to fine-tune the controversial Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) Bill, citing ‘conflict of interest’.

Last week, the government in a joint session of parliament deferred the PIA sell-off bill till April 11 and formed a 10-member panel to convince the opposition on its proposal. The committee, which is to recommend changes to the bill by April 7, will meet on March 29.

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The committee – headed by Minister for Climate Change Zahid Hamid – included Abbasi, Mushahidullah Khan and Khurram Dastagir from the PML-N; Syed Naveed Qamar and Saeed Ghani from the PPP; Asad Umar from the PTI; Hasil Bizenjo from the National Party; Farooq Sattar from the MQM; and JUI-F chief Maulana Fazlur Rehman.

However, Abbasi has pulled out from the panel as he is the chief executive officer of a privat e airline, Airblue. “I’ve withdrawn from the committee due to conflict of interest as I own shares in a private airline. It was unethical to be part of a committee which will take up the privatisation issue of the national flag-carrier,” Abbasi told The Express Tribune.

Abbasi said he has already conveyed his message to National Assembly Speaker Sardar Ayaz Sadiq. Abbasi had been criticised by the opposition parties after the government introduced the bill.

Meanwhile talking to The Express Tribune, PPP’s Saeed Ghani said the opposition parties had solid proposals against PIA’s privatisation which would be shared with the committee members.

“I believe the PIA could be revamped without privatising it and I hope the government will ponder over our suggestions in the meeting,” he said. “If the government’s sole purpose is to sell off the airline, then the committee’s sitting will be a futile exercise.”

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Senator Mushahidullah told The Express Tribune that the government did much to evolve consensus on the issue and even called a joint sitting of parliament. Now the opposition parties should understand the government has no plan to sell off the PIA as the government is trying to make it a limited company.

“If the committee fails to reach consensus, then we [the PML-N] have enough majority to get the bill passed from the lower house as a last resort,” he added.

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The proposal to convert the PIA Corporation into a limited company has been the bone of contention between the treasury and opposition benches since February.