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PIA is expected to be divided into two

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Pakistan plans to split ailing national flag carrier PIA into two companies and sell control of the core business to a global airline over the next 18 months, but political opposition to the sell-off will be extreme, the country’s privatization czar said.

Financial advisers are now in talks with quite a few airlines about taking over cash-strapped Pakistan International Airlines, which has some 17,000 workforce but just 36 aircraft – and 10 of them are grounded due to a lack of spare parts.

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Muhammad Zubair told Reuters in an interview during a visit to New Delhi on Wednesday that no verdict had been taken on the buyer, but he mentioned Emirates Airline, Etihad and Qatar Airways – the Gulf giants that dominate the regional sector – as possibilities.

“It’s going to be the most difficult sale,” said Zubair, who is aiming to raise around $4 billion this fiscal year from the sale of stakes in several companies, anticipating demands that the government hold onto PIA and nurse it back to health itself.

Zubair, a former IBM chief financial officer for the Middle East and Africa, was tapped by Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif to take charge of a central plank of economic reforms promised by Islamabad in return for an n International Monetary Fund bailout.

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