Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto moved into power on a fast track to become the fourth President of Pakistan on 21st December, 1971. Bhutto, like Imran Khan, had a colossal task ahead of him to rebuild Pakistan. He, too, like Khan, had a novice team with him to steer the country but through sheer personal hard work (almost 16 hours a day) he put Pakistan back on track. AVM Zafar Chaudhary was replaced by a business tycoon, Rafique Saigol, owner of UBL, as the managing director of Pakistan International Airlines (PIA). Saigol pumped in money and injected new life into PIA employees by uttering one line:Comparison of old and new uniforms — a world of difference“There shall be no retrenchment” –and there was no retrenchment. Everyone got back to work with a new zeal and the airline was out of red and above the clouds. Saigol, too, was in romantic clouds and fell in love with a charming airhostess. PIA Union, encouraged by managing director’s loose grip on affairs of the airline due to his personal affair, took full advantage of the situation. Strikes were common and PIA’s power corridor in the airline’s head office was virtually taken over by union leaders. Tufail Abbas, head of PIA’s Employees Union, an old timer with over four decades of union experience, was too much for Saigol to handle. Bhutto, knowing the capability of Abbas, brought back the aviation magician Air Marshal Nur Khan as PIA chairman. In 1974, PIA management came up with a brilliant addition of an exclusive cargo flight on International Routes to carry perishable items like fresh fruits, vegetables, meat and other such items. It was a very profitable financial ventureAbbas and the new chairman were known to each other from early years of PIA. In fact, Abbas was sent by Nur Khan to India to study the labour laws of Air India. The management made a smart move by upgrading Group V employees from trade union to officer cadre, there by legally depriving them the right to strike and cutting the union to size. Nur Khan, also having served as Governor of West Pakistan, had vast administrative experience and asked all the senior management to hand over their resignation. He reappointed them again to ensure their gratitude and loyalty.Momi Gull and another airhostess holding twinsHe also used the British “divide and rule” style of administration. He brought Enver Jamal, an aviation veteran, out of retirement, to the position of managing director. However all key directors, under Jamal, were appointed by Khan himself to ensure personal control over the affairs of the National Carrier. PIA was progressing well and a new route to Tripoli was added to meet heavy demand of labour movement to Libya. In 1973 wide bodied DC-10, manufactured by McDonnell Douglas; were added to the fleet to replace aging Boeing 707’s. Though, DC-10 had an amazing take-off but it was not a very good addition to our fleet. In 1974, PIA management came up with a brilliant addition of an exclusive cargo flight on International Routes to carry perishable items like fresh fruits, vegetables, meat and other such items. It was a very profitable financial venture. Although, Bhutto got half the country and double the trouble, yet he set things right in less than a 100 days by picking the right people and setting the right priorities. He immediately put together the Aviation, Culture and Tourism (ACT), as an effective tool to rectify the tarnished image of a shattered country. He appointed Raja Tridev Roy as the minister of tourism. Roy was the 50th raja of the Buddhist Chakma Tribe of Chittagong Hill Tracts of former East Pakistan. He opted to stay back in Pakistan and served the country in various diplomatic assignments. Bhutto next appointed Ardeshir Cowasjee a Parsee businessman as managing director of the Pakistan Tourism Development Corporation (PTDC). Bhutto decided to turn Karachi into one of the most beautiful cities of Asia, including building a casino to attract newly found petro dollar from the Gulf States. He also roped in Zia Mohyuddin, the renowned showbiz personality, to head PIA’s Arts Academy and to project Pakistani culture overseas. The arts academy had ented artists like Nahid Siddiqui, Parveen Qasim, Rehana Hakim (now editor of a magazine) Khamiso Khan, Faiz Balooch and scores of others who enthralled the audience and introduced Pakistani culture across the globe.Pakistan, in the 70s, became the front runner of tourism in the region. Bhutto had the vision to realize that tourism was and is the only quick-fix industry to provide sustainable income opportunities to the masses. PIA cabin crew was given training, based on human values, to reach out to its customers of all classes, nationalities and age groups. They were totally at ease in dealing with people from movie stars to Azad Kashmir villagers, traveling to join their families in UK and Europe. Our cabin crew was specially trained to look after the specific needs of infants and un-accompanied children. In fact there even have been occasions when the crew helped wit the delivery of a child. On ground, the sales promotion officers in the field were required to have complete data of our clients like date of birth, wedding anniversaries and hobbies etc to send them specially printed cards, cakes and giveaways for each occasion. PIA’s cabin crew was specially trained to look after specific needs of infants and un-accompanied children. In fact there even have been occasions when the crew helped with the delivery of a childOnce, a CIP (commercially important person) client of mine, along with his family, went to London for medical treatment. One week later I was sent to London to present my client a bouquet of flowers and a get-well card on behalf of PIA. That was the level of personalised services that made PIA, “Great People to fly with”. PIA hired athletes from cricket, hockey, squash and many other sports, as a corporate social responsibility, to encourage sports and as well as get competitive edge over other airlines. I recall facing problem in getting ship crew business from Mackinnon Mackenzie, a leading shipping company dispatching three to four large groups, per week, to different destinations. Their groups were travelling on every foreign airline, except the National Carrier. I managed to squeeze information that Mr Khan, the general manager of the company had been playing first class cricket. We had in our office two cricketers, Pervez Sajjad and Haneef Mohammad, the ‘little master’, so I requested them to help me get a breakthrough. Haneef Bhai most willingly accompanied me to Mackinnon Mackenzies’ office on I. I. Chundrigar Road to meet Mr Khan.It was only due to Haneef Bhai that I was able to meet Mr Khan who responded positively and committed to pass 60 percent of his crew business to PIA. Similarly PIA patronised talent from visual arts. In 1973, when I wanted to hold a paintings exhibition, I not only received full support from my immediate boss at the Karachi booking office, but also from the Public Relations (PR) Department at head office. In fact our PR Department managed all the press coverage of the exhibition. PIA’s management, under Nur Khan was forward looking and magnanimous in their support of the entire staff. In 1974, I was modeling full time every Saturday and Sunday with the knowledge and consent of the PIA management. In 1983, ten years later, when I had a solo exhibition of my paintings in France, I received a letter of displeasure from the head office. Clearly times had changed in PIA because now, sadly General Zia ul Haq was at the helm of affairs in Pakistan. PIA’s marketing department had highly professional officers of aviation industry who were constantly sent on refresher courses and advance training to be at par with the rest of the airlines. Younger officers were encouraged to travel on different airlines to different destinations to equip themselves with the quality of services of their competitors. We were three colleagues who took full advantage of this facility and traveled together to far off destinations. For me, in particular, it was a God-given opportunity because travel was my passion. I had been hitch-hiking to Europe while, I was a student, and writing my travelogue in various Urdu magazines. During four years of our posting in Karachi we made several trips to Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore, Indonesia, Australia, Japan, Hong Kong and the Philippines. Bhutto welcoming Shah Faisal to PakistanMahmood Shaam, the editor of weekly magazine Akhbar-e-Jahan, asked me to share our travel experiences to the Far East. So I started writing, ‘Safar Teen Durwaishoon Ka’ on a regular basis. These were later combined into a book and published by Sang-e-Meel publications. In 1974, the first Islamic summit conference was held in Lahore that turned Pakistan onto a leader of the Muslim Ummah. Over 33 heads and decision makers of the Islamic World attended the conference with Bhutto in the chair. Lahore then was really a city of gardens and not a concrete jungle that it has been made now. Zinda Dilan-e-Lahore, true to their tradition, turned out in thousands to welcome the distinguished guests. Bhutto played a pivotal role in giving wake-up call to Arab Muslims of turning petrol, ‘the black liquid’, into gold. He made them realise that energy indeed was the power that they held in their hands. Unfortunately, this was the beginning of the end of Bhutto and the rest of the great leaders, who participated in the summit. They were eliminated one by one.Foreign intelligence agencies worked on our people and hired them to murder the champions of Islam. King Faisal, Shaikh Mujib ur Rahman, Zulifqar Ali Bhutto, Anwar Sadat, Yassar Arafat and finally Colonel Muammar Gaddafi in 2011. In 1975, PIA was financially stable and planned expanding into Latin America, USA and Europe by opening off-line offices for future expansion. A total of eight off-line offices were opened, including in Rio de Janeiro in Brazil and Madrid in Spain. I was posted to Madrid, as the first manager to the Iberian Peninsula. During that time PIA was leasing 747, the jumbo jets from TAP, the Portuguese airline to meet the increasing demand of passenger traffic. A sizable number of our cockpit and cabin crew was stationed in Lisbon for conversion to jumbo Jets. In view of that I was required to make frequent visits to Lisbon and there I often met Arshad Sami Khan a senior diplomat at our embassy. It was at his house that I saw a fat boy constantly play piano. That fat boy was none other than Adnan Sami Khan who later became a great musician and singer. Back in Pakistan political interference was creeping into the affairs of PIA. Dilip Kumar with an airhostessThe Pakistan People Party supported union was encouraged and some jiyalas were inducted into PIA’s ranks. However the worst change was that in the airhostesses’ uniform. In 1966, Air Marshal Asghar Khan, President of PIA, assigned Umer Kuraishi the task of getting the flight crews uniform changed in order to give the airline a ‘modern’ look. Renowned French designer, Pierre Cardin came-up with such an amazing concept that put PIA as a leader of fashion in aviation and indeed Pakistan. It was a unique idea for an air hostess to cover her head with a dupatta.In 1975, Begum Nusrat Bhutto, is believed to have taken personal interest in changing the uniform. Sir Hardy Amies, the official designer of Queen Elisabeth II was hired to design the uniform. Unfortunately he was the wrong choice as the queen, has never been known for wearing exceptional designs. Frankly, neither was Nusrat Bhutto known for wearing glamorous dresses. One wonders as to why, Kureishi, a class fellow of Bhutto and well known to Begum Bhutto was not consulted for the change. After all, he was still the PR director of PIA. The result as expected was a disaster. The glamorous and graceful girls of PIA looked like Australian parrots in the new uniform.Published in Daily Times, September 19th 2018.