ISLAMABAD: Public Procurement Regulatory Authority (PPRA) rules are the biggest hurdle in the way of getting quality planes for Pakistan International Airlines (PIA), Civil Aviation Authority Secretary Irfan Elahi told the Senate Standing Committee on Cabinet Secretariat on Wednesday.

He said PPRA rules call for the cheapest planes to be purchased.

“Audit objections are raised if we go for planes in good condition,” Mr Elahi said in reply to criticism by some members of the committee.

Participants of the meeting, which was chaired by Senator Talha Mehmood, said that over the last few years, PIA has become a matter of embarrassment for the country.

Senator Samina Saeed said a number of scandals regarding corruption, smuggling and other issues have been highlighted in the media over the past few years.

“The condition of planes received from Vietnam was the worst, drugs were recovered from PIA planes, and one of the pilots was criticised for taking pictures in the cockpit. It has been 13 months and the report of the PIA ATR plane accident is yet to be made public. Some relatives of the victims of the Havelian crash, including the family of first officer Ahmed Janjua, have not yet received compensation or the insurance sum,” she said.

The Senator was referring to the plane that crashed in Havelian on its way from Chitral to Islamabad on Dec 7, 2016 in which 47 people were killed.

Their bodies were initially moved to the Pakistan Institute of Medical Sciences and were handed over to the heirs after identification through DNA profiling.

Mr Elahi claimed that heirs of each victim were paid Rs5 million each and that insurance money was also paid to Ahmed Janjua’s family and his brother was appointed pilot as well.

Giving a briefing on the plane crash, he said that one of the engines had failed and the propeller had also been out of order.

“An Air Force team had also done an investigation into how the propeller had gone out of order. Five reports are currently being prepared and they are due by April 30. After that, all details will be shared with the public. However, the main reason for the plane crash was that the engine had failed,” he said.

Senator Talha directed for a report on the payment of compensation to families of victims of the crash to be submitted in three days. The committee also asked for a clearance report of the ATR.

Placement of met office

Discussing issues of the met office, Met Director General Ghulam Rasool said that all over the world, met offices are placed under civil aviation because flights are operated under the guidance and prediction of the meteorological department and radars of the met office are installed at all airports.

Senator Kalsoom Parveen proposed that the met office be placed under the climate change ministry, arguing that the floods of 2010 had not been predicted due to which the country faced huge losses.

Mr Rasool said the met office had predicted the floods and that the losses were incurred due to the absence of dams as it was not possible to store water.

“The met office currently has seven radars which are very old. They were installed by Japan in 1930. We are installing a new radar in Islamabad which will be made functional before the monsoon. Currently, we are depending on radars in Mangla and Lahore,” he said.

However, Senator Talha Mehmood said the committee will never allow the placing of the met office under any other ministry or department.

Published in Dawn, January 18th, 2018