The Supreme Court on Saturday ordered the auditor general to complete an audit of Pakistan International Airlines' (PIA) accounts within 10 weeks.
A two-member bench of the SC, headed by Chief Justice Saqib Nisar, passed the order while hearing a case concerning the sale of assets belonging to the national flag carrier.
The chief justice noted that PIA's losses have reached Rs360 billion and the government cannot continue to run the airlines on an annual Rs13bn subsidy. He then ordered the auditor general to undergo a comprehensive audit of the airlines.
Former Aviation adviser Mehtab Abbas, however, objected to the audit, saying that a professional auditor would be able to do a better job as the auditor general was not capable of auditing an airline.
The court also ordered the name of another former adviser on Aviation, Shujaat Azeem, to be removed from the Exit Control List (ECL) and said that he must appear before the auditor general if called, warning that his property would be seized in case of failure to comply.
The court also imposed a ban on PIA's re-branding with the picture of the national animal, the markhor, on the tail of its aircraft.
PIA administration blames political influence, unnecessary recruitment for condition of airlines
A report submitted in the SC on behalf of PIA Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Musharraf Rasool had yesterday requested the court to allow the airlines to go ahead with its re-branding as it was integral to a strategy to rebuild the airlines' image and only involved the shifting of Pakistan's flag — not its removal.
The PIA had blamed political influence and unnecessary recruitment, among other factors, for the dilapidated situation of the national flag carrier.
The airline had also recounted the changes brought by the new administration for the smooth running of its operations, uprooting corruption and changing its image.
It stated that PIA's losses had reached Rs406 billion and would require some time to be brought down.
The airline also stated that, since the arrival of the new administration, a number of measures had been taken to improve safety measures which had helped bring its Safety Assessment for Foreign Aircraft (SAFA) index to 1.69 from 2.29 in November last year.
It also mentioned internal efforts to sabotage the transformation, lack of capability at all levels, a recruitment ban imposed by the apex court, excessive litigation in courts, and disruptive intervention of unions as major current challenges preventing an overhaul.
The airline has, therefore, requested the courts to lift the ban on postings, direct members of the Senior Staff Association to refrain from acting against PIA's interests, allow for the re-branding activity and remove the CEO from the Exit Control List (ECL).