ISLAMABAD: A parliamentary body on Tuesday criticised the manner in which the Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) management had dismissed seven pilots and 73 cabin crew for possessing fake degrees, saying rules were not followed for dismissal of services.
“Terminating the service of staff is a drastic action. Nowhere does the Supreme Court order dismiss staff with fake degrees. The court’s directives are to follow procedure under the rules,” said the chairman of the Senate Standing Committee on Aviation, Senator Mushahidullah Khan of the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N).
The committee met for a briefing on the issue of fake degrees of PIA employees and the reported harassment being faced by the staff, especially the lower staff, from their superiors.
Senator Khan urged the PIA management to take disciplinary action against officials who inducted employees without verifying their documents first, before firing staff with fake degrees.
He argued that instead of terminating the service of staff possessing fake degrees, other disciplinary action should have been taken, such as demotion or stopping increments.
The chairman instructed the committee’s secretary to invite employees who had been removed from service and members of the PIA union to know their views on the matter.
Invites sacked employees and union members to know their views on matter
However, in his response, PIA CEO Air Marshal Arshad Malik, who took charge last October, explained to the committee reasons for strict stance by the management.
“More cases of fake degrees have surfaced. And more cases have surfaced of pilots with fake licences who are flying today. I explained to the Supreme Court of the matter of life and death of passengers. If we did not take stern actions on merit, there will be no end to such inductions,” Mr Malik told the committee.
The CEO apprised the committee that most of the record of staff had been deliberately misplaced. PIA’s previous managements had failed to implement required procedures, he added. Key performance indicators did not exist. There were not training assessment and the training centres were dormant, the CEO said.
He informed the committee about efforts being made for reorganising the PIA’s human resource department and explained how the degree verification process started way back in 2006.
“The then PIA management gave all employees two years to improve their degrees or get them re-verified. The Islamabad High Court questioned this process and termed it outside the law. Personal hearings were granted to those with fake degrees and none were able to satisfy their illegal actions,” Mr Malik told the committee.
The CEO informed the committee about efforts being made to restore the past glory of the national flag carrier, including measures for curbing corruption in the organisation. He said the PIA was able to recover one out of the two best possible and money earning 777 aircraft abandoned for over a year. The official requested the committee for assistance in acquiring 10 more aircraft to earn more profits.
During the briefing, the committee was informed about steps being taken to regain the possession of PIA properties in Tashkent, Tehran, Delhi, Bombay, New York, Copenhagen and Amsterdam, besides re-negotiating the existing contract of in-flight entertainment.
“We have suspended loss-making routes, expanded productive and new routes, and restarted night landing at Peshawar airport after four years that was suspended due to security reasons. PIA has also increased seat factor by 95 per cent,” he claimed.
The CEO informed the committee members about seven suspended routes that caused PIA a loss of Rs500 million. The route — Islamabad-to-Beijing-to-Tokyo and then back the country — alone caused PIA a loss of Rs300 million.
Mr Malik informed the committee about his negotiations with the government for easing the tax regime which was the highest on domestic travel for PIA, 32.51pc of the base fare, compared to 15.55pc in India, 5pc in Saudi Arabia, 9.5pc in China and 8.4pc in Bangladesh.
“There is no choice but to revisit the country’s aviation policy,” Mr Malik said.
Published in Dawn, February 13th, 2019