SC rejects PIA CEO’s appeal to continue working, questions appointment of 10 PAF officers

Updated 21 Jan 2020

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PIA CEO Arshad Malik had filed a petition against SHC directions restraining him from working. — Dawn archives
PIA CEO Arshad Malik had filed a petition against SHC directions restraining him from working. — Dawn archives

The Supreme Court rejected on Tuesday Air Marshal Arshad Malik’s appeal to remain the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) while raising suspicions on increased fares and appointment of ten officers of the Pakistan Air Force (PAF) in the national carrier.

The three-member bench, headed by Chief Justice of Pakistan Gulzar Ahmed, called into question the appointments of four air vice marshals, two air commodores, three wing commanders and one flight lieutenant in the national airline.

"How can Arshad Malik make such appointments when he himself is appointed on deputation?" questioned the top judge.

The bench also noted that another case pertaining to the PIA chief's appointment was already being heard in the Supreme Court.

Malik had filed a petition in the Supreme Court, requesting for a stay order against a Sindh High Court order, which restrained him from working as PIA's CEO.

During the hearing today, Justice Sajjad Ali Shah, who was part of the bench hearing the case, said: "We want to see if the advertisement of PIA CEO's post was designed with Arshad Malik in mind as he does not have the pre-requisite qualification, education or the expertise required for the job."

Justice Shah also raised concerns over reports that a bid worth Rs700 million was awarded to an air commodore and said that the "fares of PIA had increased by 100 per cent" since Malik's appointment.

"You are running the national airline's affairs like those of a family business […] How can you manage PIA when you failed Shaheen Airways miserably?" he remarked.

The Supreme Court rejected Malik's plea and handed the reins of PIA to the board of governors. The bench summoned the record of the case which is currently being heard in the SHC and adjourned the hearing until two weeks.

Malik's appointment challenged in SHC

A petition challenging Malik's appointment was filed in the Sindh High Court by Safdar Anjum, the general secretary of one of the associations of PIA senior staff/employee. Anjum insisted that he was filing the petition for the enforcement of fundamental rights of all members of the association and the general public since the PIA was a national asset.

Impleading the PIA CEO, the federation through principal secretary to the prime minister, secretaries of the cabinet and aviation divisions, PIA and others as respondents, the petitioner stated that Air Marshal Malik was a senior serving officer of the PAF whose appointment as the PIA chief was made in utter disregard of rules laid down by the apex court in its August 3, 2018 judgement against the appointment of the then CEO.

He maintained that the appointment was also made in violation of the Public Sector Companies (Corporate Governance) Rules of 2013 and Public Sector Companies (Appointment of Chief Executive) Guidelines of 2015 as both the laws were applicable to the PIA.

The lawyer for the petitioner told the bench that the main respondent was holding a basic BSc degree and seemed to have acquired qualifications in war studies.

He added that clearly Malik lacked any qualifications, experience in the commercial airline industry or operating a commercial fleet under the civil aviation rules and international treaties.