Govt defends Arshad’s appointment as PIA chief

Updated February 16, 2020

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The federal government has told the Supreme Court that the appointment of Air Marshal Arshad Malik as chief executive officer (CEO) of the Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) Corporation was challenged before the Sindh High Court because he took strict measures against unlawful actions of the union as well as staff of the national flag carrier. — Photo courtesy PIA spokesperson/File
The federal government has told the Supreme Court that the appointment of Air Marshal Arshad Malik as chief executive officer (CEO) of the Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) Corporation was challenged before the Sindh High Court because he took strict measures against unlawful actions of the union as well as staff of the national flag carrier. — Photo courtesy PIA spokesperson/File

ISLAMABAD: The federal government has told the Supreme Court that the appointment of Air Marshal Arshad Malik as chief executive officer (CEO) of the Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) Corporation was challenged before the Sindh High Court because he took strict measures against unlawful actions of the union as well as staff of the national flag carrier.

In a statement before the Supreme Court, Additional Attorney General Khurram Saeed on behalf of the federal government explained that during the tenure of Mr Malik as the PIAC’s CEO the financial performance of the corporation was improved since its operating loss was reduced by 75 per cent and revenue increased by 44pc.

A three-judge Supreme Court bench headed by Chief Justice Gulzar Ahmed is seized with an appeal moved by Air Marshal Malik against the SHC’s order which had restrained him from carrying out any function as the head of the corporation.

The petitioner before the high court had contended that Mr Malik was a senior serving officer of the Pakistan Air Force (PAF) and his appointment as the PIA chief was made in utter disregard of the apex court’s Aug 3, 2018 judgement against the appointment of the then CEO.

Court told that air marshal’s appointment was challenged with mala fide intentions

The federal government’s report highlighted that the petition before the high court was moved with mala fide intentions, adding that the state of PIA at the time of Mr Malik’s appointment as acting CEO was pathetic and that it had almost collapsed.

The report recalled that after departure of retired air marshals Nur Khan and Asghar Khan, PIA was on a downward curve having losses worth billions of rupees. Its assets were reduced, whereas the corporation was facing serious disciplinary issues, besides its unions had taken over the management indirectly. Its aircraft though capable of flying were grounded and equipment that could have been repaired and used was not being taken care of.

The report recalled that due to alleged unruly and violent behaviour of different individuals in the union, the federal government had to come and support PIA on multiple occasions through financial aids.

The government was of the view that the national flag carrier should be pulled up for which it was necessary that the corporation should be governed in such a manner that strict discipline could be created, aircraft maintenance be improved, non-functional equipment, including aircraft and ground support equipment, be restored and that the assets of PIA be secured indigenously, using local resources.

It was also felt that PIA should be gradually brought to a position where it could manage and run its business of transportation efficiently and become as far as possible self-sustaining, indigenous and also become profitable.

In this regard, an advertisement was published where it was deemed appropriate and necessary that personnel from the country’s armed forces be brought as the CEO of the corporation so that it could be able to recover.

While appointing the CEO, the government had noted that during his tenure as the acting CEO, he had moved fast in rectifying multiple issues in the corporation.

Past glory

Soon after taking over, Mr Malik commenced a plan to rectify the corporation in a manner that it could be restored to its past glory. A number of measures were also taken up and from the day one he took over the affairs of the airline.

Referring to allegations that a multi-million contract awarded to a company which was incorporated a few months earlier, the report explained that the said contract was given for the In-flight Enter­tain­ment System (IFE) for the development of the system indigenously in Pakistan.

Such systems can only be bought from certified vendors on a price settled by them and thus the airline was required to pay upfront billion of dollars.

But in the contract in question, the amount to be paid was Rs700 million with a requirement that the vendor will develop the project and obtain certification from the Boeing company at its own cost and that the airline will not make any payment to the vendor until he gets the certification.

Published in Dawn, February 16th, 2020