Probe into ‘illegal’ licences of 236 pilots still on: govt

Updated 03 Jul 2020

Email

Maritime Affairs Minister Ali Haider Zaidi and Information Minister Shibli Faraz address a press conference. — DawnNewsTV
Maritime Affairs Minister Ali Haider Zaidi and Information Minister Shibli Faraz address a press conference. — DawnNewsTV

ISLAMABAD: With the matter of Pakistani pilots’ credentials snowballing, the federal government on Thursday said that an inquiry into the issuance of ‘illegal’ licences issued to some 236 pilots between 2012 and 2018 was in progress and that the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) would complete the scrutiny process of suspected pilots and verification of the credentials of other aviation staff in a few days.

At a joint press conference addressed by Maritime Affairs Minister Ali Haider Zaidi, Special Assistant to the Prime Minister on Accountability Barrister Shahzad Akbar and Information Minister Senator Shibli Faraz an assurance was made that the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) government was committed to ensuring merit and transparency in all national institutions.

The three officials accused the previous governments of the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz and Pakistan Peoples Party of destroying all state institutions, including the Pakistan International Airlines (PIA).

They said the national flag carrier — which had provided its services to many foreign airlines in the past and was considered a prestigious airline from the 1960s to the 1980s — had been ruined by the political interference by the previous governments.

Malaysia seeks verification of Pakistani aviators’ credentials

The PIA, they said, would be restored to its past glory.

Mr Zaidi said that in March last year the PTI government had introduced a new aviation policy as its top priority was the safety of passengers.

He said after investigations, some 54 pilots were grounded. The inquiry into irregularities committed in the aviation sector was under way. The inquiry would hopefully be completed within four months, he added.

The minister said that after completion of the inquiry, the PIA would be purged of all irregular inductions and it would become an airline observing high safety standards. He said five senior officers of the CAA had been suspended.

SAPM Shahzad Akbar said the CAA was working round the clock to complete the scrutiny of pilots, engineers and others by Friday or Saturday.

Cases of 28 pilots, having dubious flying licences, had been referred to the federal cabinet for their termination, he said, adding that irregularities committed in state institutions in the past could not be allowed to continue.

Regarding the ban on the PIA flight operation in Europe and the United Kingdom, Mr Akbar said the government would take up the matter with authorities concerned to get the decision reviewed.

Referring to former prime minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi, he said it was the conflict of interest in his case as he held dual positions at the same time — the chief executive of the county and the head of a private airline.

Mr Faraz said the PTI government under the leadership of Prime Minister Imran Khan was committed to ensuring merit and transparency in all state institutions.

He said the press conference was held to reveal details of the decline of the national flag carrier. In a related development, the Civil Aviation Authority of Malaysia (CAAM) sought verification of the licences of Pakistani pilots working in that country.

Following disclosure by federal Minister for Aviation Ghulam Sarwar Khan that 150 pilots of the Pakistan International Airline had ‘dubious’ licences, aviation authorities of different countries sought verification of credentials of Pakistani pilots and engineers working there.

The CAAM said in view of the recent news of ‘dubious’ licences of Pakistani pilots, it would like to gather information about those pilots employed by the operator who received licences from the Pakistan’s aviation authority.

It sought full name of the pilot, passport number, Pakistani pilot licence number, CAAM validation number (if available) and Malaysia Licence conversion – PPL/CPL/ATPL Number.

“Currently all operators are required to temporarily suspend their pilot who is issued with Pakistan pilot licence from operating flights until their licences can be verified by Pakistan Civil Aviation Authority. Once verification has been carried out, the CAAM will inform operators for their reinstatement immediately,” the letter emailed to the Pakistan aviation authority said.

The CAAM sent the letter to Pakistani authorities on Thursday and sought verification of pilots’ credentials by July 3, 2020 at 1200 hours.

They also said: “If the Pakistan Civil Aviation Authority was unable to verify their licences, the CAAM will have no other option but to revoke their licence (Malaysian validation or licence conversion).”

Earlier, the United Arab Emirates’ General Civil Aviation had written a letter to the director general of Civil Aviation Authority Hassan Nasir Jamy and sought verification of credentials of aircraft maintenance engineers and flight operations officers who originally possessed licence issued by the CAA.

Amid the aviation crisis in Pakistan, the PIA management had decided to ground 150 pilots in the wake of the aviation minister’s disclosure in the National Assembly last month that 150 pilots of the national flag carrier had “dubious licences”.

Meanwhile, a global airlines’ rating website — AirlineRating.com — has lowered the ranking of PIA to ‘one-star’ airline as the issue pilots’ ‘dubious licences’ continues to haunt the national flag carrier.

The PIA has so far not commented on the lowering of its ranking by the website.

Published in Dawn, July 3rd, 2020