RAWALPINDI: Aviation Minister Ghulam Sarwar Khan on Saturday announced that show-cause notices were issued to 30 more pilots with ‘dubious licences’ after completion of an inquiry as the government sped up scrutiny process of suspected pilots.
He said the cabinet would decide the fate of pilots though a valid point of case-to-case hearing.
About the suspension of Pakistan International Airlines authorisation by the European Union Air Safety Agency (EASA) to operate to the EU member states for a period of six months from July 1, 2020, the minister told the media the PIA had the right to appeal against the decision.
While addressing a press conference at the Rawalpindi secretariat of the ruling Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf on Saturday, Sarwar Khan said: “We have been verifying credentials of Pakistani pilots serving with other airlines in Malaysia, Emirates and other airlines, though MCAA has not provided the list of Pakistani pilots so far. The solid base verification of pilots will be done and only those who will be certified would be allowed to fly planes.”
PML-N casts doubt on list; asks CAA to take urgent steps and restore its standing
He then said that 11 chief executive officers of the national flag carrier had been changed during the past two decades, adding that the CEOs had even been “changed on the recommendations of the union”.
He said the government had sped up scrutiny process of suspected pilots and verification of the credentials of other aviation staff in line with the Supreme Court’s notice. An inquiry board was constituted that started scrutiny of pilots’ licences and a discrepancy was found. Later, forensic inquiry was carried out.
“Inquiry board found 850 pilots with suspected credentials and out of the total suspicious 262 licences were found ‘dubious’,” the minister said, adding that the inquiry report was presented to Prime Minister Imran Khan after which 28 pilots were served with show-cause notices, charge-sheeted and then they were given a chance for personal hearing. After personal hearing, they were suspended as nine of them confessed to having dubious licences.
Mr Khan said criminal proceedings would be initiated against the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) officials involved in issuing dubious licences as their cases were being sent to Federal Investigation Agency (FIA).
He said the CAA had been earning well before coronavirus pandemic, but it was facing a weekly loss of Rs2 billion and a total of Rs20 billion. “And a huge loss is also being faced by PIA,” but the airline had not laid off its employees so far, he said. “Only people with fake degrees are being terminated by the administration,” the aviation minister added.
He claimed that PIA fleet had not been expanded since 2006 rather an aircraft was “stolen”. He said: “We have to restructure PIA and hopefully its fleet will be increased to 45 till the completion of PTI government term.”
For Rawalpindi, the minister said, two mega projects — one Lai Expressway and the other Ring Road — would be completed by the year end for which Prime Minister Imran Khan was expected to lay the foundation soon.
Asked about the dismissal of Judge Arshad Malik, who had convicted the former prime minister Nawaz Sharif in Al-Azizia reference, Mr Khan only said: “He had been appointed by Nawaz Sharif.”
Pilots’ list dubious: PML-N
Talking to the media at the parliament lodges in Islamabad on Saturday, senior vice president of Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz Shahid Khaqan Abbasi said that the government ministers instead of holding press conferences and putting the country’s reputation at stake should take action against those 262 pilots within 30 days under the Civil Aviation Rules 1994.
Mr Abbasi said the PTI government continued to make allegations instead of doing its job. “Allegations had been made first and action has not been taken so far due to which the world now has doubts about the Civil Aviation’s capacity as a regulator,” he said.
The PML-N leader, who is also a pilot, said that more than 50 Pakistani pilots in different countries were in touch with him. They were qualified, well experienced pilots and had been working in different airlines but they all were worried over the government move, he said, as “their integrity was tarnished and Pakistan’s reputation is in jeopardy.
“A list of 141 pilots was given out of which 26 are not in PIA. Two pilots have been martyred in Havelian air crash and their names were also included in this list,” Mr Abbasi said.
He said that six pilots had retired from PIA, while data on 29 pilots was incorrect and 10 pilots had filed cases in the courts and they had no knowledge of their status. The list of dubious licence holders also had 18 such people who did not possess a licence because they had never been issued a licence. It is suspected that the rest of them (43) were on duty on the day they took the test, he added.
He said that the CAA should immediately issue show-cause notices to all the 262 pilots informing them about their charges and constitute a board of inquiry so that they could come forward to clarify their positions.
Mr Abbasi said that according to the rules, action must be taken against these persons within 30 days.
“As a pilot, I can say that anyone who cheated in the written test, his licence should be immediately revoked and such a person should be expelled from the flying field forever,” he said, adding that this authority rested with the CAA.
He said that when the flying licence was given to someone, the safety of hundreds of people became the responsibility of that person.
Mr Abbasi said the licence issue had nothing to do with the recent PIA plane crash in Karachi.
The inquiry against pilots had been conducted over a year and a half ago by the CAA and the Ministry of Aviation, he said, adding that 28 pilots had been sent show-cause notices, some of them went to court but no licence had been revoked till date.
He said the issue of licences had also nothing to do with those who taking jobs in PIA on fake degrees. There may be some people who had obtained jobs with fake degrees, but that was a PIA issue and there were Supreme Court directives on it, he recalled.
Mr Abbasi said even those who were hired on recommendations in PIA had nothing to do with the licence issue.
The licensing authority was the CAA and the whole world had expressed doubts about the capability and capability of Pakistan’s aviation regulator to address the issue in a proper way, he said.
“We made the statement earlier while proceedings under the Civil Aviation Rules have not yet begun. Thus the CAA is being viewed with suspicion,” he regretted.
It was the responsibility of the government and the CAA to urgently rectify the situation and restore Pakistan’s reputation, he said.
The former prime minister further said that the aviation industry was not just 860 pilots, but “it has thousands of engineers, millions and millions of people, billions in taxes … big business. Today all this is in danger”.
Published in Dawn, July 5th, 2020