• In suo motu case, apex court seeks reports from PIA CEO, heads of private airlines • CJP wonders why contempt notice should not be issued to NDMA chief over lack of transparency
ISLAMABAD: The Supreme Court regretted on Tuesday that the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) is in a shambles, their computers that issued flying licences were not safe, their employees were compromised and there was no system of security.
“Therefore, the CAA director general is required to take immediate remedial action more particularly regarding the licensing scam strictly in accordance with the law and bring the culprits to book,” observed Chief Justice Gulzar Ahmed, who is heading a five-judge SC bench that had taken up a suo motu case relating to the measures taken by the federal and provincial governments to combat the coronavirus pandemic.
At the last hearing on June 25, the Supreme Court had summoned CAA Director General Hassan Nasir Jamy and sought an explanation regarding the alleged issuance of dubious/fake licences to the pilots who flew passenger aircraft of different airlines, thus putting the lives of people at stake. The court, while rejecting a report furnished by the CAA, also ordered him to take departmental action on the issue.
“The ones who have affixed their signatures on the fake licences should also go to jail,” the chief justice said, adding the CAA director general had to show results by clearing the mess within 15 days. Spare no one and remove all delinquents even if he [CAA chief] has to build the organisation afresh, the chief justice observed.
The court also directed Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) Chief Executive Officer Air Marshal Arshad Malik as well as the heads of all private airlines to furnish reports on how to deal with the maladies their respective organisations are facing, including removal of the employees who have done serious damage to the airlines.
When the matter relating to the issuance of flying licences was taken up, the chief justice, while pointing towards the CAA director general, observed that the latter was not capable of handling the affairs of the authority. “You should be removed,” the chief justice said, adding that either he should resign himself or the court would dictate an order in this regard.
“Your entire staff from A to Z is compromised and your computers through which licences were issued have been hacked. Fake licences are being issued — a state we should all be ashamed of,” the chief justice bemoaned.
“The authority, the job of which is to be extra careful and cautious in the issuance of flying licences, has put the lives of the passengers at stake,” he observed, adding that they were devoid of feelings how difficult it was for the families to cope with when their near and dear ones were gone.
“CAA has gone reckless and berserk and they suspended only those who were responsible for the entire malady. The one who is suspended is still receiving monthly salary and enjoying all perks and privileges within the safe confines of his home,” the chief justice regretted.
“There is no room for further indignity or shame since we are already at the bottom among all the nations and were labelled as if [we are] the most corrupt nations in the world. Is there anyone who can salvage this department?” the chief justice asked, wondering whether the CAA chief had any road map in his mind to pull the authority out of the abyss.
He said the entire reputation of the CAA was at stake as nobody knew what was being trafficked or smuggled even by trolley pushers at different airports.
The CAA director general informed the court that his department had finalised some references for the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) and issued total 1,934 licences of which anomalies were identified in 262.
The PIA with 30 to 45 aircraft has 450 active pilots.
Justice Umar Ata Bandial, a member of the bench, regretted that the CAA was facing a capacity issue and asked why those responsible for making the computer servers inaccessible were still on job. When imposters were controlling the lives of the people then the CAA had to do something serious, he observed, adding that the authority by following due process should take reasonable but strict decisions.
“When you bring someone with the stick, the things start improving,” Justice Bandial regretted, adding that the civilian system needed to be improved.
Justice Ijaz-ul-Ahsan wondered why there was an impression of total foot dragging until some tragedy struck or the Supreme Court intervened. “Is there a political intervention or the airline pilots are so influential to dictate their terms? Whether DG-CAA understands what impression this licence scam had created in the world since countries like Ethiopia even expressed concern. Is this the service you have done with this country?” Justice Ahsan asked.
The PIA chief executive officer informed the court that the airline had terminated 750 employees.
However, the chief justice told him that he could not shift the responsibility of the recent aircraft crash in Karachi, adding that every bad thing was happening in the PIA and the people had stopped travelling with the national flag carrier as they had no confidence in it.
The chief justice also asked why the PIA was disposing of its assets, regretting that once Hollywood actors preferred to travel with the PIA but today the airline stood nowhere.
Justice Ahsan recalled that the apex court was earlier assured that no assets of the PIA would be sold.
Contempt of court notice
About lack of transparency in the National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) and non-submission of detailed reports to the court, the chief justice asked why not a contempt of court notice should issued to its chairman and Prime Minister Imran Khan be asked to remove all staff of the authority.
The court was concerned about the details provided to identify who owned Messrs Al Hafeez — an organisation which was favoured by the NDMA to import machinery for making of N-95 masks through chartered plane — and asked why cash payments were made to the companies which had not been mentioned in the agreement.
The chief justice observed that the NDMA was answerable to the people of Pakistan, especially to those who were providing donations and funds to the authority. “Nobody knows how huge amounts being given to NDMA are being utilised,” he regretted.
Justice Ahsan said one got an impression as if the NDMA was stretching in all directions be it the coronavirus pandemic, flooding or locust attack.
The court asked the NDMA to furnish a comprehensive report, particularly regarding M/s Al-Hafeez.
The chief justice also expressed concern over manufacturing of spurious medicines, import of unregistered medicines and hoarding of life-saving drugs and equipment and said that instead of minor punishments, those involved in playing with the lives of people should be awarded exemplary punishment of death through drug courts.
The health secretary has been directed to appear before the apex court at the next hearing to be held after two weeks.
Published in Dawn, July 22nd, 2020