The Pakistan Civil Aviation Authority (PCAA) said on Wednesday that the body had cleared a safety audit conducted by the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO), adding that it expected the United Kingdom and the European Union to allow Pakistani airlines to resume operations on a "fast-track basis".

In an earlier statement, PCAA spokesperson Saifullah Khan had said that restrictions on operations of Pakistani airlines to the United States, the UK and the EU had been lifted.

However, in a later statement, he clarified that the PCAA had begun contacting the UK Civil Aviation Authority and the European Commission to convey the "resolution of safety concerns by ICAO".

"It will be emphasised to permit operations of Pakistani registered airlines to the UK and Europe at the earliest. It is expected that the UK and European Union will issue permissions on a fast-track basis," he said.

He added that the PCAA will now start pilot examinations by the end of March followed by the issuance of pilot licences.

In a letter addressed to PCAA Director General Khaqan Murtaza, a copy of which is available with Dawn.com, the ICAO referred to the "significant safety concern" that was issued on September 18, 2020 and the subsequent audit conducted from Nov 20 to Dec 10, 2021.

"During the audit, the ICAO team reviewed the corrective actions taken and related evidence presented by Pakistan to address the significant safety concern regarding the licensing of the state, specifically in relation to the examinations conducted by the PCAA and by delegated or designated training organisations prior to the issuance of licenses and ratings," the letter said.

It stated that the ICAO validation committee reviewed the actions and relevant evidence validated in Pakistan and determined that the action taken had successfully resolved the significant safety concern.

The letter, written by the deputy director of the Monitoring and Oversight Air Navigation Bureau, thanked the DG and his team for assisting the ICAO audit team and appreciated Pakistan's active commitment towards achieving the body's safety objectives.

On June 30, 2020, the European Union had suspended the authorisation for Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) to operate in the bloc for six months. The move had followed the grounding of 262 pilots whose licences Aviation Minister Ghulam Sarwar Khan had termed “dubious”.

PIA was informed by the European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) in December 2020 that the ban wouldn't be lifted until a safety audit of PCAA was carried out. The agency extended the ban in April 2021 and directed PCAA to get its safety audit done by ICAO.

The audit team arrived in Pakistan on Dec 7 and completed its investigation in the next few days.

The PCAA director general had subsequently told the participants of a meeting of the Senate Sub-Committee on Aviation that the ban was expected to be lifted soon as the ICAO's validation committee had cleared a safety audit report after which the significant safety concerns would be gradually eased out.

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