RAWALPINDI: The Senate Standing Committee on Aviation was on Thursday informed that a significant number of pilots have recently fled the country as a result of major salary cuts in the form of high taxes.

PIA’s Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Amir Hayat informed the committee that 15 pilots had recently left the country and that a Supreme Court appeal for hiring young male staff for the national flag carrier had not yet been entertained.

The committee’s chairman Senator Hidayatullah remarked that the future of aspiring pilots was in jeopardy. He asked Senator Saleem Mandviwalla to take up the issue with the FBR through the Senate Finance Committee.

The Senate committee was briefed by the Civil Aviation Authority (CIA) about the reasons behind the decline of routes of foreign airlines.

CAA’s Director Genral Khaqan Murtaza said 31 international airlines had applied for operations to and from Pakistan with a total tally of 576 weekly frequencies from all international airports in Pakistan and there had been no substantial decline in the upcoming summer schedule.

A plea filed in Supreme Court for hiring young male staff is yet to be entertained, says official

The committee inquired as to why the foreign airlines were not permitting passengers to purchase tickets in rupees. Mr Murtaza stated that passengers were buying foreign airlines’ tickets from remote locations using VPN or some other means and it costs relatively less than the tickets bought in Pakistan.

The committee directed the CAA to submit a detailed report on the matter in the next meeting.

The committee also discussed the cancellation of licences of PIA pilots. The committee was told that 141 pilot licences were declared suspected by the CAA. The breakup showed that 18 pilots were not PIA employees while 18 were terminated from service upon suspension/cancellation of licences by CAA, 16 were deceased and separated, two pilots were on stay order whose decision was pending and the remaining 87 were cleared by CAA afterwards.

The matter related to PIA employees appointed on fake degrees was also taken up. The PIA chief said that individuals charged with having fake degrees had been penalised with termination; however, the Senate special committee on affected employees restored the appointment of the employees.

Senator Hidayatullah stated that the direction of the Supreme Court was crystal clear in this regard and should be strictly followed.

He said the employees appointed on fake degrees should not be reincorporated at any cost.

In addition, Senator Mandviwalla pointed out that a huge bulk of pilots was leaving the country due to major cuts on their pay in the shape of heavy taxes.

The PIA chief told the meeting that recently 15 pilots had left the country and a petition relating to the hiring of young workforce for the PIA had been filed in Supreme Court which was yet to be entertained.

According to a Senate handout, the panel also deliberated on the matter of two Airbus A320 worth around $20 billion grounded in Indonesia from the last one year.

The PIA chief informed the members that re-delivery work on both the aircraft had been completed by around 82 and 92pc, respectively, and the aircraft will arrive in Pakistan by the end of June.

The committee was also briefed about the properties leased to different companies by CAA. Mr Murtaza stated that a major bulk of properties had been leased to PIA at a nominal cost and the leased agreements of the properties had not been revisited since long.

According to latest figures, PIA owes Rs150 billion to the CAA, he said.

About frequent cancellation of flights between Quetta and Islamabad, the CAA chief said Quetta Airport was undergoing restoration and daytime operations will begin by the end of May. However, the night-time operations cannot be carried out because a letter of credit (LC) worth around 457,000 euros for the procurement of necessary machinery had been declined by the government.

The meeting was also attended by Minister for Climate Change Sherry Rehman, senators Mohsin Aziz, Faisal Saleem Rehman, Dilawar Khan and officials from different departments.

Published in Dawn, March 31st, 2023

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