PIA to face closure only over our dead bodies, declares HR chief

Published September 15, 2023
Senator Hidayatullah chaired a meeting of the Senate Standing Committee on Aviation on Thursday. — Photo courtesy Senate website
Senator Hidayatullah chaired a meeting of the Senate Standing Committee on Aviation on Thursday. — Photo courtesy Senate website

RAWALPINDI: The head of the human resource (HR) department of the Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) on Thursday refuted the media reports regarding the poor financial condition of the airline leading to a possible closure of all the operations and services, declaring that “it will happen only over our dead bodies.”

These remarks came from the Head of the PIA’s HR, Athar Hussain, when Chairman of Senate Standing Committee on Aviation Hidayatullah during a committee’s meeting took notice of a reported statement of a senior PIA director regarding the possible closure of PIA within 15 days.

The committee’s chairman ordered investigation against the official and called for a comprehensive report, besides stating that nobody other than the spokesperson or the PR Department of the airline should issue any statement to the media.

A private TV news channel had reported that a senior director of the national flag carrier had warned that flight operations were feared to be suspended by September 15, if emergency funds were not provided.

The HR chief briefed the committee on significant matters concerning aviation and the PIA and provided the committee with an overview of the entire employees’ roster, detailing their qualifications, experience, designations, present postings and acting charges, particularly within Group IV and above.

The committee members inquired about Group V and above employees and emphasised the preference for hiring native Pakistanis rather than foreign nationals for overseas positions, with the HR chief highlighting the predominance of Pakistani-origin staff in foreign roles. The committee received an account of the performance evaluation process for the UK-based employees, underscoring PIA’s commitment to evaluate the performance of all employees stationed abroad.

He revealed that two employees in Saudi Arabia were recently dismissed due to fake degrees, and another remained under scrutiny.

“All [of them] are being monitored,” he said.

Director General Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) Khaqan Murtaza informed the panel about the advisory issued by the European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA), urging air operators to avoid flights over Karachi and Lahore below FL260 [26,000 feet] due to Pakistan’s current security situation.

He emphasised that this advisory was based on media reports showing anti-aircraft weapons and claims of rockets and missiles in the hands of anti-state elements and crooks.

The DG CAA clarified that there were no missiles and rockets capable of reaching aircraft flying at 23,000 to 24,000 feet, given that planes typically operated at 29,000 feet or higher in these areas. He added that Etihad Airways initially cancelled all flights following the advisory, but after consultations with the authorities, the real situation was conveyed.

The DG CAA urged responsible reporting by the media to uphold the country’s positive image. He also noted that the advisory referenced erstwhile Fata and Kashmir, although there were no air corridors in these areas.

During the meeting, the members of the committee were updated on the progress of recommendations made by the committee to the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) regarding the PIA employees possessing fake degrees.

The FIA submitted a comprehensive compliance report.

Published in Dawn, September 15th, 2023

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