TAXILA: Aviation Minister Ghulam Sarwar Khan has said that most concerns of the European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) regarding process of issuing licences to commercial pilots have been addressed and it is hoped the ban imposed on Pakistan International Airlines to operate flights to and from European countries would be lifted soon.

Speaking at a press conference on Friday at the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) Secre­tariat here along with Punjab Assembly member Ammar Sadeeq Khan and Malik Taimour Masood, Mr Khan said the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) had issued licences to a total of 860 pilots, but there were concerns over licences of 262 pilots.

After scrutiny, the licences of 82 pilots were suspended due to several reasons and their services were terminated.

The minister said all the officers who were responsible for issuing these dubious licences were also dismissed. Their cases were being sent to the Federal Investigation Agency for initiation of a legal process against them.

EASA had suspended the authorisation for PIA to operate flights in the European Union member countries for six months in July. The restrictions were extended later as the European agency was not fully satisfied by the measures taken to improve the process of issuing the licences.

Cases of officers responsible for issuing dubious pilot licences being sent to FIA, says Sarwar

At the press conference Mr Khan hinted that 2021 would be a good year for the aviation sector as the national flag carrier would induct eight aircraft into its fleet and more airlines would initiate operations in Pakistan.

He said that although the Covid-19 pandemic had dealt a tough blow to the aviation sector worldwide, chances of improvements were already becoming apparent in Pakistan.

Air Sial has already been launched and on Friday it operated its first flight from Sialkot to Peshawar, he said. Similarly, Serene Air had been allowed to operate flights on two international routes, to and from the UK and China.

Responding to a question about the possibility of sacking of many PIA employees soon, he said some of the staffers would be leaving the airline voluntarily and they would be paid due compensation under the Voluntary Separation Scheme (VSS). So far about 1,900 employees had shown willingness to quit their jobs under VSS.

Mr Khan said that PIA’s management had set a target of reducing the number of its employees to 7,500-8,000 for its 29 aircraft. At present the airline has 14,500 employees for a fleet of 29 planes as compared to 31,000 employees working for a fleet of 329 aircraft of an airline of Turkey.

He said the Senate elections would be held as per the prescribed schedule and amendments were being made in the rules to conduct polling through a show of hands in an effort to close doors on “horse trading”. In the previous elections 20 PTI members of the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Assembly were found to be involved in dubious activities and later they had to face the music, he added.

Published in Dawn, December 26th, 2020