The Islamabad High Court (IHC) has observed that the verification process of pilots licences conducted by the Aviation Division is dubious, noting that it is now clear that the information that the licences of 262 pilots are fake is incorrect.
An inquiry into the May 22, 2020 PIA plane crash in Model Colony located near the Karachi airport in which 97 of the 99 passengers and crew members on board were killed, had revealed that most of the pilots of the Pakistan International Airlines and other airlines possessed dubious licences.
In June, Aviation Minister Ghulam Sarwar Khan disclosed the details of the inquiry, saying that 262 pilots having false credentials will be grounded. Of them, he said, 141 were from PIA, nine from Air Blue and 10 from Serene Air while the remaining were affiliated with flying clubs, chartered plane services or foreign airlines.
On Tuesday, IHC Chief Justice Athar Minallah heard the petition filed by a pilot, Syed Saqlain Akhter, against his dismissal.
“Now, accountability is also necessary. Someone has to be held responsible as this has done a lot of damage to the country’s image,” the chief justice remarked.
Additional Attorney General Tariq Khokhar also agreed with the court.
Zeeshan Hashmi Advocate appeared before the court on behalf of the pilot during the hearing.
The chief justice came down hard on the Civil Aviation Authority’s (CAA) lawyer, asking whether the Aviation Division operates on anyone’s wishes or according to the law. “Such statements [information that 262 licences are fake] have damaged the image of the country.”
CJ Minallah remarked, “The way the issue of pilots’ licences was handled is very disappointing. The national airline’s service [to European countries] has been suspended and our overseas pilots have been affected.”
Further, Minallah said the court appreciates that the government has appointed a new CAA director general.
Flight Lieutenant (retd) Khaqan Murtaza was appointed as the permanent director general of the CAA in November after a yawning gap of two years.
The pilot’s lawyer, Hashmi, apprised the court that his client has been accused of putting another person in his place for the exams and obtaining the licence.
He prayed the court that the notice of cancellation of licence on July 14 and dismissal on July 21 should be declared null and void as the notices were issued in violation of the law by the CAA secretary, who was “illegally” holding the post of the additional director general.
“The CAA issued the licence in 2007. I have been working as a pilot in the PIA since 2010,” reads the petition.
The pilot’s lawyer apprised the court that the CAA secretary formed a Board of Inquiry.
The court inquired as to whether the whole matter was initiated by that board.
“Where is it written in the law that the federal government can give additional charge of DG to the secretary,” the chief justice remarked. “The secretary, considering himself a DG, issued the notice.”
The CJ remarked, “The appointment of a secretary as additional DG is against the law. Under which law was the Board of Inquiry constituted by the secretary.”
AAG Khokhar said that if the court gives some time, he could take instructions and assist the court.
The court said such a decision by the secretary had adverse effects on the national airline.
The court sought further arguments and adjourned the hearing till December 17.