ISLAMABAD: The Supreme Court on Monday dismissed the Pakistan International Airlines Corporation Limited (PIACL)’s report regarding pilot licences. A three-judge special bench, headed by Chief Justice Gulzar Ahmed, heard Air Marshal Arshad Mehmmod Malik’s (retd) appeal against the Sindh High Court (SHC)’s order that restrained him from performing functions as the PIA CEO.

The PIA’s counsel submitted a report regarding the pilot licences. The chief justice termed the report ‘dissatisfactory,’ and said there was nothing in it. Justice Umar Ata Bandial asked that the PIA pilots were banned from flying planes. He questioned what the PIA management did along with the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) to clear the pilots’ licences.

He asked how many pilots, holding fake licenses, were removed or banned or suspended. Salman Akram Raja informed that total 141 licences were found dubious. He said out of the total 15 pilots holding fake licences were removed, adding the PIA itself was scrutinising the pilots’ licences.

He further told that 110 pilot’s licences had been cleared. The chief justice said experienced persons were required to run a corporation or company to compete internationally. Naseem Bukhari said the PIA situation had become worse as the national carrier’s flights could not go to Europe after the issue of fake licences of Pakistani pilots.

He, however, said the incumbent CEO was making efforts to improve the situation. The chief justice said they were not sitting to tell what and how the things to be done, adding, the airline should itself look at its affairs. He inquired from the PIA CEO, Arshad Malik, how many people had been inducted in the PIA. Arshad Malik replied that no one was recruited yet.

The chief justice said competent and professionals should be inducted in the PIA. Naeem Bukhari contended that all over the world the airlines reputed organizations were facing financial crisis. He said debt on the PIA had increased to Rs480 billion.

The chief justice said that that debt was due to its management. The chief justice said the report had nothing it was just a cosmetic effort. Nothing is informed about what the management has planned, and how the PIA’s situation will improve. The CJP remarked at the end it will happen to remove 2,000 employees and transfer 3,000 from one department to another, and to induct 5,000 persons in the PIA.

Naeem Bukhari stated that due to the coronavirus many airlines around the world had been grounded. He sought more time to improve the condition. The chief justice accepting the request adjourned the case until January. The Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) in July, 2020, had informed the apex court that 262 suspected pilots grounded had made unauthorised access to the CAA computerized technical examination for pilot licensing.

The 262 grounded pilots are from; PIA 141, Serene Air 10, Air Blue nine, others that is not employed by the PIA, Serene or Air blue are 102. The report said, in order to implement the direction of the Supreme Court in the HRC No 8645/2018, the CAA requested the Aviation Division to constitute a Board of Inquiry (BOI) to conduct internal forensic audit of the CAA computerised technical examination of pilots.

Published in Business Recorder, December 15th, 2020