One small blunder or in fact one rather big blunder from a man who should not be making such mistakes on the floor of the House has brought further disaster for Pakistan International, the country’s national carrier. Now the UN has said that the airline should not be used by any of its staff members, because of the dispute over licences, which had hit the airline last year after Aviation Minister Ghulam Sarwar Khan said on the floor of the House that about one third of licences of PIA pilots could be fake. This would obviously terrify most potential passengers around the world. Many have already stopped travelling PIA and others it seems are set to follow. PIA is already suffering because of the ban placed on its flights by the EU, with Pakistanis now unable to fly directly to Rome, Paris or other key destinations, which are also key business centres, and has suffered other penalties as well.
The UN has said that out of the airlines registered in Pakistan, and there are many of them on the list, only Serene Airlines can be used by UN staff. It is good that at least one Pakistani airline has been validated. But that so many have been rejected is obviously something of a disaster. It suggests that there is a huge need to clean up our aviation system, put our aviation ministry right, correct the faults in the CAA and deal with the problem of aviation which seems to have left us grounded and quite unable to take flight. The fact that PIA through the 60s and later was known for its glory in the skies, makes the current state it is in even more painful.
The fact that Pakistan no longer falls into the category of countries whose airline can be considered reliable is extremely embarrassing. It is also disappointing for most that the then aviation minister has not been taken to task, for his words on the floor of the House, which later proved to be entirely without evidence and based at best on a fake report, which had no merit at all. Any minister should have known better. Even if the report had fallen into his hands, he should not have quoted figures from it unless he was absolutely certain of the information he was giving out to the public and the world. We are now seeing the consequences of his actions. A later inquiry has found that almost all of them do indeed hold valid licences and some on the list shared by the aviation minister have since left the country or in fact passed away. This also shows just how credible that report is. The damage however has been done. Questions are also being asked as to whether Pakistan did enough to overcome the damage and the problems it has caused since then. The answer can only be that it did not. At the present moment there are grave problems lying ahead and if PIA is to make any kind of recovery these will have to be attended to without further delay.
Published in International The News, 25 Jan, 2021