Airline reforms begin in Pakistan as UK suspends PIA permit

Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) flight from Lahore to Karachi crashes near Karachi Airport (Representative image | Reuters). Sketched by the Pan Pacific Agency.

ISLAMABAD, Jul 3, 2020, The Nation. The federal government has initiated a thorough process of reforms in Civil Aviation Authority and all airlines of the country are directed to ensure transparency in all procedures and licensing of pilots, The Nation reported.

Minister for Information and Broadcasting Senator Shibli Faraz announced this while briefing media persons following the meeting of the federal cabinet on Wednesday. Prime Minister Imran Khan strongly believes in meritocracy and transparency in all sectors, the information minister said.

Faraz said the cabinet deliberated on the report of Auditor General and expressed satisfaction that remarkable improvement has been made in procedures during PTI government. The Information Minister said pilots with dubious credentials have been grounded forthwith. He said the pilots whose licenses were found to be suspicious have been terminated from service.

He said five employees of CAA have also been grounded till the process is completed. In addition, the CAA has been directed to start further action on fast track basis. He said degrees of all airline staff will be verified.

The meeting of the federal cabinet was held in Islamabad on Wednesday with Prime Minister Imran Khan in the chair. The meeting discussed overall political and economic situation in the country. Shibli Faraz said the cabinet endorsed the decisions taken in ECC meeting of 25th of last month.

The cabinet accorded approval to three agreements of hydro power projects. It also took into consideration the renewable energy options for power production including solar and wind. The Information minister said that Prime Minster directed to remove any hurdles and bottlenecks in the way of these alternative sources to encourage cheap energy production.

The cabinet also discussed sustainable development goals and on the suggestion of Minister for Information Technology Amin-ul-Haq, the Prime Minister directed to reallocate development funds within a month before their lapse.

Shibli Faraz said the Prime Minister directed to activate provincial finance commission in order for equitable development in all parts of provinces in an organized way and without any undue influence. This will also help remove sense of deprivation among residents of different areas in a province.

He said Prime Minister directed to form a committee under the leadership of Federal Minister of Economic Affairs Khusro Bakhtiar to look into public sector projects to be undertaken on reduced costs and improved quality. The committee will submit its report in 90 days’ time. The cabinet accorded approval to appoint auditor for SECP.

The Minister said the cabinet discussed the potential of IT exports and how to increase Pakistan’s share in the international market. This sector has the potential to increase exports to 5 billion dollars from the earlier one billion dollars. The forum discussed the issue of evacuee properties and their optimal use for income generation. It was decided that education and health related properties can be offered to private parties to not only generate their business but also provide facilities to the public.

The cabinet held detailed discussion on the report of the Auditor General and approved three projects of Hydro power. The cabinet meeting also held detailed discussions on the alternative projects of energy.

The minister also pointed out that in the past regimes, majority of developmental projects were launched to benefit central Punjab by neglecting other areas of the province. The minister also underlined that the provincial finance commission will be activated across the board for developmental projects.

The government is undertaking measures to improve SOPs for the pilgrims. The Information Minister said that PIA pilots, who are flying planes, have transparent career adding that the government is willing to ensure merit and transparency in all the departments. He also added that degrees and relevant documents of the staff of all the airlines operating in Pakistan will be attested.

Commenting on ‘Minus-One’ statement of Opposition parties, the Minister said that Minus-One is an extract of the mindset of opposition parties adding that opposition coining these tactics to hideout their corruption.

Opposition should seek forgiveness and bring back looted amount to the country, said Senator Shibli Faraz. The minister also underlined that in the past regimes, electricity projects were made on exorbitant prices and any attention was never made to streamline transmission system of electricity in the country. He said that coalition allies of PTI are united with PTI adding that Opposition aims at making uncertain situation on the issue of COVID-19.

Commenting on PIA crisis, the minister said that in the past, appointments were made in PIA on political grounds, as PPP does not believe in merit and transparency in the institutions. The information minister also stated that opposition has been targeting Prime Minister Imran Khan for making crackdown against mafias.

United Kingdom Civil Aviation Authority said Tuesday it was withdrawing the Pakistan International Airlines’ (PIA) permit to operate from three of its airports including Birmingham, London Heathrow and Manchester.

The revelation of pilots holding ‘dubious’ licences continued to take its toll as the United Arab Emirates sought to verify the credentials of its Pakistani pilots and engineers.

“PIA flights from Birmingham, London Heathrow and Manchester airports are suspended with immediate effect,” a spokesman for the UK authority said on Tuesday.

The three were major flying destinations for the airline.

Meanwhile, the United Arab Emirates is seeking to verify the credentials of the Pakistani pilots and engineers employed in its airlines after the government grounded 262 pilots for holding ‘dubious’ qualifications.

The director general of the UAE’s General Civil Aviation Authority Saif Mohammed Al Suwaidi requested the verification of the credentials of Pakistani pilots, aircraft maintenance engineers, and flight operations officers working in the Middle Eastern country in a June 29 letter to Pakistan Civil Aviation Authority (PCAA) Director General Hassan Nasir Jamy.

“We would like to request your good offices to verify the licensing credentials of the attached pilots list who are currently holding UAE’s pilots licences based on licences and qualifications issued by PCAA,” the letter said.

The aviation ministry did not respond to a request for comment.

The announcements come on the heels of the European Union Air Safety Agency’s (EASA) decision to suspend PIA’s operations in the bloc for the next six months.

Earlier on Tuesday, PIA said in a press release that EASA had suspended the airline’s authorisation to operate in the bloc for six months.

“EASA has temporarily suspended PIA’s authorisation to operate to the EU member states for a period of 6 months effective July 1, 2020, with the right to appeal against this decision,” a PIA statement said. It added that PIA would discontinue all its flights to European countries temporarily.

All passengers booked on its flights to European destinations will have the option to either extend their bookings to a later date or get a full refund.

PIA said it would temporarily discontinue all its flights to Europe but later said it received a two-day relief with landing permission in Europe and Britain granted from July 1 to July 3. PIA is also allowed over flying until further order, the national flag carrier’s spokesman said.

Airline spokesman Abdullah Hafeez said the extension in flight operations was granted by the EU after the foreign secretary contacted the European authorities. He said the PIA management, Foreign Office and Pakistani ambassadors were all in contact with European officials.

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