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August 8, 2018



August 8, 2018

Being stranded in a foreign land is a nightmare for most. This nightmare came true for around 300 passengers who were left stranded in Guangzhou, China on July 29 due to a dispute between Shaheen Air and the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA). Many of them were left without a route back to Pakistan for over a week after the CAA suspended Shaheen Air’s international operations over the non-payment of dues of around Rs1.5 billion. The issue remained ignored until media reports began to cover the flight of the stranded Pakistanis. Even then, when the CAA granted special permission to Shaheen Air to fly the passengers out of China, another fiasco ensued. The plane sent by the airline was apparently not airworthy. Instead of shifting the passengers to other airlines, Shaheen Air decided to repair the plane, which added more days to the ordeal of those stuck in China.

The entire episode confirms the fact that neither public nor private authorities in Pakistan care about the welfare of the people – whether they are regular citizens asking for public utilities or paying customers. Whatever the nature of the dispute between the two, the first priority should have been the passengers. The CAA should have worked with other airlines to ensure that the stranded passengers were re-routed at the earliest. But Shaheen Air too has shown itself to be worthy of legal action due to its negligence of the welfare and safety of passengers. It was only when the chief justice of Pakistan took notice of the issue that the CAA and Shaheen Air moved into action. This is an issue that should have been addressed within a couple of days, instead of the long delays which added to the costs and emotional drain of those left stranded in the dispute between Shaheen Air and the CAA. The role of the Foreign Office remained weak with limited consular services available for those stranded in China. Such disputes should be ironed out elsewhere – but not at the cost of the country’s citizens. There should be clear protocols in place in such disputes between the CAA and our local airlines, which both should be held responsible for adhering to.

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