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July 3, 2020

Govt says all existing pilots have gone through scrutiny

Top Story

July 3, 2020

ISLAMABAD: Three federal cabinet members Thursday strongly defended the government's decision to make the public the inquiry into ‘suspected licences’ issued to pilots by the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) and said all the current pilots flying the planes have gone through scrutiny.

The report was made public after the tragic PIA plane crash in Karachi just ahead of Eidul Fitr, claiming nearly 100 lives. 

Speaking here at a joint news conference along with Information and Broadcasting Minister Shibli Faraz and PM's Special Assistant on Accountability Shahzad Akbar, Minister for Maritime Affairs Ali Haider Zaidi said when the PTI government came into power, it discovered irregularities in the CAA and the forensic probe in relation to 2010-2018 unearthed that 236 pilots were issued suspected licences.

He dispelled the impression that Roosevelt Hotel was being sold and said that PPP was trying to build such narrative, which was a foolish thing, as nothing like that was going to happen. “Consultations are underway, which are a routine exercise to see how best the country could benefit from the state assets. Right now, none will buy a car in the US. The PTI with its mandate had started the process of reforms and bringing about transparency in the state institutions,” he noted.

The Karachi-based minister explained, “We verified the charges and immediately 54 people were grounded and a detailed forensic inquiry was initiated under wraps of the whole organisation.”

The minister said the inquiry found that a new licensing system was introduced in 2010. “Out of all the licenses granted till 2018, the inquiry found that there were 236, which had irregularities and that the pilots were then grounded and suspended,” he said.

Ali Zaidi made it clear that all those pilots that had (suspected) irregularities in their records had been grounded. He emphasised the government’s objective was safety first, and added that the government would prioritise safety so that all the question marks that had been raised could be addressed.

The minister said that the CAA was now taking steps to strengthen its IT systems and that those five officials found guilty of being involved had been suspended pending an investigation. He confidently said that everyone involved would be taken to task and by the time this inquiry was finished, which would be in a few months, the CAA would become one of the top authorities when it comes to safety and PIA will become one of the region's top airlines after removal of all the “rotten eggs”.

Defending the government's decision to make the related information public, the minister said that the incumbent government was of the people and this was an issue of safety and about improving institutions. “When you take the public on board, you change public perception. I will give you a simple example. When parents see their child being administered an injection, they feel pain but they know that it is necessary for their child's future. So, this is necessary for our future. We have to bear the pain so that we can see an improvement,” he remarked.

The minister also said that scenario analysis was done before making the report public and asked was not it prudent to make public the sugar inquiry report and was it prudent to hide the JIT report on Uzair Baloch, and noted there was a report about 4,000 fake Indian pilots. He insisted that the PPP would have to be held accountable for depriving people of bread, clothe, and shelter and trying to cover up their corruption.

Shibli Faraz said all pilots currently flying airplanes, had successfully gone through the scrutiny process.

“Anyone travelling right now should know that pilots flying right now have gone through the scrutiny process. They shouldn't worry,” he said.

Shibli Faraz said the government under the leadership of Prime Minister Imran Khan was committed to ensuring merit and transparency in all the national institutions. He recounted how the PIA used to be a prestigious airline in the decades of the 1960s to 1980s, but it was ruined by political interference of the governments during the past 10-15 years.

Senator Shibli said that PIA and other private airlines in Pakistan had been continuing their flight operations and the pilots operating the flights were those who had undergone the process of scrutiny and given clean chit and who were fully qualified pilots.

Replying to questions, he said that before coming to this press conference, he saw on television screens, the press conferences of PML-N leaders belonging to Shahid Khaqan Abbasi group, then of Shahbaz Sharif group and it was expected that some leaders of Maryam Nawaz group would also hold a media talk.

He pointed out that none of the prime minister's family members was part of the government unlike the PML-N regime when the younger brother of then PM was chief minister and father-in-law of his daughter was the finance minister and so many of his family members were in the cabinet.

Shahzad Akbar said that the summary on cancellation of licences was put up to the cabinet Wednesday, which sought more details. He contended that there would be no compromise on air safety. He added that probes traced the sugar industry regulator was compromised and also referred to Shahid Khaqan Abbasi being chief executive of the country as well as of a private airlines and also serving as a minister.

He pointed out that the PIA and CAA issue had been before the Supreme Court of Pakistan during stints of various chief justices. He recalled that PIA operations were banned in Europe in the past as well.