ISLAMABAD: Malaysian authorities Friday seized a Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) Boeing-777 airplane at the Kuala Lumpur Airport.
The PIA plane was seized on the orders of a local Malaysian court over the non-payment of aircraft lease dues, Geo News reported while quoting sources.
The PIA had leased two aircraft, including the Boeing-777, from a Vietnamese company in 2015. The plane was seized after passengers had already boarded the aircraft.
Meanwhile, the national flag carrier said that the PIA aircraft has been held back on the orders of a local court in Malaysia which, it argued, has taken a one-sided decision pertaining to a legal dispute between the PIA and another party pending in a UK court.
"The passengers are being looked after and alternate arrangements for their travel have been finalised," reads a tweet shared by the PIA on its official account.
"It is an unacceptable situation and PIA has engaged support from the government of Pakistan to take up this matter using diplomatic channels."
“We were told that the plane has been impounded on a court order,” PIA spokesperson Abdullah Hafeez Khan said later in a video statement. “PIA's legal team will pursue it in the Malaysian court, and we hope that we will resolve this issue as soon as possible,” he said.
According to PIA sources, Flight 895 took off from Karachi and reached Kuala Lumpur and was supposed to fly back to Islamabad immediately because of which it had more crew members on board. “Passengers were already on board and the pilot was about to take off but Malaysian civil aviation authorities directed the pilot to stop the plane and get off it along with all the passengers,” PIA officials said, as per sources.
After getting off the plane, all the passengers and crew members were sent to a hotel to stay there.
According to sources, the leasing company had filed a case against the PIA in a UK court in October 2020 for its failure to pay the leasing fee worth about $14 million, which had been pending for a period of six months.
In response, the PIA had maintained that since the COVID-19 pandemic had seriously affected the aviation industry, there should be a reduction in the overhead charges.
In the meanwhile, the leasing company kept an eye on the activities of PIA, and as soon as it received the information of Flight 895’s scheduled landing in Malaysia, it appealed to the Malaysian court to seize the aircraft as per the international civil aviation leasing laws, the sources added.
On the other hand, the national flag carrier has argued that the Malaysian court took a one-sided decision, sources said, adding that the court did not reach out to the airline for comment.
As against PIA’s version, sources said that the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) has expressed its displeasure with the PIA, claiming that the national flag carrier seemed to be “unaware of international civil aviation leasing laws.”
“When the PIA knew that Boeing-777 was involved in a court case, why did it allow the aircraft to fly abroad?” the CAA has raised the question, as per sources. “Wasn’t PIA aware of the fact that violating international civil aviation laws will embarrass the country?”
The CAA has said that with the ongoing situation, the PIA will now have to clear all the dues at once to get the aircraft back, sources said. As per the latest update regarding the matter, the staff members boarded on Boeing-777 have been granted permission to return to Pakistan. The crew includes two pilots, two first officers, and 14 cabin crew members.
Meanwhile, Malaysia’s Ministry of Transport said in a statement that the aircraft was being held pending legal proceedings set for January 24.
According to a private news channel, the Foreign Office spokesman Zahid Hafeez Chaudhri said the Pakistani High Commission in Malaysia was in close contact with the relevant Malaysian authorities and PIA to address the issue at the earliest.
Pakistani High Commissioner in Malaysia Amna Baloch said the PIA’s legal experts would deal with the situation. She said the high commission would provide all necessary assistance to the airline to resolve the matter. She said the passengers due to fly on the impounded aircraft were being provided with all possible facilities.
Ali Raza adds from Lahore: The PML-N Secretary information Marriyum Aurangzeb slammed the government for embarrassing Pakistan in the whole world by getting PIA airliner detained in Malaysia, and has questioned as who should be tried in court for defamation of Pakistan due to this blunder.
In a statement, Marriyum said the “selected” prime minister and his “incompetent, corrupt and inept imposed government” should be charged with defamation of the country over this incident.
She questioned, “Was the illegal foreign funding sent to Imran with an agenda of destroying the country’s economy, obliterating all businesses, creating mass unemployment, skyrocketing inflation and causing such embarrassment to Pakistan? Was it sent to Imran Khan so that he would declare all degrees of Pakistani pilots illegal to get a blanket ban imposed on the national flag carrier?”
The former information minister said the country was facing global embarrassment because of the incompetent government.