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January 23, 2021

Aftermath of dubious pilot licences controversy: UN cautions staff not to fly by any Pakistan-registered airline

January 23, 2021

Aviation Minister Ghulam Sarwar.

ISLAMABAD: The United Nations has cautioned staff of all its agencies worldwide not to travel by any Pakistan-registered airline, including the national flag carrier, because of concerns over the allegedly dubious flying licences of its pilots.

The shocking claim about dubious licenses, since dialed back, was made by the country’s then aviation minister Ghulam Sarwar Khan on the floor of the National Assembly in July last year.

An advisory issued by the UN Security Management System (UNSMS), a copy of which is available with The News, states: “Due to an ongoing investigation of the CAA [Civil Aviation Authority] Pakistan…due to dubious licenses caution is advised on the use of Pakistan-registered air operators.”

The caution against flying on Pakistan-registered carriers was recommended to all the UN agencies, including the UN Development Programme, World Health Organization, UN High Commission for Refugees, Food and Agriculture Organization, UN Education, Scientific and Cultural Organization and others. It means that UN officials working in Pakistan cannot travel by any Pakistan-registered airline even domestically. However, it is reliably learnt that the UN staff has now been allowed, after hectic efforts, to travel only by Serene Air.

The Pakistan-registered airlines listed in the advisory include Pakistan International Airlines, Air Eagle, Air Indus, Air Blue, Aircraft Sales and Services, Askari Aviation, Hawk Adventure Air, Hybrid Aviation, IAMC Airline, Meezab Aviation, Rayyan Air, Serene Air, Star Air Aviation and Vision Air International.

Ironically, the UNSMS has allowed its personnel to travel even by the Afghanistan-registered Kam Air. However, it noted that Afghanistan has an under-performing civil aviation authority as per the International Civil Aviation Authority (ICAO)’s audit programme, but the airline is authorised to conduct flight operations into multiple international airports. It is subject to an external audit.

For Somon Air and Uzbekistan Airways, registered in Tajikistan and Uzbekistan respectively, the advisory stated that these countries have under-performing civil aviation authorities, as per the ICAO’s audit programme, but are authorised to conduct flight operations into multiple international airports. For Air Mauritius, it was noted that the airline was authorised to conduct flight operations into the European Union (EU) but is subject to external audit. About IranAir, registered in Iran, the advisory said that it was authorised to conduct flight operations into the EU. For Iraqi Airways, it was stated that the Iraqi civil aviation authority meets baseline ICAO safety criteria and is authorised to conduct flight operations into multiple international airports. It is also on the EU safety List.

The advisory said that the air operator information is the result of a newly launched automated system, linked to a newly revised methodology and global air travel safety policy. Information and analysis generated by the Commercial Air Travel Safety Unit (CATSU) in relation to aviation safety is intended for UNSMS use only and is confidential. Such information may be shared with other UN recipients and third parties strictly on a need-to-know basis and provided suitable mechanisms are in place to maintain confidentiality.

The advisory was issued some time after the Pakistan aviation minister had dropped a bombshell alleging that hundreds of Pakistani pilots had dubious licences.

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