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April 3, 2021

Aviation minister mishandled pilots’ degree issue, NA told

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April 3, 2021

ISLAMABAD: Opposition members on Friday came hard on Aviation Minister Ghulam Sarwar Khan in the National Assembly for “poor handling” of verification of degrees of Pakistani pilots working in the national flag carrier and other airlines.

They took an exception to the contradictory data mentioned in different written replies to questions and in minister’s statement itself on the floor of the National Assembly. Raising supplementary questions during the Question-Hour, opposition members, including Shazia Mari, Hina Rabbani Khar and others, termed the statement of the the aviation minister “irresponsible”.

“The way you handled the issue, reputation of PIA, its pilots and Pakistani pilots serving in other airlines suffered and Pakistan as a country also suffered,” PPP’s Shazia Mari said. Shahzia Mari said that Pakistani pilots had not been able to restore the reputation they had enjoyed prior to the minister’s statement.

Hina Rabbani Khar of the PPP also demanded of the chair that action should be taken against the minister for providing contradictory data in written replies to two different questions laid before the house on Friday.

She said that in reply to the question number 56, it was stated that seven PIA pilots were removed from service for having fake degrees while the answer to the question number 64 says that three PIA pilots were dismissed for possessing fake degrees.

“The minister is responsible for any response given by the ministry on the floor of the house,” she said. She said that the minister gave a wrong statement in the National Assembly not once but thrice, asking the chair whether he would take any action against him.

Minister Ghulam Sarwar Khan, however, said he stood by his policy statement which he gave on the floor of the house on the basis of the data and information provided, saying what he did was in the best interest of the country.

“I say with full responsibility action had been taken against 82 PIA pilots for having bogus degrees,” he said, adding that 762 employees of PIA were appointed against fake educational certificates.

The minister said that of 262 Pakistani pilots serving in different airlines had been investigated on suspicion of having fake degrees while 82 of them were found guilty ofpossessing bogus documents.

He said that the officials of the licensing authority were dismissed and criminal cases registered against him. The minister informed the house that they were outsourcing the whole process of licensing, including the examination, to the UK Aviation Authority to make the whole process transparent.

“The reason for restrictions on the aviation sector of the country was also due to PIA aircraft crash in Karachi and observations on safety measures,” he said, adding hopefully all the international restrictions will be lifted by July this year.

Another PPP parliamentarian Naz Baloch said that the airline industry of Pakistan had suffered record losses due to irresponsible statements of the minister. “He is the minister for aviation but should not give statements in the air,” she said.

The minister in reply to a question said that they were not going to privatise Isphahani Hanger in Karachi and there was no truth in reports. “There is no plan to privatise any of the assets of the Pakistan International Airlines.”

Mr Sarwar told the house that the government was keen on making the national flag carrier self-reliant and a profitable entity and efforts were underway to improve the financial health of the airline by reducing its losses through various means. He said the loss-making routes had been closed and flights on profitable routes added which had resulted in reduction of losses.

Minister of State for Parliamentary Affairs Ali Muhammad Khan said Prime Minister Imran Khan had taken the initiative of ‘Live Call Programme’ to directly connect to the people and listen to their problems.

He said this step of the prime minister should be appreciated. He said the prime minister was expected to interact again with the people via telephone next week. Responding to a point made by an opposition member that the state-run television had misguided the viewers by saying that the prime minister would take live calls from people.

Murtaza Javed Abbasi of the PML-N said he had called many times to connect to the prime minister but could not succeed. Maulana Abdul Akbar Chitrali of the Jamaat-i-Islami asked the Minister of State for Parliamentary Affairs as to when the prime minister would start responding to questions of the members on the floor of the house.

He said that calls of citizens after verifying data about callers were forwarded to the prime minister, saying that gesture of the premier to talk to people should be appreciated. Former prime minister Raja Pervez Ashraf said that Prime Minister Imran Khan by not attending proceedings had made the house redundant, adding the government had failed to deliver. The proceedings of the house were adjourned for lack of quorum till Monday afternoon.