The Pakistan International Airline (PIA) management has grounded nearly 150 of its pilots after Aviation Minister Ghulam Sarwar Khan said they had been flying with fake licenses.
Sarwar’s claims in the National Assembly have stirred a controversy at home and abroad over PIA’s failure to take action against fraudulent pilots and putting thousands of lives at risk.
Moreover, the airline regulator Civil Aviation Authority was also taken to task by the International Air Transport Association, which in a statement said, this is a matter of “serious lapse in the licensing and safety oversight by the aviation regulator.”
The details on fake pilots only emerged after authorities carried out an investigation into the PIA’s airline PK-8303 crash. The investigation revealed that the crash, which killed 99 passengers, was caused by the pilot’s overconfidence.
PIA spokesperson, while speaking to a local newspaper, said the airline management had already planned to fire 150 pilots with dubious credentials. He said that all of them have been grounded indefinitely and would face enquiries under relevant laws.
Sarwar’s announcement was picked up by international media as well who expressed shock over the airline’s management failures that put so many lives at risk.
On the other hand, PIA’s pilot union, the Pakistan Airline Pilots Association (Palpa) has welcomed the action but demanded an across-the-board accountability.
Palpa said the PIA and CAA should also take action against management and administrative officials who were also hired on fake credentials. He said the accountability process should be across the board.
The association had also called on PIA pilots to strike after Sarwar alleged that most of them had fake licenses. The PIA management has since issued a show-cause notice to Palpa General Secretary Imran K. Narejo.
The ruling party Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf has blamed the previous governments of the Pakistan Muslim League (N) and the Pakistan Peoples’ Party for political hirings in the national carrier.
Sarwar, while sharing the details on pilots with fake credentials, said that PIA is one of the most over-staffed airlines in the world with around 500 employees for each aircraft.
PIA has been one of the worst performing state-owned entities of the country booking losses worth Rs59.09 billion in 2019.