PIA announced on Thursday that it will be grounding nearly 150 out of its 426 pilots amid an inquiry that they hold “dubious” licences.
Minister for Aviation Ghulam Sarwar Khan said 262 pilots, out of total 860 in the country, have suspicious flying licences and would be grounded immediately. The minister also stated that there are a number of pilots who did not appear in any exams but managed to get the licences and the government has decided these ‘pilots’ would be issued show cause notices and charge sheets so that they could not fly any aircraft.
Sarwar said criminal proceedings would also be initiated against pilots with fake licences as the government could not allow anyone to put the lives of its citizens at risk.
The decision comes at a time when an initial inquiry into a PIA plane crash was presented before the parliament by the country’s aviation minister, who also highlighted irregularities at the national carrier.
In response, PIA Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Air Marshal Arshad Malik wrote a letter to the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) DG in reference to the minister’s claim that out of 264 fake or suspicious licences, around 150 belonged to PIA pilots. He said, “It is a grave concern for us as many out of these 150 pilots must be flying PIA aircraft, which cannot be allowed after disclosure of fake/suspicious licences scam by [the] aviation minister”.
The Supreme Court has taken notice of these claims as Chief Justice of Pakistan (CJP) Gulzar Ahmed has summoned a reply from the director general (DG) of civil aviation within two weeks, demanding an explanation as to how and why these fake licences are issued and what action is being taken against the people who issue them.
CJP also summoned the heads PIA, Air Blue and Serene Air at the next hearing, directing them to submit reports verifying the licences of their respective pilots.