News Analysis |
The Supreme Court of Pakistan has summoned the heads of all Pakistani airlines including the Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi — the head of Airblue – who is to appear in the next hearing. The Chief Justice of Pakistan (CJP) Mian Saqib Nisar was heading a three-member bench while hearing a case pertaining to fake degrees of the given airline’s pilots.
The CJP issued the notices to the heads of all Pakistani airline as the matter has been pending for the last four months and reports, in this regard, had still not been submitted as yet. In January, Justice Nisar issued directives to the CAA director general Karachi to produce the record of the movement of private aircraft on all airports during the last 15 days.
Justice Nisar also directed the official to submit the inquiry report pertaining to appointments of the pilots on the basis of fake degrees or certificates. On Thursday, the CJP further directed the heads of Pakistan International Airlines, Airblue Limited, Serene Air and Shaheen Air International to appear before the bench.
It is pertinent to determine whether PIA under the premiership of Abbasi – the owner of Airblue – has deliberately been kept in a compromised state or were there some other factors which damaged the airline?
The court was informed by the Civil Aviation Authority Director Nasir Ali Shah, who stated that the authority received reports on the pilots’ degrees from Shaheen International Airline and Serene Air today in Karachi, while the report from Airblue was received on Wednesday. Moreover, while talking about PIA, Mr. Ali Shah said that the degrees of 1,972 people were verified while 24 pilots were found to be holding fake degrees.
Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi as the head of Airblue: “clash of interests?”
During the hearing, when the CJP has stated that PM Abbasi is the head of Airblue, the court asked; “Isn’t it a matter of clash of interests?” It is a matter of a great concern that a sitting PM of a country has a setup of an airline, which according to reports is “the country’s most successful private airline and a competitor to PIA.”
The CJP has, however, further clarified the matter announcing that PM Abbasi won’t be appearing before the court as the premier, rather he will appear before the court as the head of his airline, Airblue. “Shahid Khaqan Abbasi will have to appear in the capacity of a chief executive officer and not a premier,” said the court.
Profitable routes being given to Airblue?
On March 1, the CJP Mian Saqib Nisar had taken a suo motu notice of the profitable routes allegedly being taken away from PIA and being given to private carriers. Profitable routes were especially being given to Air Blue, an airline owned by Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi.
Justice Nisar issued directives to the CAA director general Karachi to produce the record of the movement of private aircraft on all airports during the last 15 days. Justice Nisar also directed the official to submit the inquiry report pertaining to appointments of the pilots on the basis of fake degrees or certificates.
The present government made a lot of effort to privatize PIA but due to the opposition from other political parties and the airline’s staff plans, PIA’s privatization remained incomplete. According to a Reuters report, PIA was among the 68 state-owned companies earmarked for privatization in return for a $6.7 billion International Monetary Fund package, that helped the government stave off a default in 2013, when it came to power.
Though there was some success, the protests by the PIA staff and the government passing certain laws, it was effectively made impossible to privatize the airline and the process stalled in 2016. Interestingly, in Pakistan, analysts and experts talk about the deterioration of PIA and people generally prefer to use other airlines.
Therefore, an airline owned by the Prime Minister is making remarkable success and money. This is genuinely a matter of conflict of interest and the apex court needs to look into the matter. It is pertinent to determine whether PIA under the premiership of Abbasi – the owner of Airblue – has deliberately been kept in a compromised state or were there some other factors which damaged the airline?