News Analysis |
The Supreme Court of Pakistan has summoned heads of all Pakistani airlines as well as Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi–the head of Airblue- to appear in the next hearing. Chief Justice of Pakistan (CJP), Mian Saqib Nisar was heading a three-member bench while hearing a case pertaining to fake degrees of pilots.
The CJP observed that notices were being issued to heads of all Pakistani airline as the matter has been pending for the last four months and reports in this regard have not been submitted as yet. In January, Justice Nisar had issued directives to the CAA director general Karachi to produce the record of movement of private aircraft on all airports during the last 15 days.
Justice Nisar had also directed the official to submit the inquiry report pertaining to appointments of pilots made on the basis of fake degrees or certificates. On Thursday, the CJP directed the heads of Pakistan International Airlines, Airblue Limited, Serene Air and Shaheen Air International to appear before the bench.
According to a Reuters report, PIA was among 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.
The court was informed by Civil Aviation Authority Director Nasir Ali Shah that the authority has received the reports on pilots’ degrees from Shaheen International Airline and Serene Air today in Karachi, while the report of Airblue was received on Wednesday.
Moreover, while talking about PIA, Mr. Ali Shah said that 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 was told 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 set up an airline which according to reports “the country’s most successful private airline and challenger to PIA.”
The CJP has, however, further clarified the matter that PM Abbasi won’t be appearing before the court as premier rather he is supposed to 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, CJP Mian Saqib Nisar had taken a suo motu notice of 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. The present government made many efforts to privatize the PIA but due to opposition from other political parties and the airline’s staff plans for PIA’s privatization remained incomplete.
The CJP observed that notices were being issued to heads of all Pakistani airline as the matter has been pending for the last four months and reports in this regard have not been submitted as yet.
According to a Reuters report, PIA was among 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 but after some protests by PIA staff and the government passed a law that effectively made it impossible to privatize the airline the process stalled in 2016.
Interestingly, in Pakistan analysts and experts talk about the degradation of PIA and people generally prefer to use other airlines but 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 the PIA under the premiership of Abbasi, the owner of Airblue, has deliberately been kept in a compromised state or there are some other factors which damaged the airline.