Responsibility of ‘dubious licenses’ falls squarely with the CAA, not PIA

The skeleton brought out of the closet after the crash of PK-8303 has more to do with the regulator of the civil airspace than with our national flag carrier. One needs to understand that the licensing body of commercial pilots is the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA); neither PIA nor Pakistan Airline Pilots Association is answerable.

CAA dubious

Our country, its organisations and economic health is experiencing a pitch-black moment. It appears that the darkness has entered deep into perpetuity. However, the darkest moment of the night is always just before dawn. Similarly, the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) and Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) are also experiencing darker times.

Stomach-churning cries of ‘Mayday! Mayday! Mayday!’ are coming from our national flag carrier as well as the whole country. The veteran pilot of PK-8303 was adamant that the captain with lesser experience should not be trusted with the controls. Similar echos can be heard in our political scenario. We should make every possible effort to assure that our country does not meet the same fate.

Read more: The rise and fall of PIA; Has Imran Khan taken the right step?

Stemming the rot at CAA and PIA

The skeleton brought out of the closet after the crash of PK-8303 has more to do with the regulator of the civil airspace than with our national flag carrier. One needs to understand that the licensing body of commercial pilots is the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA); neither PIA nor Pakistan Airline Pilots Association is answerable.

It is the Civil Aviation Authority that needs to justify its issuance, revalidation and renewal of commercial pilots’ licenses as mandated under the Air Navigation Order No.90.0011 (Issue 1) and further take responsibility for the international loss of reputation.

Being a lawyer, I have been involved in numerous cases where CAA has been dragged into litigation for getting rid of its employees with dubious and fake degrees. Only if the previous governments had taken similar scathing action against these dubious activities then our nation and its national airline would not have faced such notoriety.

The fake vs dubious debate

It is indeed naive to term any licences “fake” without thoroughly probing the matter and issuing a show-cause notice to the concerned personnel. They may be termed dubious as such but not fake. The effect of the term “fake” is irreparable and may be equivalent to jumping the gun in a strict legal sense. PIA should be required to ensure compliance of all flight and ground protocols but then again this responsibility also travels to CAA.

Read more: Further disgrace for PIA as airline outlawed by European Union

Families of the doomed PK-8303 victims have raised some serious concerns. Every stakeholder is obligated to sit down with them and satisfy their valid concerns. Even their emotional statements must be dealt with with utmost empathy.

 

As per the Preliminary Investigation Report PK – 8303 crashed due to ‘human error’. Such human-errors could have been avoided only if similar actions were taken earlier when our pilots were previously charged for flying drunk.

As a matter of fact, the Honourable Justice Coulson, of British Crown Court, said it was ”extraordinary” that rules in Pakistan only state that there should be a 12-hour gap between ‘bottle to throttle’. It is reprehensible that a non-muslim judge opined about the rules of liquor consumption in a Muslim country as extraordinarily lenient.

Read more: PIA flying blind as fake license scandal slaughters repute

Another impression being portrayed is that PALPA is responsible for issuance, revalidation and renewal of such fake licenses. It must be clarified that PALPA is a professional body representing the permanently employed or retired pilots of the national airline and is a member of the International Federation of Air Line Pilots’ Association (IFALPA).

It is wrong to make sweeping statements about the caliber and competence of all our pilots. As a matter of fact, our pilots have been significant members of renowned world bodies and they should be given due credit for representing Pakistan. Instead of critiquing the existence of PALPA, we should be more concerned about politicisation thereof. Like any other association of professionals, PALPA must stay unblemished from political adulteration.

The best time to reform is now

The netizens who have jumped on the bandwagon for criticising the Government are the same people who were demanding ‘bloody’ revolutions. The same category also fantasied Faiz and Jalib without knowing that both of them were opponents of elitism. And if the revolution came, which seems to be just around the corner, they would be the first ones to sink in the whirlpool. Hence, all this ruckus against the government now is grotesque.

Read more: PIA plane crash report: human error was the reason for crash

The best time to re-direct and re-strategise yourself is when you are down. During COVID times, when the international air traffic is already negligible, Mr. Ghulam Sarwar Minister Aviation has correctly identified the optimum time to re-structure the falling house of cards.

Instead of leaving the organisations redundant, the captain has rightly decided to reform them; to deliver what he was elected for. For the first time, valour seems to be contagious in our country.

The author is a managing partner at an Islamabad based law firm. He deals with constitutional and corporate/ commercial matters. His twitter handle is @H_Rohila. The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Global Village Space’s editorial policy.

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