New air agreement with Saudi set to boost Pakistan's aviation

In this file photo, a Pakistan International Airlines plane prepares to take off at Alama Iqbal International Airport in Lahore. (REUTERS)
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Updated 15 January 2020

New air agreement with Saudi set to boost Pakistan's aviation

  • PIA, Saudi Arabia Airlines will have an equal number of flights in each country
  • Islamabad should revise ASAs with other countries to protect aviation industry, says former CAA chief

ISLAMABAD: The Pakistani government on Tuesday approved a revised air service agreement (ASA) with Saudi Arabia to enhance bilateral cooperation in air transportation and safeguard the local aviation industry.

Under the new ASA, the national flag carriers of Pakistan and Saudi Arabia will operate an equal number of flights to each country.

“Under the revised agreement, PIA (Pakistan International Airlines) and Saudi Arabia Airlines will entertain equal numbers of flights. This will end the disparity in the numbers of flights of the air carriers in each country,” Firdous Ashiq Awan, Special Assistant to Prime Minister on Information and Broadcasting, told reporters after the cabinet meeting.

Pakistan has air service agreements with 98 countries, covering the numbers of flights, their frequency, seats, landing points, and code-sharing. Bilateral rights differ from country to country and are subject to periodic renegotiation, according to Pakistan’s National Aviation Policy of 2019.

Under the policy, the country wants to review open skies clauses and associated ASAs by renegotiating routes, slots and capacity accorded to foreign airlines that might be discriminatory and disadvantageous to PIA, the national flag carrier.

Pakistan liberalized its aviation sector in 2015 by opening its skies to foreign airlines and increasing the number of international flights, thereby also slicing off a large share of PIA’s revenue.

“We have always urged the government to allow foreign air carriers in Pakistan per market size,” Abdullah Hafeez Khan, general manager for coordination and public affairs at PIA, told Arab News. “When foreign airlines are allowed beyond the natural market growth, it definitely hurts our financial interests.”

The aircraft movement in Pakistan has on average grown by 7.1 percent and passenger traffic by 6.3 percent in the last five years. Air traffic is expected to grow further in view of economic progress and socio-economic stability pursued by the present government, according to the aviation policy.

“Pakistan should pursue a liberalized bilateral policy with other countries on the principle of commercial reciprocity upon organic market growth, numbers of seats and code-sharing to protect the national interest,” Sajid Habib, former director-general of the Civil Aviation Authority, told Arab News.

He said the revised ASA with Saudi Arabia if implemented, would help increase PIA’s revenue to the tune of billions of rupees. “The government needs to review and revise ASAs with other countries as well to protect and boost the local aviation industry,” he added.


Pakistani PM urges action on Kashmir as UNGA president-elect in Islamabad 

Updated 10 August 2020

Pakistani PM urges action on Kashmir as UNGA president-elect in Islamabad 

  • Khan briefs Volkan Bozkir about “ongoing gross and systematic violations of human rights of the Kashmiri people”
  • Says UN must play ‘rightful role’ in ensuring Kashmiris get right to self-determination under relevant UN resolutions 

ISLAMABAD: Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan on Monday met with the UN General Assembly president-elect who arrived in Islamabad on a two-day visit, urging the United Nations to play its “rightful role” in ensuring the right of self-determination for the people of the disputed Kashmir region. 
The Himalayan region has long been a flashpoint in ties between nuclear-armed neighbors India and Pakistan, with both claiming Kashmir in full but ruling it in part. UN peacekeepers have been deployed since 1949 to observe a cease-fire between India and Pakistan in Jammu and Kashmir.
The UN Security Council adopted several resolutions in 1948 and in the 1950s on the dispute between India and Pakistan over the Kashmir region, including one which says a plebiscite should be held to determine the future of mostly Muslim Kashmir.
A press release from the PM’s office said Khan briefed Volkan Bozkir about “ongoing gross and systematic violations of human rights of the Kashmiri people and the attempts to change the demographic structure of the occupied territory.”
“He stressed that the UN must play its rightful role in addressing the grave situation and ensuring that Kashmiris exercise their right to self-determination promised to them in the relevant UN Security Council resolutions,” the statement said. 
Last August, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government stripped Jammu and Kashmir — India’s only Muslim-majority state — of its special rights and split it into two federally administered territories. The government said the change was necessary to develop the revolt-torn region and integrate it with the rest of India, but it infuriated many Kashmiris as well as neighboring Pakistan.

In a series of tweets, Pakistani foreign minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi also welcomed the UNGA president-elect to Pakistan.

Bozkir has been elected as the President of UNGA’s 75th session.
“Pakistan strongly believes in the importance of a multilateral world anchored on the tenants of peace, progress and stability,” Qureshi said. “It is in this spirit, we welcomed @UN General Assembly President Elect @volkan_bozkir to #Pakistan for a constructive and fruitful visit.”
“Pakistan has consistently supported & valued the @UN’s significant role in global affairs and we continue to strengthen bonds within the institution of the UN be it for conflict resolution, peacekeeping, sustainable development, health, economic & social cooperation et al,” the foreign minister added. 
Qureshi said Pakistan reinforced its position of peace and stability in the region, and was pursuing a policy of diplomatic accord globally, as he thanked the UNGA president elect for his visit, which he said was “a manifestation of the UN’s belief in Pakistan’s commitment to a secure and harmonious future.”