PIA, pilots union call out “anomalies” in aviation division’s list of dubious flying licenses

A Pakistan International Airline (PIA) plane taxis on the runway on the way to Saudi Arabia during the PIA employees strike in Islamabad on February 8, 2016.
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Updated 27 June 2020

PIA, pilots union call out “anomalies” in aviation division’s list of dubious flying licenses

  • PIA CEO says names of pilots, airlines they were serving and other details incorrect in Aviation Division list
  • Pilots union says almost all suspended pilots have valid Pakistan Civil Aviation Authority documents

KARACHI: The chief of Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) and a national union of pilots on Saturday questioned an Aviation Division list which named over a hundred of the airlines’ pilots as having ‘dubious’ flying licenses, saying it contained “serious anomalies.”
A spokesman for PIA said on June 25 the airline would ground a third of its 434 pilots on suspicion that they held “dubious” licenses and flying certificates, prompting concern from international safety and transport bodies.
Pakistan’s Aviation Minister Ghulam Sarwar Khan said on Friday the government had asked various commercial airlines, flying clubs and charter companies to ground a total of 262 pilots until investigations into their qualifications were completed.
The action was prompted by a preliminary report on the crash of a PIA aircraft in Karachi last month, which found pilots had failed to follow standard procedures.
In a letter dated June 27, and confirmed as authentic by a PIA spokesperson, PIA CEO Air Marshal Arshad Malik ensured that pilots named in the Aviation Division letter had been grounded.
“However, it is highlighted that there are some serious anomalies in the said list with respect to names of pilots, airline they are serving, reference number, and personal numbers of the pilots mentioned,” Malik said in the letter. 
A Pakistani pilots’ union has also questioned the Aviation Division’s list, calling it an attempt to divert attention from the deadly crash of a PIA airliner that killed 97 people on board last month, and which a preliminary investigation had blamed on human error.
In a presser on Saturday, the Pakistan Airline Pilots Association (PALPA) president said the list of suspect pilots was meant “to defame pilots and divert attention from the air crash.”

Captain Chaudhry Salman, center, President of Pakistan Airlines Pilots’ Association addresses a news conference with others in Karachi on June 27, 2020. (AP)

“Thirty-nine pilots in the list are not associated with PIA, the data of 36 others is completely wrong, whereas the cases of six pilots are pending in the court,” PALPA president Captain Chaudhry Salman told reporters at the Karachi Press Club. “The authenticity of this list is suspected.”
The PALPA president said pilots had received no warnings before the Aviation Division grounded them: “No show-cause was ever issued to the pilot. This clearly shows that PCAA and PIA have completely failed.”
Pilot licenses are assessed by the Pakistan Civil Aviation Authority (PCAA) every six months, Salman said, adding that to date all but 17 pilots on the list had valid licenses.
“We challenge this list with highly questionable and unrealistic content and urge upon the Chief Justice to form an inquiry commission and suspend the officials at Pakistan Civil Aviation Authority (PSAA) and PIA,” Salman said. 
The Aviation Division says it stands by its list.
Abdul Sattar Khokhar, joint secretary of the Aviation Division, said the released list was correct.
“All 141 pilots in the list have been found to have suspect licenses,” Khokhar told Arab News, adding that it was possible one or two of the pilots named in the list used to fly with PIA but had since moved on to other airlines.

Born in the KSA: Young and successful, Pakistani creatives recall Saudi childhood

Updated 13 min 31 sec ago

Born in the KSA: Young and successful, Pakistani creatives recall Saudi childhood

  • Film editor and producer Emad Khalid Mughal recalls the 'surreal' feeling of growing up surrounded by holy sites
  • Young creatives say that in Pakistan they often have to clear misconceptions about their childhood home in Saudi Arabia

RAWALPINDI: Model Atikah Gardezi, stylist Maryam Raja and video producer Emad Khalid Mughal have a lot in common: they’re young, they’re Lahore based, they’re causing a stir in their respective fields, and they all grew up in Saudi Arabia.

Makkah-born Raja lived in Jeddah until age 25 and left for Pakistan three years ago to work for brands such as Zara Shahjahan, Beechtree and Khaadi.

"When I think about growing up in Saudi Arabia, ironically, I think a lot about water, visiting the beautiful Red Sea ... Most people would think desert," she told Arab News laughing.

But the stereotypes which for her need to be fixed are not only related to landscape.

"There’s this idea here that KSA is incredibly conservative and restrictive which, yes in some ways it is more so than here, but the way Pakistanis picture it is a bit off,” she said. “I know it’s not the same for everyone and I speak with some privilege, but over there I felt like I could move more freely, and it helped build up my independence.”

Stylist Maryam Raja at home in Lahore, Pakistan shared on her Instagram on August 5th, 2020 (Photo courtesy: @maryamraja/Instagram)

Her current career, however, might have been impossible in Saudi Arabia.

"Being an expat, even though my parents migrated when they were three and four years old respectively, it continues to be hard getting a job because of the way the visas work," she said.

"It's harder to hire someone who is not a Saudi national. Now I have a career path, very strongly defined in Pakistan."

Correcting misconceptions about the childhood home is also what Mughal, who moved to Pakistan some 10 years ago, keeps on doing. 

"There’s a big misconception that Saudi is just nomads roaming around looking for water or something when in reality it’s been at the forefront of a lot of development and urbanization. There are some crazy mega infrastructure projects going on," he said.

"If people saw beyond the label of it being a traditional country and look at the cities it would probably change their perspectives."

Emad Khalid Mughal, left, and Maryam Raja in Lahore on June 6, 2019. (Photo courtesy: Maryam Raja)

Although born in Kuwait, he spent most of his life in Jeddah and moved to Pakistan to pursue his bachelor's degree. He recalled the "surreal" feeling of always being surrounded by holy sites in his Saudi childhood.

"All the holy sites are around the corner it’s a surreal way to grow up," he told Arab News. "It’s such a privilege because some people, right here in Pakistan, work their whole lives to get there and we had them, sometimes walking distance from us."

A decade into his life in Lahore and with a number successful projects in his resume, like editing films such as "Yaalghaar," "Ashen Streets," the 30-year-old says he is still missing his Saudi life.

“It’s the food I miss the most, but also the lifestyle," he said. 

Unlike Mughal and Raja, Gardezi, who became a professional model in Pakistan, knew that Pakistan would someday become her home.

Model Atikah Gardezi in Lahore, Pakistan shared on her Instagram on April 1st, 2020. (Photo courtesy: @atikahgardezi/Instagram)

“I always felt like an outsider in Saudi even being born and raised there," said the 28-year-old born in Makkah.  

That strangeness, however, is something she continues to feel, though on different levels.

"That is something I feel in Pakistan now," she said, adding that she while was "too Pakistani for Saudi Arabia," now she feels "too Arab for Pakistan."

But she says she remembers her Saudi childhood as diverse and inclusive: "My favorite thing about growing up in Saudi was the diaspora community we built in the building I grew up in."

This sense of community is what she is struggling to find in Pakistan.
"What’s different here is the lack of community. Moving here I realized things like your position in society mattered a great deal to the culture here, what you wore and who you were friends with. For me personally that was not the case in Makkah."