ISLAMABAD: Pakistan plans to divide the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) into two separate regulatory and operational entities to improve the overall performance of its air travel industry, said a senior government functionary on Thursday.
The proposal was floated in March 2019 but it came up for discussion once again after the country’s aviation minister, Ghulam Sarwar Khan, claimed last month that “almost 40 percent” of the country’s pilots had fake licenses.
Soon after the controversy, aviation experts reiterated that the government should bifurcate the CAA operations to boost regulatory control over pilots and flight operations.
“A special cabinet committee is deliberating on the bifurcation of Civil Aviation Authority,” Abdul Sattar Khokhar, senior joint-secretary at the Civil Aviation Division, told Arab News on Thursday. “Once it is done, this will go for a final approval to the federal cabinet and parliament.”
“This will also help remove conflict of interest as currently the same organization is acting as a regulator and service provider,” he added while declining to give a timeframe for the finalization of the plan.
“All of this is being processed and nothing is final at this stage,” he said.
The government developed the National Aviation Policy in March 2019 to make CAA’s regulatory role completely independent of service provision within a span of two years.
Under the plan, the CAA will be divided into the Pakistan Civil Aviation Regulatory Authority and the Pakistan Airports Authority. The scheme also seeks to outsource different airports of the country in two phases to improve their service quality.
The Pakistan Airline Pilots’ Association (PALPA) said the government did not consult the body over the bifurcation plan, adding that its members had serious reservations over the functioning of CAA’s licensing branch.
“The government should address the anomalies in the licensing process as the recent controversy over the so-called fake licenses has damaged Pakistan’s reputation the world over,” the association’s president, Chaudhry Salman, told Arab News.
He said the government had grounded 101 pilots over “dubious” professional credentials, and they had all filed cases against the decision.
“The government should impose fines or allow retesting instead of revoking pilots’ licenses,” Salman said.
Aviation industry experts say the CAA bifurcation will not automatically streamline the industrial operations unless the government purged the whole institution of “black sheep and fraudsters.”
“It is a good initiative, but the regulatory and the airport authorities must further be given to two different divisions to get the desired results,” Afsar Malik, aviation business consultant, told Arab News, adding that one of the units could report to the aviation division and the other could work under the cabinet division.
Malik said the outsourcing of airports could help the government improve its service and revenue, but for that “a complete business plan should be formulated beforehand.”