Pakistan opens criminal probes into 50 pilots, 5 civil aviation officials — sources

Pakistan International Airline (PIA) planes positioned on the tarmac at the Benazir Bhutto International Airport in Islamabad on Oct. 10, 2012. (AFP/File)
Short Url
Updated 16 September 2020

Pakistan opens criminal probes into 50 pilots, 5 civil aviation officials — sources

  • Probes come roughly three months after Pakistan grounded dozens of pilots over allegedly dubious qualifications
  • A show-cause notice served to one of the pilots said the FIA was investigating 'alleged corruption, violations, malpractices in (the) issuance of flight crew licenses'

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan has opened criminal investigations into 50 pilots and at least five civil aviation officials who allegedly helped them falsify credentials to secure licenses, according to two senior government sources and cabinet meeting minutes seen by Reuters.
The probes come roughly three months after Pakistan grounded dozens of pilots over allegedly dubious qualifications. At the time, the civil aviation regulator said it would conduct a detailed investigation into the scandal.
On the government's orders, Pakistan's Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) has launched criminal probes into the matter, according to minutes from Tuesday's cabinet meeting and the sources, who declined to be named because the discussions are private.
A show-cause notice served to one of the pilots and seen by Reuters said the FIA was investigating "alleged corruption, violations, malpractices in (the) issuance of flight crew licenses."
Munir Ahmed Shaikh, a senior FIA official, confirmed that a probe into the matter was ongoing, but declined to comment any further. The civil aviation ministry declined to comment until the government makes the matter public.
The ministry submitted the findings of its inquiry to the cabinet chaired by Prime Minister Imran Khan on Tuesday, said the sources, adding that another 32 pilots have separately been suspended for a year.
"The cabinet was told that FIA has opened proceedings into the pilots whose licenses were revoked, and the civil aviation officials who connived with them," said the minutes from the meeting seen by Reuters.
The pilot scandal has tainted Pakistan's aviation industry and especially flag carrier Pakistan International Airlines (PIA), which has been barred from flying to Europe and the United States after dozens of its pilots were named in the initial list of 262 with allegedly "dubious" licenses.
That list had been made public after an initial probe into a PIA plane crash in Karachi in May found that the pilots did not follow standard procedures and disregarded alarms.
The initial list sparked controversy however, as PIA and the local pilots association noted that many of the pilots named had long since retired and some were even deceased.
Reuters was unable to establish whether the remaining 180 pilots on the initial list were still under investigation or if they had been cleared of any wrongdoing.
A spokesman for PALPA, the local pilots' association, said it had no clarity on the status of the probe. A spokesman for PIA said the airline was awaiting details.


Pakistan Steel Mills workers say will challenge mass layoffs in court

Updated 20 min 16 sec ago

Pakistan Steel Mills workers say will challenge mass layoffs in court

  • PSM management argues the company’s accumulated losses reached Rs212 billion ($1.33 billion) in June
  • The termination of 4,500 contracts is believed to be the biggest layoff from a single entity in Pakistan’s history

KARACHI: Pakistan Steel Mills (PSM) employees are going to challenge in court the company’s recent decision to terminate the contracts of thousands of workers, union representatives said on Sunday.

The management of the state-owned company on Friday handed letters of termination to some 4,500 employees, arguing that PSM’s accumulated losses had reached Rs212 billion ($1.33 billion) in June, when the government decided that 9,350 workers would have to be fired for the dysfunctional enterprise to be revived.
“PSM has terminated 4,500 employees in the first phase of government’s plan to lay off 9,350 employees ... The employees have refused to accept this termination they have registered protests and have decided to challenge this decision in court next week,” Mirza Maqsood, President of Voice of Pakistan Steel Officers Association, told Arab News.

Located 40 kilometers from Karachi, Pakistan’s largest industrial complex with a steel production capacity of 1.1 million tons has been dysfunctional for the past few years. Its operations were suspended in 2015.
“Neither the Company has funds to revive the Mills nor are funds available from any other source to revive the Steel Mill. In any case, revival of the mill would require, firstly massive investment and secondly, entail a period of at least two years,” reads a PSM termination letter seen by Arab News.
The layoff was defended by federal Industries and Production Minister Hammad Azhar, who on Saturday said the terminated employees would be given compensation of Rs2.3 million on average.

“Since the closure of the mill, the government has paid around Rs35 billion as salaries and Rs20 billion as arears to the employees,” he said.

The discharge of workers is said to be one of the biggest layoffs of employees from a single government entity in the country’s history. 
 Karamat Ali, executive director at Pakistan Institute of Labor Education & Research (PILER), said the PSM layoff in unprecedented.
“No such number of employees have ever been fired from a single government institution,” he said.
The decision was also opposed by the provincial government of Sindh, which vowed to support the affected employees. 
“This is wrong and injustice. They (the federal government) must adhere to their earlier stance and commitments of turning the state institutions around with the help of their champions. I am with the employees,” Sindh Labor Minister Saeed Ghani told Arab News.
Mumrez Khan, convener of a representative body of employees, pensioners, suppliers, dealers and contractors of PSM, said that no serious efforts have been made by the federal government to revive the mill, claiming that negligence had caused losses even higher than those cited by PSM management.

“The accumulated losses have swelled to $12 billion on the account of closure of plants, revenue to the government and imports of steel products,” he said.