A deluge of tragedies has struck the country in recent times; the Bhoja Air crash being the latest. An investigation has been started and if one goes by experience and history, the inquiry will also come to naught.
I was appalled after watching the press briefing given by the director-general of the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) on April 23. The whole focus of the CAA director-general’s (DG) maiden press conference seemed to be not to brief the journalists assembled on the tragic Bhoja Air crash, but rather to taunt/mock them for their lack of aviation knowledge and for not being well versed in the intricacies and technicalities of aircraft and how they fly.
The fact of the matter is that an ordinary passenger is not concerned about the mumbo jumbo of aviation. And the same logic applies to a journalist, in that a reporter who covers aviation does not necessarily have to be an expert on it (of course, over time he can acquire extensive knowledge on it and so on). The only — and foremost — concern of an ordinary traveller is to reach his or her destination safe and sound.
In case of an accident, it is the right of journalists — on behalf of the general public — to ask questions as to what went wrong. Instead of mocking the layman for not being aware of unnecessary/extraneous information, the DG should be ensuring that the CAA is run in an effective, efficient and transparent manner. Clearly, in the manner that the press conference was conducted, this was not something that the senior official had realised.
When the incumbent DG was appointed to his post, there were several reports in the press criticising this decision of the prime minister, the argument being that merit was apparently not the deciding factor. Prior to being head of the CAA, he was head of the PIA for a brief period and that appointment also evoked protests from concerned quarters.
That said, the purpose here is to comment on the press briefing that was supposed to be on the Bhoja Air crash but rather turned out to be a tirade on the media in general. Rather than work for the betterment of their respective organisations, senior officials and state functionaries seem more concerned with putting the media down or with self-aggrandisement.
After the Airblue crash, the CAA should have taken it upon itself to reform and regulate the aviation industry in an effective, efficient and transparent manner. Also, the Airblue investigation report should have been made public, so that ordinary people would know that, perhaps some lessons were learned and further tragedies minimised.
The only change that one hears of is of the director-generals at the top. And here, too, there is an explanation of sorts. The CAA is a choice posting, especially for three-star PAF officers after they retire. Before the incumbent director-general, a retired air marshal headed the organisation. An English newspaper reported last week that he did what he could to expedite the NOC that was needed by Bhoja Air to resume operations.
But what is even more unfortunate is that such officers — especially if they are former generals or their equivalent in the air force or navy — get away with their alleged excesses and violations. Accountability is a visitor that never knocks at their doors. Instead, such people keep getting one cushy job after another.
Published in The Express Tribune, April 26th, 2012.
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