ISLAMABAD: Adviser to PM on Aviation Mehtab Abbasi has admitted before a parliamentary panel that the national flag carrier – the Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) – is being run in an unprofessional way, without any sense of accountability and is facing difficulty in hiring professionals.
“I have to admit that the PIA lacks discipline and accountability. Everything is fractured as different groups patronise their members but nobody is ready to own the organisation. The airline is struggling to get professional staff at top management,” Abbasi said on Thursday.
The adviser made this confession before the Senate Special Committee on the PIA whose members lambasted the PIA representatives for ‘taking the committee lightly’ and presenting twisted facts about recent incidents that earned the PIA a bad name internationally.
“Who runs affairs of a national airline like this? Is this a joke or what,” asked the committee’s chairperson Senator Mushahidullah Khan.
Abbasi told the committee that over 240 different cases were pending with the Sindh High Court (SHC) against the PIA senior management, posing a real challenge to it.
On much insistence of the committee, the adviser also issued order for immediate suspension of a pilot, Shehzad Aziz, who during an international flight invited a Chinese lady passenger in the cockpit, and compromised safety of the plane.
However, it took one hour for the PIA human resource chief to show the suspension orders to the committee. “How come sexual predators are working in the PIA and nobody goes after them just because they are influential,” said Senator Sherry Rehman.
The PIA’s acting Chief Executive Officer Nayyar Hayat also confirmed that Aziz had a history of indiscipline and sexual harassment. He said the pilot was currently working on a stay order of the SHC in a case against his alleged fake degree.
The PIA officials also faced wrath of the senators when they could not satisfy the panel with regard to recovery of drugs from a PIA aircraft at Heathrow Airport and sale of a PIA plane in Malta – where it was used for a movie – and another to a German museum.
Earlier the committee discussed recommendations of a sub-committee’s report about overhauling the airlines internal structure to keep it flying. The three-member committee submitted the report with the Senate in March.
The senators were astonished to hear from the adviser that those recommendations were not binding upon the airline as it is a company working under Security Exchange Commission of Pakistan (SECP).
“If you had any such concerns then you should have informed the committee within 30 days of the submission of the report but you did not,” Senator Muzafar Hussain said quoting the rules of the committee.
The panel and Abbasi argued over the jurisdiction of the committee as the adviser was adamant that the airline was answerable to parliament which could scrutinse it and question it. “But since we are a limited company we should be allowed to work flexibly as per market rules and regulations,” he said.
Hussain, who was also member of the sub-committee, objected to Abbasi’s line of argument. “[If we accept this] then it will be okay for the PIA to do whatever it is doing since start of its downfall. Somebody has to bell the cat,” he said.
In the end, the committee chairman referred the issue to the Senate chairperson for a final verdict about the applicability of the sub-committee’s report and directed the PIA officials to submit inquiry reports of the three incidents within one week.