SHC seeks answers about faulty engines in PIA planes

There have been 20 incidents in PIA's history where engines of ATR aircraft have seized during flight


​ Our Correspondent December 13, 2019
PHOTO: FILE

KARACHI: The Sindh High Court (SHC) on Thursday sought a detailed reply from the federal government and the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) about the seizing of engines of Pakistan International Airlines' (PIA) ATR aircraft during flights.

A two-member bench, comprising Justice Muhammad Ali Mazhar and Justice Agha Faisal, was hearing a plea pertaining to PIA planes crashing as a result of the aircraft engines stopping during flight.

Iqbal Kazmi, the petitioner, maintained that 55 PIA aircrafts have met accidents in the 60 years of the airline's history. Twenty incidents have been recorded in which the engines of the ATR aircrafts seized during flight, including the crash of PK-661 on December 21, which resulted in the deaths of religious scholar Junaid Jamshed and 46 others.

The inquiry conducted after the crash brought no results, said Kazmi. "Purchasing and operating defective aircraft means nothing but risking the lives of passengers and crew members," he said, adding that "terrifying facts" had been revealed in a CAA report.

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"My son had to fly a defective aircraft," claimed the mother of Shaheed Captain Ahmed Mansoor Janjua, who also died in the PK-661 crash. She stated that they were not given any information about the status and progress of the inquiry. "Nobody is willing to respond and nobody is telling us what the cause of the crash was or who is responsible for it."

Noting that several cases of plane crashes had occurred, the court asked what PIA and CAA were doing to address the problem. "How many ATR aircrafts are being operated currently?" asked Justice Mazhar.

A CAA representative said that seven ATR aircrafts were being used in flight operations at present, adding that fitness certificates had been issued to all the aircrafts.

"Why do accidents occur if the certificates are being issued?" inquired Justice Mazhar in response. He remarked that those issuing the fitness certificates should also be held responsible for the crashes, further asking who was conducting the inquiry and why the report had not yet been issued.

The CAA representative replied that the inquiry was being carried out under the federal government.

The counsel representing PIA objected to the plea being filed in Urdu instead of English, earning himself a reprimand from the bench. "You are representing a national agency but you have objections regarding Pakistan's national language," said Justice Mazhar. "Don't you know the Supreme Court of Pakistan has passed a verdict pertaining to the use of Urdu?"

PIA's counsel apologised, after which the court, seeking replies from PIA and the CAA, adjourned the hearing.

Old age homes

In another case, the SHC ordered the Sindh government to provide facilities in all old age homes in the province.

While hearing a plea pertaining to the absence of facilities in old age homes, the court remarked that the provincial health secretary should ensure the provision of health facilities in these homes, adding that the Sindh government should release the necessary funds.

"Implementation is required as making laws alone doesn't work," stated the bench. "The relevant agencies of the provincial government should utilise all available resources in order to provide these facilities."

The court directed the provincial government to devise a way to provide medical facilities to senior citizens in these homes, remarking that their welfare should not be compromised. The bench also ordered the launch of an awareness campaign about the government's facilities for the welfare of senior citizens. It further ordered the formation of a committee to address the concerns and complaints of senior citizens.

A government lawyer maintained that the Sindh government was giving full attention to old age homes and shelters, adding that more facilities would be provided in accordance with the court orders. He also said that Azadi Cards would be issued to senior citizens, claiming that the National Database and Registration Authority (NADRA) was gathering the necessary data.

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The court directed the NADRA director-general to provide the relevant data immediately, further ordering the provincial chief secretary to review the provision of facilities himself.

Electrocution deaths

Another bench, comprising Justice Syed Hassan Azhar Rizvi and Justice Kausar Sultana, called for the implementation of orders issued for the payment of compensation to the families of four young men who died of electrocution in Defence Housing Authority.

The bench was hearing a plea seeking the audit of K-Electric (KE) infrastructure and losses caused by it. The plea also sought a judicial commission to fix compensation for the victims, maintaining that the government and the National Electric Power Regulatory Authority (NEPRA) had not taken any effective action against KE despite the deaths. NEPRA had formed an inquiry committee for the incidents but the report has not yet surfaced.

A representative of the federal government submitted a reply in court, stating that NEPRA has directed KE to pay the affected families Rs50 million as compensation for their loss.

The court ordered to ensure the implementation of this directive and sought a progress report on January 14. 

Published in The Express Tribune, December 13th, 2019.

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