The airlines operating in Pakistan may face a ban to operate in 188 countries in the world over their failure to meet international standards with regards to pilot licensing as required by the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) – a specialised agency of the United Nations.
The country’s national flag carrier – Pakistan International Airlines – has already been barred from flying to the United Kingdom and European Union over the licence scandal.
The ICAO in its 12th meeting of its 179th session approved a mechanism for addressing Significant Safety Concerns (SSCs) to its member states.
Pakistan being a member state of the ICAO was identified among eight countries that had failed to address the SSCs.
The ICAO issued a serious warning to the Pakistan Civil Aviation Authority (PCAA) – the regulator for all aspects of civil aviation in the country – over the safety concerns.
In its letter dated November 3, the ICAO stated that PCAA had failed to meet the international standards regarding the personnel licensing and training in relation to the licensing process for pilot. Therefore, the country’s aircraft and pilots, are likely to be barred from flying to 188 countries in the world.
PIA – the largest airline in the country – is operational only on a fraction of its capacity partly because of the restrictions it got after Ghulam Sarwar Khan, Federal Minister for Aviation, a few months back, stated that 262 pilots including 141 of the PIA held fake credentials.
The minister’s statement came under heavy criticism as it threw a big question mark over the credibility of the PCAA.
Speaking about the warning issued by the ICAO, Pakistan Airlines Pilots Association (Palpa) spokesperson said: “This will have serious consequences and could be a total disaster for Pakistan’s aviation industry”.
He added, “Palpa had been raising this issue since June 2020 but unfortunately it was neglected by the authorities concerned”.
“Palpa had forwarded several options to revamp the system in accordance with the international practices and also given a presentation.”
After the expiry of given 90 days by the ICAO, Pakistan along with other four countries will be on the red flag and its registered aircraft and pilots will be barred to fly in 188 countries.
Palpa has requested Prime Minister Imran Khan to intervene and setup a special task force to address the matter on urgent basis.
However, Afsar Malik, an expert in airline economics and bilateral air services agreements, said that despite the country’s inability to meet the ICAO’s standards, the international aviation body cannot ban operations to/from Pakistan.
“The individual countries may or may not apply restrictions on Pakistani aircraft/pilots just as European Union, UK and US did but not the other countries,” he said.
"Pakistan will have to come out of this, which is a doable option for Pakistani government as and when it takes it seriously," he added.
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