PIA reels from over Rs100b loss

Committee examines curious case of Kalashnikov at airport, delegation’s frisking at an international airport

Rizwan Shehzad   July 08, 2024
PIA’s privatisation process is at the final stage as the government has held a pre-bid conference with investors. Six companies are engaged in due diligence process. Photo: APP


Shocking as it may seem, the Ministry of Aviation informed the National Assembly Standing Committee on Aviation on Monday that the net loss of the national flag carrier is over Rs100 billion as it is reeling from the controversy of fake pilot degrees and a physically-unfit doctor being appointed as pilots’ medical assessor.

To be precise, with 34 owned-and-leased aircrafts flying to 17 international destinations being backed by total manpower of 10,416, it’s Rs103.9 billion. The Pakistan International Airlines Company Limited (PIACL) liabilities stand at Rs850.75 billion as of December 31, 2023.

While sharing the financial performance, the ministry apprised the committee that “PIACL posted an operational profit of PKR 3.187 Billion for the period of Jan-Dec 2023” adding, however, “net loss for the period was PKR 103.90 Billion.”

Apart from PIA losses and liabilities, of which Rs628.5 billion have already been transferred to PIA Holding Company to facilitate the privatisation process of PIA, the committee dissected the working of the aviation division and its attached departments at the Parliament House on Monday morning.

Issues ranging from security challenges to body frisking, installation of ‘obsolete’ equipment at different airports to comparison between Pakistan and other countries’ airports, delayed flights, fake pilot licenses, and aero medical staff issues, among other things, were discussed in the meeting.

Read: PIA sell-off likely in August

The committee, chaired by Nawabzada Iftikhar Ahmed Khan Babar, was attended by Secretary Aviation Saif Anjum, DG Airports Security Force (ASF) Major General Adnan Asif Jah Shad, among other officials of the ministry, ASF and attached departments. The committee also discussed the outsourcing of the Karachi, Lahore, and Islamabad airports.

Had the meeting ended right after the briefing, it would have been called a “beautifully packaged” presentation covering all the flaws. However, that wasn’t the case, especially, after a lawmaker revealed that he saw a “Kalashnikov” being carried to an airport without being stopped.

The situation of parking areas and washrooms at different airports coupled with frisking and searching of an official delegation of Pakistan, including applying the shoes-off rule at one of the delegation members, at an international airport, added insult to injury.

PPPP MNA Ramesh Lal shocked the committee when he narrated that he along with a DSP friend went to an airport, saying the DSP was carrying a Kalashnikov but they weren’t stopped from entering the airport.

Asking the ASF DG to check the situation himself by going in a private vehicle, the lawmaker also objected to the security staff’s routine practice of asking if any weapon was being carried to the airport or not instead of stopping it. He said the briefing is always “beautifully packaged” and that’s why the committee should conduct on site visits.

In response, Gen Shad said that the DSP must have been profiled through technology and human intelligence as otherwise he wouldn’t have been allowed to enter the airport.

Admitting that every vehicle can’t be searched as it would lead to passengers routinely missing flights, the DG assured that “there is nothing alarming in Pakistan” despite lots of challenges.

Also Read: PIA bidders worried over EU ban

DG Shad revealed that he checked the security situation just three weeks ago by going in as an ordinary citizen, saying he only found minor things that needed to be improved. He added that a recent visit led the foreign visitors to say that the practices and standards of human intelligence at airports in Pakistan were of the year 2030, saying other countries borrow the same from us.

To a volley of questions about body frisking, the DG ASF said that body frisking is a universal requirement and unlike many western countries, where body search is done in open for everyone, in Pakistan, cultural nuances are kept in view.

He added that videos of vigorous body search in public space on the airports are available on the internet for everyone to see and draw a comparison.

the general while reminding the committee about the bizarre situation at different international airports said that body searching happens across the world, describing that “obscenity” takes place at New York airport where people even make videos of teary-eyed women when they are checked in the open. “We don’t have that kind of frisking and checking,” he said.

Subsequently, DG Shad recalled how a three-member delegation of Pakistan was searched at an international airport where the shoes of an officer were checked during the airport tour. After the meeting, DG Shad while explaining to The Express Tribune why an official delegation was searched and one of the officers was asked to go through a shoe scanner said that it’s a normal procedure and the same happens when any foreign delegation comes for airport inspection visits in Pakistan.

The reason, DG Shad said, airports are busy areas and chances are that someone can attach something to a person, saying that is why everyone can be searched, excluding the heads of the states, chiefs of armed forces, diplomats and dignitaries. However, he added, their luggage has no such exception and they are checked to make sure nothing unusual is attached to it.

During the meeting, it also emerged that the Islamabad airport doesn’t have the capacity to have two landings at the same time. Admitting the same, an ASF official responded by saying that flights can’t simultaneously land but alternative runway is used at other airports if there is an emergency.

The DG also revealed that Istanbul airport has at least 10,000 cameras whereas Pakistani airports have roughly 400-to-450 cameras; that too are not supported by artificial intelligence. Secretary aviation defended the qualification of the aeromedical officer but the chair sought comprehensive report on aero-medical staff in the next meeting.


Replying to X

Comments are moderated and generally will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive.

For more information, please see our Comments FAQ