A Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) Boeing 747-300 passenger plane makes its final approach for landing at the airport in Islamabad on September 13, 2013. Pakistan’s new prime minister plans to sell off a 26 percent stake in ailing national carrier PIA and hand over management control in a bid to stem haemorrhaging losses. AFP PHOTO/Farooq NAEEM

RAWALPINDI: The Aviation Division has cleared 95 percent licenses of Pakistani pilots serving in different airlines in seven countries, while the process of verification of the remaining will be completed next week.

The issue of ‘dubious’ licences drew world attention after Aviation Minister Ghulam Sarwar Khan revealed in the National Assembly that there were 860 active pilots in the country and 260 pilots had not sat their exams themselves and almost 30 per cent of the pilots had a fake or improper licence and did not have flying experience.

Shortly afterwards, the Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) grounded 107 pilots suspected of having fake licences and the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) started verification of their licences.

The aviation minister also announced that five senior officials of the CAA had been sacked over the scandal and they could be prosecuted.A

PIA chief briefs PM on restructuring of national flag carrier

The ‘dubious’ licences issue also caught the attention of other countries and airlines where Pakistani pilots were employed. The countries which grounded the Pakistani pilots and asked the Aviation Division to verify their credentials included the United Arab Emirates, Malaysia, Vietnam, Turkey and Bahrain. On Friday, the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia also asked the Pakistan government to verify the licences of Pakistani pilots serving there.

The Director General of UAE’s General Civil Aviation Authority (GCAA), Saif Mohammad Al Suwaidi, had asked CAA Director General Hassan Nasir Jamy to verify the credentials of Pakistani aircraft maintenance engineers and flight operation officers who converted their respective licences issued by the CAA.

The UAE GCAA had also asked the Pakistani authorities to clarify the difference between “fake” and “suspect” cases, if any, so that they could take immediate and appropriate action in the interest of safety of flight operations.

The European Union Air Safety Agency has also announced suspension of PIA authorisation for six months.

According to official sources, Vietnam stopped Pakistani pilots from flying and asked the CAA for verification of 11 Pakistani pilots associated with different airlines. Of the 11 Pakistani pilots, the licences and credentials of 10 had been verified and sent back to the authorities concerned, while the verification of the remaining one would be completed by Tuesday next week, the sources said.

On July 2, the Civil Aviation Authority of Malaysia (CAAM) had announced temporary suspension of Pakistani licence holders employed in Malaysia. The CAAM sent a list of 14 Pakistani pilots for verification of their licences. The Pakistan CAA verified the credentials of all the pilots and informed the Malaysian authorities accordingly.

In the UAE, 54 Pakistani pilots have been employed in different airlines, including Fly Dubai. The verification of licences of 48 pilots has been completed and the remaining six will be verified next week. The CAA informed its UAE counterpart about the verification of 48 pilots.

According to the sources, three airlines of Turkey also sought verification of licences of 19 Pakistani pilots. The verification of 18 pilots has been done, while that of one is under process.

Likewise, the Bahrain Aviation Authority asked the Pakistan CAA to verify the credentials of three Pakistani pilots. Of the three verifications, two had been completed and sent back, while the remaining one is under process.

Similarly, the Hong Kong Civil Aviation Authority sought verification of licences of three Pakistani pilots. Two of the three licences of Pakistani pilots have been cleared by the CAA, while the remaining one will be completed next week.

PIA chief meets PM

PIA Chief Executive Officer Air Marshal Arshad Malik met the prime minister and briefed the latter on ongoing negotiations with European Union Aviation Safety Agency to ensure PIA flight operations for Europe. He also briefed the premier on restructuring of the PIA so as to make it a profitable and leading airline.

The prime minister directed the PIA chief to expedite the restructuring plan in consultation with Adviser to the PM on Institutional Reforms Dr. Ishrat Hussain and present a framework in a week’s time. “Our government has adopted across-the-board reforms agenda to make institutions efficient and service-oriented,” he added.