CJP slams CAA director general over abysmal handling of ‘fake’ licences issue

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Chief Justice of Pakistan Gulzar Ahmed on Tuesday chided the director general of Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) over his handling of the pilots’ “fake” licences scandal, and ordered him to take immediate action — both departmental and criminal — against those involved in the matter.

Last month Justice Ahmed had, during an ongoing hearing of the coronavirus suo motu notice, noted with concern the issue of “fake” licences issued to pilots.

Today, as the chief justice resumed the hearing, he discussed the report submitted to him by the director general, remarking: “All the wrongdoings in Pakistan begin and end from the airport. In this report, I see nothing but your incompetence.”

He observed that the authority’s computers had been “compromised” and that people had gained access and issued licences fraudulently. “This should be a matter of great shame for you.”

“We are referred to as one of the most corrupt countries in the world. How much further will we sink?” the chief justice continued.

“There is no more room for dishonour. You have put people’s lives at stake and you have not initiated an inquiry against even one person so far?” he asked.

“Are you turning in your resignation or should we conduct an inquiry?” Justice Ahmed asked further.

Responding to the chief justice, the director general said that some people who were involved in the scandal had been suspended. “So they are still drawing a salary? This is really very shameful. All your airports have corrupt people employed.”

In its written verdict, the court observed that the civil aviation staff is “compromised” and that its computer systems are unsafe.

The director general was asked to expedite action on the issue of fake licenses of civil aviation pilots and take departmental action against the aviation authorities involved in the case.

‘Fake’ licences scandal

Pakistan last month had grounded almost a third of its pilots after discovering they may have falsified their qualifications.

Federal Minister for Aviation Ghulam Sarwar Khan, while briefing the National Assembly on the May 22 PIA plane crash, had said: “An inquiry which was initiated in February 2019 showed that 262 pilots did not take the exam themselves and asked someone else to take it on their behalf,” adding that the pilots did not have the proper flying experience either.

Soon after the statement, the national flag carrier was barred from entering the airspace of several countries and Pakistani pilots — who had received their credentials from the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) — were grounded.

The European Union Aviation Safety Agency had suspended Pakistan International Airlines’ (PIA) authorisation to fly to the bloc for six months in a major blow to the carrier’s operations.

The US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) also downgraded Pakistan’s air safety rating, while barring the PIA from entering the airspace. Meanwhile, the UK Civil Aviation Authority also suspended the national flag carrier’s operations from three airports — Birmingham, London Heathrow and Manchester.

Airlines in 10 countries had demanded proof of valid flying licences for their Pakistani pilots after the shocking statement from the aviation minister.

In all, the foreign airlines asked for proof of 176 Pakistani pilot licences.

Of these, 166 “have been validated as genuine and certified by the CAA Pakistan as having no anomaly,” the CAA said in a statement.

The “process for the remaining 10 shall be concluded by next week,” it added.

The 10 airlines asking for proof of valid Pakistani pilots’ licences were from Turkey, the United Arab Emirates, Oman, Qatar, Kuwait, Bahrain, Turkey, Malaysia, Vietnam and Hong Kong, according to the CAA.

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