Dhaka: The Pakistan government announced on July 7 that it has dismissed 28 pilots of Pakistan International Airlines following an ongoing investigation into “dubious” commercial pilot licences.
The move comes after the government revealed nearly two weeks ago that 262 out of 860 active pilots in the country working at state-run Pakistan Internal Airlines (PIA) and domestic, as well as foreign, commercial companies had improperly gotten their licences.
“Twenty-eight pilots, whose licenses were found suspect and against whom disciplinary proceedings were completed, have been dismissed from service,” Information Minister Shibli Faraz said.
He said that “disciplinary” and “criminal” proceedings are continuing against the remaining pilots.
“Those whose licenses were found suspect in the inquiry have all been grounded. All others are cleared,” the minister noted.
Faraz was speaking after attending a cabinet meeting chaired by Prime Minister Imran Khan.
Faraz did not share more details, but PIA officials announced shortly after the scandal came to light that they were immediately grounding about 150 out of 426 pilots, pending further investigations against them.
A spokesman for the state operator explained at the time that the 262 pilots in question were associated with PIA and other domestic and foreign companies.
“PIA acknowledges that fake licenses (are) not just a PIA issue but spread across the entire Pakistani airline industry,” the spokesman said.
Faraz said on July 7 that legal action had also been initiated against officials at PIA and the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA), who were responsible for issuing fake licences.
He stressed that international and domestic stakeholders have been informed of Pakistan's actions resulting from the investigations.
Global safety and transport bodies were quick to express concern about the “dubious” Pakistani pilot licenses.
Last week, the European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) announced that it was barring PIA from flying into most of Europe for the next six months. It cited concerns about “the validity of the Pakistani pilot licenses and that Pakistan, as the state of operator, is currently not capable to certify and oversee its operators and aircraft in accordance with applicable international standards”.
Countries such as Malaysia and Vietnam, where airlines had employed Pakistani pilots, have also grounded the pilots over the fake license concerns.
The scandal came to light during investigations into the May 22 Airbus A320 plane crash at Pakistan’s southern port of Karachi in which 97 people were killed.
Further inquiries eventually led investigators to find that the CAA had given out licences to pilots who had cheated on their exams.
Critics, however, have praised Khan’s government for publicising details of the inquiry, saying the unprecedented move has paved the way for carrying out long-overdue reforms to end years of corruption, nepotism and political interference plaguing CAA and PIA, inflicting massive losses on the national airline.