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CAA Claims All Pilot Licenses Are ‘Genuine’

by Newsweek Pakistan
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File photo. Farooq Naeem—AFP

In letter to Omani regulating agency, CAA alleges aviation minister’s statements were ‘misconstrued’ by media

Pakistan’s Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) this week responded to concerns of Oman’s aviation regulator over Aviation Minister Ghulam Sarwar Khan’s allegations that a third of all Pakistani pilots had “fake or dubious” licenses, claiming all commercial/airline transport pilots licenses issued by it were “genuine and validly issued.”

In a letter dated July 13, which has been seen by Newsweek, CAA Director General Hassan Nasir Jamy wrote to Mubarak Saleh Al Gheilani, the acting director general of Oman’s Civil Aviation Regulation, and addressed the concerns the latter had raised in a letter on July 2, and a follow-up email on July 9, on the licenses of Pakistani pilots employed in Oman.

“It is important to clarify that all CPL/ATPL [commercial pilot/airline transport pilot] licenses issued by the Pakistan Civil Aviation Authority are genuine and validly issued. None of the pilot licenses are fake, rather the matter has been misconstrued and incorrectly highlighted in the media/social media,” reads the letter, seeking to offload blame for the scandal—which erupted solely due to the aviation minister’s claims in Parliament—onto media coverage of the evolving situation rather than the person who forwarded the “incorrect” allegations.

According to the CAA letter, 96 Pakistani pilots of the 104 employed by various global airlines—U.A.E./GACA, Vietnam Airlines, Bahrain Air, Civil Aviation Malaysia, Hong Kong Civil Aviation Department and Turkish Airlines—had already been verified. In a subsequent statement, the CAA noted that its letter to Oman only covered pilots employed abroad—and verification of pilots based in Pakistan was still ongoing. A CAA official added that similar letters had been sent to the aviation authorities and airlines of various countries in a bid to control the damage caused by the aviation minister’s statement.

Last month, while presenting to Parliament a preliminary report into the May 22 Pakistan International Airlines plane crash in a Karachi residential area, the aviation minister had claimed up to 40 percent of the country’s pilots held “fake licenses.” In a subsequent press conference, he alleged 262 pilots had falsified their credentials, adding that 141 of them were with the PIA, nine with Air Blue and 10 with Serene Air. The remaining were affiliated with flying clubs, chartered plane services or foreign airlines, he added.

In the immediate aftermath of this, several countries blocked PIA from their airspace, while aviation regulatory authorities grounded Pakistani pilots employed by them and demanded verification of credentials by Pakistan.

In his letter, the CAA director general seeks to downplay the aviation minister’s rhetoric, claiming that “some concerns” were raised about the validity of the licenses of “some pilots” but the government had taken notice and was conducting a forensic scrutiny of all license holders.

“During this process, it occurred that there were discrepancies pertaining to the computer-based examination, which is one of the steps in the licensing process. Immediately upon completion of the process, the pilots falling in this category were treated as ‘suspects’ till clearance. They were taken off from flying duties, if any, and were grounded pending formal process, after providing them opportunity to explain their position,” he said.

“Pakistan has always maintained a strong regulatory oversight mechanism for safety of skies all over,” read the letter seeking to ease concerns raised by the aviation minister. “It has been ensured that only those pilots and aircrew with valid qualification, credentials and unblemished record shall be allowed to fly. I hope this letter is convincing evidence of Pakistan’s continued commitment toward aviation safety. It is highlighted that as a responsible regulator we have voluntarily raised the subject matter,” he added.

Responding to the letter, the Pakistan Airlines Pilots Association (PALPA) said it endorsed their stance that the aviation minister’s statement has damaged the nation’s reputation and hurt the image of its state carrier and pilots. In a statement, it said the entire situation had been mishandled and demanded speedy resolution by the government.

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