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Global Airlines Launch Probes Against Pakistani Pilots

by Newsweek Pakistan
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File photo. Farooq Naeem—AFP

PIA seeks to resolve concerns raised by Aviation Minister’s claims that a third of all commercial Pakistani pilots have ‘dubious’ licenses

International airline operators have launched probes against Pakistani employees following Aviation Minister Ghulam Sarwar’s claims in Parliament that a third of all commercial pilots accredited by the Civil Aviation Authority had fake or “dubious” licenses.

On Monday, Vietnam’s aviation authority announced it had grounded all Pakistani pilots working for local airlines. It said the suspension would remain in effect until “further notice,” adding that the Civil Aviation Authority of Vietnam was coordinating with Pakistani authorities to review the pilots’ profiles.

Vietnam had licensed 27 Pakistani pilots, with 12 of them still active. The remaining 15 pilots are either inactive due to the coronavirus pandemic, or no longer have contracts. Of the 12 active pilots, according to Reuters, 11 were working for budget airlines Vietjet Aviation and one for Jetstar Pacific, a unit of the national flag carrier Vietnam Airlines.

Similarly, Kuwait Air has reportedly ground seven Pakistani pilots and 56 engineers, while Qatar Airways, and Oman Air have compiled lists of Pakistani pilots, engineers and ground-handling staff for further probe. According to media coverage of all these airlines, employees whose names are on the lists would remain grounded until Pakistani authorities have verified their qualifications.

Last week, Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) wrote to foreign missions and global regulatory and safety bodies to assure them that it has grounded 141 pilots suspected of obtaining “dubious” licenses. A spokesperson for the state flag carrier claimed to media that the move was intended to resolve safety concerns stemming from the aviation minister’s allegations.

“It is also ensured that pilots flying PIA flights are having genuine licenses endorsed by the Government of Pakistan and are in physical possession of the same during all domestic and international flights,” said a copy of the letter sent to the U.S. Embassy in Islamabad, according to Reuters. It also promised that the airline would remain compliant with all international aviation safety and regulatory standards.

Overall, 262 pilots have been grounded due to the aviation minister’s claims. Of these, 109 are commercial and 153 airline transport pilots. They would remain grounded until their licenses have been investigated, says PIA. It said of the grounded pilots, 141 were from PIA, nine from Air Blue, 10 from Serene Airline, and 17 from the defunct Shaheen Airlines.

According to the aviation minister, five officials of the CAA have also been suspended for abetting the suspected pilots.

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