No good can ever come out of Imran Khan’s Naya Pakistan.
No, the latest causality is not ‘shaheed’ Osama bin Laden or the rumours of the prime minister being side-lined, or even the infighting between the cabinet ministers. It’s the government’s own self-destructing revelation regarding the national carriers and their pilots. One bright afternoon, aviation minister Ghulam Sarwar Khan took the national assembly floor to tell the nation that almost 40 per cent of pilots in Pakistan have fake licenses—they were not qualified to fly—but were still flying. Khan said that the 262 pilots had paid proxies to write exams on their behalf.
The aviation minister’s scandalous revelation caused a storm, both in Pakistan and abroad. The important disclosure came as a footnote to the government inquiry, which held the pilot and the air traffic control staff responsible for the 22 May Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) plane crash in Karachi that killed 97 people on-board.
Govt report under scanner
Every statement has a consequence. After drawing international media attention on the issue, Sarwar’s “fake” licenses suddenly became “dubious” licenses. Turns out the list released with the names of the pilots with fake licenses was itself dubious—some on the list were dead, some had retired. There were other discrepancies regarding the total number of examination papers and employment details. The initial theory floated by the ministry appeared based on an improper investigation.
What can possibly explain the Imran Khan government’s urgency to share this information without completing its internal interrogation?
This is what happens when a government’s entire focus lies on shifting the blame, managing the image of the prime minister and trying to grab headlines. Considering this approach, it explains well why the Imran Khan government wants to claim credit for these revelations without even finalising the investigation report. For Pakistan Tareekh-e-Insaf (PTI), political rhetoric is the only solution, even if it comes at the cost of reforms. Not much can be expected from a minister who once infamously showed up at the airport with his wife’s passport and wanted to board a flight to Turkey. Not to forget the minister sahib’s troubles with his own fake degree.
Pakistani pilots face the wrath world over
But the world doesn’t function the way Pakistan government does. The international aviation regulators such as the European Union Aviation Safety Agency have suspended PIA flight operations for six months from the EU, saying that Pakistan is not capable to certify and oversee its airline operators. This was followed by the UK as it withdrew PIA’s permit to operate from London, Birmingham and Manchester airports. Similarly, the aviation authority of the United Arab Emirates, in a letter, asked for the authentication of the licenses of 50 Pakistani pilots and chartered flight operation officers employed in its airlines. Vietnam earlier this week, grounded 11 active Pakistani pilots working in national airlines over fake license concerns.
If we listen to the aviation experts, this is just getting started. PIA shutting shop internationally is not a forgone conclusion, but there are fears that many Pakistani aviation professionals around the world might lose jobs even if their licenses have not been achieved through fraudulent means.
In Naya Pakistan, things work differently
To fend off his government’s criticism and come clean on the handling of the inquiry, PM Imran Khan says his detractors want him to bury the probe. While no one wants the fraud pilots to go scot-free, the government too can’t shrug off its responsibility for everything that’s going wrong under its nose.
Would Imran Khan not have asked for former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s resignation in Purana Pakistan, if a plane had crashed? Would he have not told him to leave office, giving him the example South Korean prime minister, who had resigned after a boat tragedy? But, things in Naya Pakistan work differently. Only pilots are accountable here.
Stay on the message of fighting cartels and mafias, but in reality do nothing—that’s how the PTI government dealt with the sugar mafia, who funnily remain part of the ruling dispensation.
As if international airlines such as Etihad Airways, Emirates and Flydubai temporarily disengaging with Pakistan due to the increase in Covid-19 cases wasn’t enough, the suspension of national carrier means that we in Pakistan are now Pakistan-bound in the foreseeable future. Remember when Imran Khan eagerly prayed that US President Donald Trump deny visas to Pakistanis so that they could focus on fixing their own country? Finally, Trump couldn’t do what Khan has done.
The author is a freelance journalist from Pakistan. Her Twitter handle is @nailainayat. Views are personal.
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