ISLAMABAD: Pakistan on Friday announced 262 pilots will be barred from flying for having submitted "dubious" credentials.
The announcement came in a press conference addressed by aviation minister Ghulam Sarwar Khan.
The pilots in the line of fire include 141 from Pakistan International Airlines, nine from Air Blue and 10 from Serene Airline, said the minister.
The rest of the 262 belong to flying clubs or chartered plane services, he said. He said all the airlines and the clubs had been conveyed that: “Their credentials are dubious, and they shouldn’t be allowed to fly.”
Khan said that a total of 753 pilots are serving in Pakistani airlines, while 107 are serving in foreign airlines bringing the number to 860.
Among the pilots, 121 pilots are suspected of faking one test result — someone else gave their exam. Forty nine are suspected of faking two, 21 of faking three, 15 of faking four, 11 of faking five, 11 of faking six, 10 of faking seven, and 34 of faking eight papers, bringing their number to 262.
"The lists of the suspected pilots have been sent to relevant authorities, including a letter and a list of 141 pilots to PIA’s chief executive, instructing him to bar these men from further flying," said the minister.
He went on to say that nine out of 28 pilots have "confessed" during a probe, and their licenses will be canceled after approval from the federal cabinet as the issuing authority is CAA, but the federal government is the authority on cancelling licenses.
The aviation minister said that it was "safe to say" that all 28 pilots had fake licenses and the matter is being further investigated.
He said that the pilots under investigation were inducted before 2018. "After 2018 we have not hired anyone in the aviation division."
"Some people are saying that we will face criticism due to these investigations […] We have started making reforms and are rectifying the faults," Khan said.
He said that in the last government's tenure, the then chief justice, taking a suo motu had ordered that the degrees of PIA employees be verified.
"When the process was initiated, it was found that 648 people — including 129 cabinet crew members, 16 from the cockpit, 98 from engineering, and 415 from general administration — were found to have fake degrees."
The minister also said that PIA’s current fleet constitutes 31 planes, a number the ministry is looking to considerably raise. "We aim to take it to 45 after inducting new pilots and buying more planes."
Suspension of CAA officials
He also announced the suspension of five officials of the aviation and licensing authorities.
“I have with me, five letters of suspension for officials from CAA and licensing authority, including, Senior Joint Director Licensing Asif-ul-Haq, Senior Joint Director Licensing Faisal Mansoor Ansari, Senior Superintendent Human Resource Abdul Raees, assistant grade 2 admin, Khalid Javed, and assistant grade 2 admin Syed Adeel Aftab,” said the minister, in a televised press conference in Islamabad.
Khan said his ministry is consulting with its law department over the possibility of asking the Federal Investigation Agency to "initiate a criminal inquiry against them".