ISLAMABAD: An appeal as to whether or not to hear a petition to remove Aviation Minister Ghulam Sarwar over his remarks that a big chunk of the country's pilots held "dubious licenses" — some of whom were associated with the Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) — was rejected Wednesday by the Islamabad High Court (IHC).
IHC Chief Justice Athar Minallah announced the decision on a petition filed by advocate Tariq Asad, who argued that Pakistan's image had suffered internationally due to the aviation minister’s remarks that about almost 40% of the country's pilots had "dubious licenses".
The high court in its decision said the prime minister had the power to take action against the federal minister.
"If the country has been harmed due to the minister's remarks, it is the prime minister’s job to take action," the court remarked.
"We are excusing ourselves not to interfere in this matter according to the law," it added.
Asad's petition had stated that due to Sarwar's remarks, PIA flights have been banned in Europe for six months. "If someone’s degree was fake, the minister should have secretly taken action," the petitioner had said.
Asad had added that due to the minister's comments, the country has become a laughing stock in the world.
The chief justice said that a detailed judgment over the matter will be issued later. The high court had earlier today reserved its verdict on whether or not to hear a petition seeking the aviation minister's removal.
'Almost 40% PIA pilots have fake licenses'
The minister, while presenting the preliminary report of the PIA plane crash, had told the House that 40% of pilots in the country were flying aircraft with fake licenses.
"Pakistan has 860 active pilots, which includes PIA, Serene Air, Air Blue. The inquiry which was initiated in February 2019 showed that 262 pilots did not give the exam themselves and asked someone else to give it on their behalf," the minister said, adding that the pilots did not have the proper flying experience either.
Following the minister's comments, PIA said it had grounded 150 pilots with "dubious licenses", stating that those pilots who get their licenses verified would be allowed back on duty.
The spokesperson for the national carrier had added they had already dismissed six pilots with fake degrees.
PIA flights to Europe suspended for six months
The European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) on Tuesday suspended PIA's air operations permit for a period of six months, the national carrier's spokesperson Abdullah Hafeez Khan said.
The suspension will take effect on July 1, at 12 noon UTC time, he said.
The EASA told PIA "it is still not sure" if all the remaining pilots are properly qualified, "and thus they have lost their confidence" in the airline, the spokesperson told AFP.
"PIA is in constant contact with the agency," he said, adding: "We are taking steps to address their concerns."
"It is hoped that the suspension will end soon due to the [remedial] steps taken by the government and the administration," the spokesperson said.