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Pilots’ licence issue was mishandled, say ministers

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ISLAMABAD: Federal ministers Shah Mahmood Qureshi and Asad Umar have disagreed with the way the issue of pilots’ fake licences was handled by the aviation ministry.

During a meeting of the Federal Cabinet today, they said Pakistan’s image is damaged internationally due to the controversy and that the concerned authorities should have been more cautious in this regard.

Since the revelation by Aviation Minister Ghulam Sarwar that over 250 Pakistani pilots have dubious credentials, the national flag carrier has come under fire from international aviation regulators.

Pakistan International Airline (PIA) has been barred from flying to European Union and the UK amid rising concerns over the safety management of the airline.

“The matter should have been handled in a better way,” Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi said.

Federal Minister for Planning Asad Umar was of the view that this is a sensitive issue and must be dealt with delicately.

Later, Prime Minister Imran Khan tasked the foreign minister to clear the matter at the international level and directed the aviation minister to submit a detailed report in this regard with recommendations.

Pilots removed

Briefing media about the decisions taken during the meeting, Information minister Shibli Faraz said the government has decided to reform the Civil Aviation Authority completely and added that the pilots whose credentials had been suspect "have already been removed" from service.

Faraz said that the prime minister "is committed to restoring the optimum functioning of institutions and in inculcating a culture of merit and transparency".

The minister said that a thorough review of the qualifications of the staff of all airlines operating within Pakistan will be ensured.

"PIA is an organisation that possesses a great history," Faraz said.

The information minister said that currently all pilots authorised to fly planes have had their qualifications checked and are "100% in the clear".

"Pilots with fake degrees will be dealt with impartially," he added.

Power projects discussed

Faraz said that in the cabinet meeting, approval for three hydropower projects was given.

"The promotion of alternative energy projects was discussed," he said, adding that the removal of any "obstacles" in the way of such projects was also discussed.

He said that with the installation of cheap power generation projects, expensive projects will no longer be needed.

Development work in provinces

The minister said that the provincial finance commission was also discussed with the prime minister instructing its activation.

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"There will be indiscriminate development work in the provinces through the finance commission," Faraz said.

According to Radio Pakistan, a committee headed by Federal Minister of Economic Affairs Khusro Bakhtiar will "look into public sector projects to be undertaken on reduced costs and improved quality".

The committee will submit its report within 90 days.

'Minus-one' a diversionary tactic

Speaking of the opposition's demand for the premier to step down and for someone else from the PTI to take his place, Faraz said: "The minus-one [formula] is a brain child of the opposition. It is using such tactics to cover up its corruption."

"The opposition should think before saying such things and whether it will benefit the country," the minister said.

He demanded that the opposition parties "repent their sins and bring back the money looted from the country".

The minister said that in the past, no attention was paid to the power transmission system, and agreements were made for expensive power projects.

Faraz also criticised the opposition for "creating uncertainty" about the government's coronavirus response.

He rejected the notion that the government coalition has been weakened and insisted that the PTI allies "stand with the government".

The information minister said that Prime Minister Imran Khan "has no business of his own".

"Those who came on motorcycles and went on to build palaces, what about their cases?" he questioned.

Speaking of Bilawal Bhutto Zardari in particular, he said that the PPP chairman "is not familiar with the ups and downs of politics".

"Imran Khan went from street to street for his political message," he added.

He said that the PPP "does not believe in merit and transparency in institutions" and that "numerous political recruitments have been made in the PIA in the past".

Faraz said that the opposition is only targeting the prime minister in retaliation for the government's actions against "mafias".


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