ISLAMABAD: Opposition members on Friday slammed Aviation Minister Ghulam Sarwar Khan in the National Assembly for “poor handling” of verifying the degrees of Pakistani pilots who work for national carriers and other airlines.
They took exception to contradictory data mentioned in different written answers to questions and in the minister’s own statement on the floor of the National Assembly.
Raising additional questions during question and answer hours, members of the opposition, including Shazia Mari, Hina Rabbani Khar and others called the aviation minister’s remarks “irresponsible”.
“The way you deal with PIA’s reputation issues, its pilots and Pakistani pilots who serve on other airlines are suffering and Pakistan as a country is suffering too,” said PPP’s Shazia Mari.
Shahzia Mari said that Pakistani pilots have not been able to recover the reputation they enjoyed prior to the minister’s statement.
PPP’s Hina Rabbani Khar also demanded the chairman take action against the minister for providing contradictory data in written answers to two different questions raised before the DPR on Friday.
He said that in answering question number 56 it was stated that seven PIA pilots were removed from service because they had fake titles while the answer to question number 64 said that three PIA pilots were dismissed because they had fake titles.
“The minister is responsible for the response given by the ministry on the floor of the house,” he said.
He said the minister gave false statements in the National Assembly not once but three times, asking the chairman if he would take any action against it.
Minister Ghulam Sarwar Khan, however, said he stood by the policy statement he gave on the floor of the house based on the data and information provided, saying what he was doing was in the best interest of the country.
“I say with full responsibility action has been taken against 82 PIA pilots for having fake titles,” he said, adding that 762 PIA employees had been appointed to fight counterfeit education certificates.
The minister said that out of 262 Pakistani pilots serving on various airlines had been investigated on suspicion of having false titles, while 82 of them were found guilty of possessing false documents. He said that the licensing authority official was dismissed and a criminal case was registered against him. The minister notified the house that they were transferring the entire licensing process, including inspections, to the UK Aviation Authority to make the whole process transparent. “The reasons for the country’s aviation sector restrictions are also due to the PIA plane crash in Karachi and the observation of safety measures,” he said, adding that hopefully all international restrictions will be lifted by July this year.
Another PPP lawmaker Naz Baloch said Pakistan’s aviation industry had suffered record losses because of the minister’s irresponsible remarks. “He is the aviation minister but he is not allowed to make statements in the air,” he said.
The minister in answer to the question said that they would not privatize the Isphahani Hanger in Karachi and there was no truth in the report.
“There are no plans to privatize any of Pakistan International Airlines’ assets.”
Mr Sarwar told the house that the government wants to make the national airline self-sufficient and a profitable entity and efforts are being made to improve the financial health of the airline by reducing its losses through various means.
He said the losing routes had been closed and flights on profitable routes were added resulting in reduced losses.
State Minister for Parliamentary Affairs Ali Muhammad Khan said Prime Minister Imran Khan had taken the initiative ‘Direct Call Program’ to directly connect with people and listen to their concerns.
He said the prime minister’s move should be appreciated. He said the prime minister was expected to interact again with the people by phone next week.
In response to the point made by members of the opposition that state-run television has misled viewers by saying that the prime minister will receive direct calls from the people.
PML-N’s Murtaza Javed Abbasi said he had called many times to contact the prime minister to no avail.
Maulana Abdul Akbar Chitrali from Jamaat-i-Islami asked the State Minister for Parliamentary Affairs about when the prime minister would start answering members’ questions on the floor of the house.
He said that the citizen’s calls after verifying the data about the callers were forwarded to the prime minister, saying that the prime minister’s attitude to talking to people should be respected.
Former prime minister Raja Pervez Ashraf said Prime Minister Imran Khan by not attending the trial had made the house redundant, adding the government had failed to provide it.
Court proceedings were adjourned due to a lack of a quorum until Monday afternoon