An over-all impression and easy to pick narrative of the public view is that the military officials can manage civilian institutions and departments effectively and professionally. This has led some people to question the management of PIA, Pakistan’s state-owned airline.
At the helm of the flagship airliner is Air Marshall Arshad Malik now very recently retired from Pakistan Air Force (PAF), was chosen to head the institution in October 2018, a little over two months after Imran Khan became Pakistan’s prime minister.
Malik was brought into remedy the situation and turn PIA’s fortunes around. Many people in Pakistan believe that the military can better manage state institutions, as army officials are not corrupt, disparate elected civilian leaders. At the same time, others say that the military is increasingly taking over all-important civilian posts and is practically running the government.
Since Imran Khan came to power, both serving and retired military officials have been given a number of government portfolios that have traditionally been civilian roles.
A recent report by the European Foundation of South Asian Studies, an Amsterdam-based think tank, says that the military dominance in Pakistan has increased manifold in the past two years.
“It is not just that military interference in matters of governance continues to be a reality, rather the military has gone far beyond the traditional realms of national security and foreign policy and strengthened its hold over other aspects of state rule, including finance, commerce, interior, railways, China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) and even media management,” the think tank wrote in a recent commentary.
The recent crash of Flight 8303, 22 May 2020 of Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) plane has ignited a debate about whether military officers should hold important civilian jobs.
Right after the crash, the whole case mislead and hihely mismanaged by the statement of 30% of Pakistani pilots are having fake licensees. That aviation minister Ghulam Sarwar Khan must not have, without having firsthand knowledge, announced such an appalling statement on the floor of Assembly.
Pilot license might be dubious but handling of the case has caused much damage as few months later the number he stated as publically proclamation that 262 out of 800 pilots certified by the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) of Pakistan are carrying “fake” or “suspect” licenses was an important trigger for the ban on PIA flights landing in European airports. The irony that later the actual doubted number reduce till only 82 that also an ongoing investigation into “dubious” commercial pilot licenses has led to the dismissal of 28 pilots working for the national airline. So that’s the actual number of suspect license out of 800 pilots. The minister’s public proclamation carrying “fake” or “suspect” licenses was a significant cause for the ban on PIA flights landing in European airports. The larger cause was the failure to meet successive safety management standards.
The minister’s words, which were clearly fired in haste and before even all the facts were in, have clearly smudged the entire country’s credibility to maintain and operate an aviation sector, He made responsible for the mess he has created.
Their impact has not fallen only on the pilots named in the list. From here on, it is not just PIA that has to prove that it has pilots and aircraft that are airworthy and adhere to internationally accepted safety standards. It is the entire CAA that has to prove that it has the capability required to issue a wide range of licenses and certificates, that its airports and air traffic control systems are up to international standards, and much more.
All the fatal accidents that happen worldwide of crashes, does those Countries label all the pilots as incompetent? The same bogus license or incompetent pilot issue could have been handled in a better way with even better outcome. However, this scar will never fade away for years to come so to bring confidence locally and internationally.
In fact, the entire aviation sector of Pakistan stands on the CAA and its credibility. Now, with his words, the minister has smeared that credibility so badly there is no telling how long it will take to recover. Lacking professional aviation experience are performing without taking keen interest in the affairs of the airline.
During this whole scenario, the role of CEO PIA Arshad Malik seems very feeble, instead, a dynamic role as was demanding to cope the situation emerged after fake pilot license statement, and nevertheless the entire institution responsibility laid on his shoulder. Wherever is the dictatorial military governance mechanism when this entire episode have staged. Commercial aviation and air force have different managerial mechanism might be but how can it could be justified of induction of air force human resource on key managerial positions in PIA?
Air Marshal Arshad Malik was holding two positions — one of an air marshal in PAF and the other of CEO in the PIA. If properly selected, he would have resigned from PAF to join as CEO in the PIACL, after sufficiently enjoyed both positions at a time, now he has been full time CEO PIA after PAF retirement few months back. PIA has slashed the salaries of its pilots by 25 per cent and already witnessed PIA’s CEO enjoyed military and civil both tope positions with parks at a time.
The inquiry of conducted about the air crash F8303 is a one-sided affair. Entire blame has been laid on the pilot. Supposedly saying, had the pilot survived the crash, as did two other passengers onboard, would the inquiry’s outcome have been the same? Perhaps not. Pilot might have spoken to defend himself and pointed out faults in the landing gear, which is usually the result of poor maintenance. Aviation minister should be happy that dead men do not speak. The aviation minister’s remarks are a death sentence for a national carrier alongside of pro PAF establishment while experimenting on commercial aviation. This was an unprecedented blunder made by any top officials of Pakistan ever. Pakistan has invested millions of dollars to establish and maintain the airline now enjoying hybrid regime for the national carrier.
She is a Development Practitioner & Multi-Media journalist, she is passionate about advocating Social Behavior Change through communication, she can be access to [email protected] & @samreen_ideas