PIA affairs being ruled under Martial Law – Shamim Akmal

By Nasir Mahmood

Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) the national flag carrier is being ruled under Martial Law. This was disclosed by Shamim Akmal, President Air League of PIA Employees Union in his press conference at Karachi Press Club. He was highlighting the deteriorated state of affairs in PIA.

The PAF based group has taken over the number one airline and cornered all the efficient officers just to hide its corruption, ineptness and the secret decisions. There is complete ban imposed on trade union activities and practically it is being ruled under Martial Law, Akmal said.

In his detailed press statement Shamim Akmal informed that it may be recalled that once the same PAF had established their own airline “Shaheen Air” in civil aviation sector but miserably failed due to corruption and inexperienced management. Finally, it was bankrupt and sold out to a private person just for One Rupee. Now they are eying to plunder the national airline.

There is an emergent need to establish a vigilance body or a Board to monitor the anti-state activities of this group of ineligible people. There is no accountability system left within the airline that could check the policies and activities of the incumbent CEO to save the organization from further destruction. They have removed the post of chairman in PIA just to save their skin.

Air Marshal Arshad Mahmood Malik, Chief Executive Officer was initially nominated as Director since October 17, 2018. He was elected as acting CEO on October 26, 2018 and was appointed regular CEO w.e.f. April 26, 2019. Before joining PIA, Air Marshal Malik was Vice Chief of the Air Staff (VCAS) of Pakistan Air Force (PAF).

Pakistan International Airlines Corporation Limited (PIACL) was incorporated as Company Limited by shares with company registration office Karachi on December 04, 2015. It is being governed by the Companies Ordinance, 1984 as well as Public Sector Companies (Corporate Governance) Rules, 2013. Being listed on Pakistan Stock Exchange (PSX), the listing regulations/ PSX rule book is also applicable.

However, according to editorial of a national daily dated 26-09-2019 the chief executive officer of PIA, Air Marshal Arshad Mahmood Malik has not been able to report financial results for almost two years. PIA last filed its annual results in August of 2019, and those were for the calendar year 2017. Even this came after the company had to be placed on the defaulters segment by the stock exchange, the frontline regulator. By law, these results are supposed to be filed within 120 days of the end of the year. Clearly, PIA is deep in default with regard to this elementary obligation of all listed companies.

PIA is Pakistan’s largest airline, and operates a fleet of more than 32 aircraft. It was operating nearly 100 flights daily. But the new management has reduced this number. It has reduced Lahore-Karachi flights from five to three, Islamabad flights reduced to three, Faisalabad flight is now one per day. There is shortage of aircraft while air traffic is very much enhancing. Shaheen Air is already closed while another private airline is getting benefit of reduction in PIA domestic flights. Air fares are increased up to Rs 28,000/- for Lahore and 35,000/- for Islamabad one way. People now prefer to travel by train and by road due to this attitude.

The airline employed nearly 13,000+ people in 2018. Malik sacked about 1,000 employees from the airline while in year 2016 there were 14,000 employees. After severe criticism from the Senate Standing Committee on Aviation the CEO has formed a review committee to hear the illegal removal of PIA experienced employees’ cases but so far it has produced no result. We urge the Senate Committee to take notice of this contempt.

In year 2018 after taking over by Arshad Malik PIA suffered a loss of PKR 48 billion the highest in the history, while in 2017 the loss was PKR 44.11 billion. To further overburden the airline he has announced to shift PIA headquarters from Karachi to Islamabad. Hundreds of employees residing in Karachi are upset due to this decision. How they would settle down in Islamabad leaving their families in Karachi. This is the biggest financial burden for airline employees by unilateral order of the Air Marshal.   

Last year a three member bench of Supreme Court headed by Chief Justice Mian Saqib Nisar through its order dated 03-09-2018 had set aside the appointment of former CEO Musharraf Rasool Cyan with immediate effect. The Court had directed the Federal Government to take necessary steps to appoint a new CEO of PIA strictly on merit and in accordance with law.

The apex Court had observed three main points in this order that the person must have; (a) experience of civil aviation, (b) experience of reviving sick units, and (c) the PIA Board should not be a rubber stamp in this regard.

But the appointment of Arshad Mahmood Malik as CEO PIA had violated all three instructions issued by the apex Court. There was a tailor-made advertisement in newspaper just to accommodate his posting as CEO in PIA that was also criticised by former chairman Senate Mian Raza Rabbani. He had alleged that the ad to fill the post of chief executive officer of the airlines was tailor-made for the incumbent CEO.

According to media reports, as acting Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Air Marshal Arshad Malik was tipped to be very close to some very influential personality. The cabinet in its decision of October 18, 2018 approved that PIA Board of Directors shall elect a member of the Board to act as the CEO of the PIACL, till the time that the federal government appoints a CEO on regular basis.

PIACL is majority owned by the Government of Pakistan (87%) while the remainder (13%) by private shareholders. The airline is under the administration of Aviation Division being managed by President & chief executive officer as well as the board of directors.

Amazingly, Aviation Division, in its advertisement sought candidates with expertise in military operations, warfare and naval operations among other disciplines to fill the spot of its Chief Executive Officer (CEO). Rabbani questioned the ‘objective’ of certain qualifications mentioned in the ad to seek applications for the CEO, including experience of war operations and other defence disciplines, alleging it was tailor-made to accommodate the incumbent CEO Air Marshal Arshad Malik. He wondered what these defence disciplines have to do with running the civil airlines.

Arshad Malik had been a fighter pilot who was trained for a duty to take risk against enemy, while in civil aviation being a commercial organization ‘safety first’ is basic need and vital part of training. Presently 11 officers from Pakistan Air Force (PAF) were working in Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) on deputation including five Air Commodores, two Wing Commanders and one Squadron Leader, all belonging to his personal team.

He was also planning to handover the Precision Engineering Complex (PEC) to PAF management. This is most vital and sensitive part of PIA that produces and exports many aeronautical parts for Boeing Company USA since many decades and earning precious foreign exchange for the country. This decision would obviously affect the employment of more than 400 employees and damage its performance.

This management has made the life miserable for cockpit crew and the cabin crew. About a dozen experienced pilots have already left the airline due to prolonged duty hours without rest. The management has bulldozed all the agreements with different CBAs and enhanced duty hours from 10-12 hours to 16-18 hours for on flight crew members without extra payments. On the other hand, nobody knows the pay and perks of the CEO, which is kept secret while in the past each and every head’s payments were always made open. 

The In-Flight Entertainment (IFE) system is being handover to a retired air commodore and personal friend of the CEO. This is purely a technical and professional subject that requires international certification and recognition but the PAF loaded management does not bother the damage it would cause.

In the past there was a plane chartered from Air Asia that met an accident at apron. The company claimed for damages but PIA refused to pay because the claim was against the contract. Since the tenure of Nasir Jafar four CEOs of PIA had refused the same while Arshad Malik has recently illegally paid USD 2 million to Air Asia. This is the way they are causing financial losses to PIA and the national exchequer, Shamim Akmal concluded.

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