LAHORE - A PIA Boeing 777 (registration AP-BHW) worth $160 million, which is technically owned by a company based in Caymen Island and leased to PIA, is standing on ground for past 7 months, while its engine and other parts are being cannibalized for spare parts replacement. Aviation experts are of the opinion that without formal written approval of Caymen Island company, PIA cannot remove even a pin, what to talk of an engine. Meanwhile, an engine ordered from manufacturer is lying with customs for almost over 3 months, waiting for clearance by PIA. Chief Finance Officer (CFO) was not willing to get the engine released due to unknown reasons. For an airline desperately short of serviceable aircrafts, such an act is criminal negligence. However, for obvious reasons, top management of PIA is more interested in leasing or buying more aircrafts, because this involves commissions etc. Chairman and MD of PIA were on a 5-day trip to Paris, to attend a meeting of PIA Investment, a subsidiary 100% owned by federal government, which insists on holding its Board meetings outside Pakistan and has never submitted to auditing by Auditor General of Pakistan, whilst taxpayers have to bear a burden of over Rs 36 billion every year to keep airline running in a loss.
The national airline could only be pulled out of crisis by inducting fully qualified team of executives, with impeccable integrity, willing to take tough decisions, instead of a business as usual approach. It also requires strict administrative and financial discipline with quick accountability, zero tolerance for corruption or incompetence and appointments strictly on merit. Instead PIA is being run by two committees, namely Way Forward Committee and Accountability Committee, dominated by members of unions. The Accountability Committee has cleared several employees facing charges of financial irregularity, including Capt Aijaz Haroon, whose services were supposed to be terminated three years ago after a strike by employees demanding his removal. In interim period Capt Aijaz Haroon had joined Turkish Airline for almost 18 months, till they terminated his contract. For five years PIA was run and destroyed by three cronies, namely Obaid Jatoi, a class fellow of Asif Zardari, who was the king maker, with Aijaz Haroon and Nadeem Yusafzai serving as MD, while Fazalullah Pechuha controlled CAA as its CFO. Capt Aijaz Haroon rejoined PIA on Friday, 20th December. Even A Mazhar, the officer involved in Haj and Umrah scams of 2010, when thousands of poor pilgrims were fleeced and mishandled, has been rehabilitated. It was during tenure of Aijaz Haroon, while PIA was under MOD, that vital routes, which worldwide are given only through bilateral agreements on reciprocal basis, were unilaterally given to foreign carriers. Thereafter, started process of revenue dilution of PIA, with total losses rising from Rs 42 billion in March 2008 to Rs 183 billion by September 2013. Capt Aijaz Haroon, who previously faced charges of financial irregularities in recruitment of pilots by an investigation conducted by AVM Mushaf Ali Mir and this report lies even today in Ministry of Defense, was again instrumental in hiring another 250 trainee pilots after 2008, who even after 3 years are desperately waiting for absorption in an airline with half its fleet grounded and average utilization of pilots is under 38 hours per month. Most of these trainee pilots have alleged that they paid a premium to get into PIA, on assurances of their absorption after training.
PIA is an airline with disjointed operation, which has reduced this once-prestigious airline to an airline with poor on-time performance, lost baggage, cancelled flights and a surplus staff. It operates maximum flights from northern hubs, where bulk of revenue traffic is generated, but there are no functional maintenance facilities, nor mechanics based at these hubs to fix aircrafts with technical defects. If an aircraft has a technical problem, this requires it to be positioned to Karachi for repairs, or sit on ground for hours till such time the mechanics and parts are flown to where the aircraft is stranded. In either case, passengers have to face long delays.