‘Thank you, PIA’?

The national airlines draw controversy more frequently than any other national enterprise. Vanished in Canada is a new trend among PIA cabin crew members who, after landing in the country, fail to report back for the return flight. Seven such incidents last year and the second this year, reported just two days ago. There are layers to this problem; the desperation of people to escape from the country and settle abroad, the fact that the airlines’ employees use it as a ladder to do so coupled with the fact that the job terms and conditions are barely lucrative and binding, Canada’s flexible asylum policies, and Pakistan’s inability to communicate and work out a procedure where at least the asylum granting bodies cross check a person’s credentials.

The PIA management’s claim that they are collaborating with Canadian authorities in this matter is commendable. While Canada is an attractive destination for people seeking asylum, more vigilance is required in deciding who rightly deserves asylum. A serving employee of Pakistan Airlines hardly qualifies for that unless, of course, the person in question manipulates their identity and fakes persecution or difficult circumstances. Still keeping the benefit of the doubt, asylum seekers may have legitimate reasons for their actions. Then, it raises serious questions about the screening and support mechanisms in place for airline personnel. 

Is the PIA snubbing the legitimate perks its employees are entitled to or some people are deliberately joining the airlines to escape from the country? In the latter case, PIA’s recruitment verifications must be strong. More proactive measures may be necessary to prevent such incidents in the future and ensure the safety and well-being of the airline’s employees. Outside the realm of the PIA, this trend speaks of a bigger problem – living conditions so tough that people want to run away from the country at the first available opportunity.

News of Pakistanis begging in Saudi Arabia after performing Umrah or similar news of beggars spotted on departure flights are enough examples for the policy makers to urgently turn to welfare policies. Gone are the days when highly skilled people used to turn to other countries for better opportunities that could match their level of skill. It is very concerning that anyone and everyone now wishes to leave the country. This should be a strong wake-up call for the authorities. The country needs to protect its people instead of abandoning them.

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