Mubasher Lucman’s Hard Talk With CEO PIA Arshad Malik

Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) has been under heavy scrutiny due to poor management situation because of their pilots, management, cabin crew and technical staff. The national flag carrier of Pakistan has now witnessed 10 major crashes, as well as multiple other incidents of passengers’ lives being endangered.

Nepotism, corruption and mismanagement continues to engulf Pakistan International Airlines and many believe that favoritism and nepotism has ruined the performance of the airline risking lives of hundreds of thousands of passengers.

Mubasher Lucman, a Pakistani investigative journalist, conducted a special interview with the chief executive officer (CEO) PIA, Air Marshal (retd) Arshad Malik on his official YouTube channel where the two discussed about the future of Pakistan’s aviation sector and the authorities responsible for its downfall.

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The interview started off with PIA’s efforts to bring back stranded Pakistanis and foreigners, including staff of foreign diplomatic missions and people from major international organisations like International Monetary Fund (IMF), from Afghanistan after a Taliban takeover. As a result, the IMF granted an unconditional loan of $2.75 billion to Pakistan as part of the Special Drawing Rights (SDRs) allocation, taking the the country’s foreign exchange reserves to $27.4 billion.

The national flag carrier of Pakistan came under heavy scrutiny this year after one of its planes came down among houses in Karachi on May 22, 2020, killing 98 people. When asked about any special safety measures taken by PIA after the ill-fated plane crash, Air Marshal Arshad Malik, said that the PK-8303 plane crash was a very decisive moment for the PIA management and after that he decided to take strict measures to come out safely with flying colours.

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“The major issue behind all these issues was the lack of a safety management system (SMS) in PIA. The first and foremost task for me and my team was to install a world-class safety management system which was very easy to get through multinational companies and vendors, however, it was so costly and very difficult to adapt it according to our systems,” said Arshad Malik.

“As a result, the PIA management with the help of software experts, technicians, pilots, engineers and supply chain management officials, designed a safety management system and adapted it according to our systems which was presented to the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) for a review,” he added.

IATA Operational Safety Audit (IOSA), when came to audit the safety management system designed by PIA, declared it one of the most practical and user-friendly management system of the world, CEO PIA added.

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While talking about the PIA PK-8303 plane crash, Mubasher Lucman, revealed that the air traffic controller (ATC) on duty was not present at the time of crash, however, the second controller was incompetent as he instructed the pilot to turn left heading 0180 rather than make him land on the Faisal Base where the engines collapsed resulting in the fatal plane crash.

Moreover, Mubasher Lucman revealed that two more commercial aircrafts landed on the same runway with all the debris that day where PK-8303 made a belly landing. Mubasher Lucman also bashed the CAA for failing to provide evacuation and health facilities to the injured passengers and the residents of Madinah Colony, Karachi.

While addressing CEO PIA Arshad Malik, Mubasher Lucman said that, “your safety standards do not matter if your regulator is so incompetent to the extent of being criminal.”

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Appreciating the analysis given by Mubasher Lucman, Arshad Malik said that the analysis is “absolutely correct” and “unquestionable” not because “you are a journalist but you are an aviator yourself so nothing can be hidden from your eyes”.

Moving forward in the interview, Mubasher Lucman raised a question on the speech of Aviation Minister of Pakistan, Ghulam Sarwar Khan, in the parliament where he said that 262 pilots under investigation for ‘dubious’ credentials should be grounded. Lucman questioned Malik saying that “you did nothing to improve the image of the pilots that you knew were qualified and they could fly.”

Agreeing to Mubasher Lucman, Malik said that the statement given by Ghulam Sarwar Khan declaring 262 pilot possessing “suspicious” licences was “wrong” and “as a Pakistani this was disturbing and I challenged the statement right there and then and it is documented.”

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According to Arshad Malik, PIA was the only organisation which raised a question against the inquiry commission and said that the process that is being followed will mislead us. “I supported my pilots at the maximum extent that I could because I knew that this figure of 262 pilots is incorrect which later on came to be true,” said Malik.

Aviation experts underline that the entire functioning of Pakistan International Airlines has been held hostage to vested groups, more interested in using the airline to serve personal, or institutional, ambitions. The army’s hegemonic control over the country is reflected in the PIA and the CAA being dominated by former Pakistan Air Force (PAF) officials, with the aviation sector treated as a retirement home for military men.

Air Marshal Arshad Malik absolutely denied the claims made by Mubasher Lucman regarding the induction of airforce pilots in PIA and CAA. “It is absolutely wrong that I wanted to induct airforce pilots within the airline,” said CEO PIA.



Arshad Malik CEO, PIA

During the interview, Mubasher Lucman raised another question regarding the Civil Aviation Authority test consisting of 25,000 questions. He further said that out of those 25,000 questions most of the questions and their answers are wrong. Arshad Malik also agreed to fact that the CAA’s question bank is incorrect, saying that “it needs to be reviewed.”

Since the inception of Civil Aviation Authority back in December of 1982, only one person has served as the Director General (DG) till date, all others have been deployed from the Pakistan Air Force (PAF). Similarly, around 8 out of 12 directors within the PIA management are ex military men.

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Keeping the above-mentioned facts in mind, who is to be blamed for the downfall of Civil Aviation and the aviation industry in Pakistan?

While answering this questioned asked, Arshad Malik said that the systems and organizational structure within the aviation regulatory body have been formed by the Pakistan Air Force channels. He further said that there is a deep connection between aviation and airforce.

Mubasher Lucman raised another pertinent question regarding the corruption in Pakistan’s aviation sector stating the incompetency of ex-airforce pilot, Captain Arif Majeed, and the appointment of two pilot sisters, Erum Masood and Maryam Masood.

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According to the reports of Baaghi TV, both Erum Masood and Maryam Masood were part of the list revealed by Ministry of Aviation their suspension from the national airline. Back in 2019, an ATR plan of PIA (Flight No. PK-605) from Islamabad to Gilgit skidded off the runway while making attempt to land at Gilgit airport. PIA female pilot Maryam Masood was flying the plane. However, the younger sister, Erum Masood, kept sleeping during a routine mission inbound flight from the United Kingdom (UK) putting lives of the passengers at risk.

Moreover, Baaghi TV has learnt that Maryam Masood also holds the record of having fifteen failed attempts while landing the aircraft, however, the sixteenth time she skidded an ATR off the runway, nearly killing everyone last year. According to the reports of Baaghi TV, both of them are allegedly related to Captain Arif Majeed. After retiring from PIA, Captain Arif Majeed was appointed as the Director Flight Services (DFS) in CAA and later moved to another private airline.

Arshad Malik responded to the question by saying that he has taken effective steps to take strict actions against such appointments in his tenure, however, he can not answer questions regarding such appointments in the past.

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In another question, Mubasher Lucman asked Arshad Malik that if PIA is making an operational profit, then why is the national airline not paying allowances to their cabin crew since the last 18 months or why are the pilots facing a 30% salary cuts?

Arshad Malik responded to the question saying that PIA is the only airline which didn’t lay off any employee, however, the airline offered a voluntary separation scheme (VSS).

While responding to another question regarding the European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA), Arshad Malik said that all the stakeholders, including PIA, CAA, Aviation Ministry and the government of Pakistan, need to come on one page and take it “as a plan and national will that we should approach ICAO and force them to come back as soon as possible otherwise the future of Pakistan’s aviation sector is ‘bleak'”.

Mubasher Lucman, while bashing the Civil Aviation Authority, raised another question regarding the incompetence of the regulatory body saying that runway 36R at the Lahore airport is under construction since a very long time due to which you can not take off an aircraft with full load in Canada. The chief executive officer of Pakistan International Airlines agreed to the point raised by Mubasher Lucman saying that aviation should be declared as a national industry.

Transparency and discipline must be enforced within PIA, CAA and other regulatory agencies. The Government of Pakistan should take action against them and review the current organizational setup of the recruiting body.

Pakistan is paying a heavy price domestically as well as internationally for the incompetence of those at the helm of affairs in CAA because of these shady appointments and it’s time to start seriously thinking about the future of Pakistan’s aviation sector.

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