PIA has been the subject of frequent management changes in recent years; the shelf-life a CEO is about a year and no sooner than he starts making progress or makes headlines with positive media exposure, the mafia within PIA pounces in to cram it all for them. And in recent past, all of this was done with help from the judiciary. It is a known fact that PIA has had discipline issues and the PTI led government decided to address it by bringing in “serving-soldier” to fill the void created after the Supreme Court sacked the bureaucrat turned technocrat former CEO.
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The suo moto notice was taken on a complaint by the head of the union in which fear was expressed over the sale of national assets. It turned to the subject of appointment and ultimately led to the sacking of Musharaf Rasool Cyan as CEO, the case is currently ongoing. Hence, less said the better.
The Air Force team took over in October 2018 headed by Air Marshal Arshad M. Malik as the representative of the government and the Chairman of the Board of Directors; and exactly after a year and a quarter history started repeating itself. This time the application or complaint was filed by the Senior Staff Association on the issue of surprise surprise “Sale of Assets” and at the Sindh High Court.
PIA has been in the news since I remember, for almost always the wrong reasons, poor performance, deteriorating product, financial irregularities, staff attitude and “Narcotics”. It is my subtle observation that 2017 onwards this is a subject that has been associated with the “National Flag Carrier”. I distinctly recollect circa 2016 – 2017 as a period in which PIA was making headlines internationally for narcotics, when it was plagued with in numerous incidents of drug trafficking on its planes, bringing a bad name, rather shame to the motherland. The most infamous of these was in May 2017, where two back to back incidents took place on PIA flights operating to London Heathrow airport. More than 50lbs of “heroin” was recovered by UK authorities in what seemed an organized effort for drug trafficking.
However, after the Cyan regime took over in 2017, all of a sudden these incidents came to a halt. I being an ardent aviation enthusiast keep a vigil on the developments in the industry and yes, there were a couple of attempts by PIA cabin crew to smuggle some small quantities, however, the organized efforts of transporting large quantities by hiding them in aircraft panels or toilets stopped. Evidently, such incidents stopped altogether in this management too.
As luck would have it both managements focused on accountability and discipline especially amongst the ranks reducing union interventionism, automation and ensuring “no meddling” in duty rosters of the crew. Cyan management was the first to terminate an instructor Captain for allowing a Chinese lady into the cockpit, while the Air Force team sent over a 1,000 employees with fake degrees packing home to roost.
I believe I am not alone in noticing this. I ask that shouldn’t both regimes be given the credit for stomping out this deadly pandemic trade. Kudos to Cyan and Air Marshal Malik. If both aren’t given credit for any achievement in their turnaround efforts, the very least both should be pinned with medals on their chest for this daunting and perilous task. The Chief Justice should consider this aspect before a judgment is made and perhaps “undo” wrong of the past.