Pakistan started contacting with UK and Europe to shelve the ban PIA disallowed the service for 6 months

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Nation special report

LONDON: Following the unprecedented ban by the UK and Europe, Pakistan has started contacting these countries in a bid to remove the blockade which has been experienced for the first time in history of the airline.

A spokesman for the PIA confirmed in Karachi that the PIA administration, Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Pakistani diplomats were in constant contact with European authorities over the matter. 

European Union had allowed the Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) to operate flights to and from Europe till Friday (July 3) and the last PIA flight was scheduled to take-off from Manchester Airport on Thursday.

The spokesperson added that the foreign secretary had contacted European diplomats on an urgent basis after which the national flag carrier was allowed to land in Britain, Europe and fly over them as well. 

Federal Minister Zulfiqar Bukhari has reportedly reached Paris on Thursday to discuss the issue with the relevant authorities.

It is pertinent to mention here that following  the ban on Pakistan’s national carrier PIA by European Union Air Safety Agency’s (EASA) on Tuesday, the UK Civil Aviation Authority said the same day that it was withdrawing the Pakistan International Airlines’ (PIA) permit to operate from three of its airports, as required under the law.

“PIA flights from Birmingham, London Heathrow and Manchester airports are suspended with immediate effect,” a spokesman for the UK authority said. The three were major flying destinations for the airline.

The EASA decision to suspend the airline’s operations will be applied in bloc for the next six months. The developments follow the grounding of 262 pilots whose licences Aviation Minister Ghulam Sarwar Khan termed “dubious”.

Earlier on Tuesday, PIA admitted in a press release that EASA had suspended the airline’s authorisation to operate in the bloc for six months. “EASA has temporarily suspended PIA’s authorisation to operate to the EU member states for a period of 6 months effective July 1, 2020, with the right to appeal against this decision,” a PIA statement said. It added that PIA would discontinue all its flights to European countries temporarily.

All passengers booked on its flights to European destinations will have the option to either extend their bookings to a later date or get a full refund.

PIA said it would temporarily discontinue all its flights to Europe but later said it received a two-day relief with landing permission in Europe and Britain granted from July 1 to July 3. PIA is also allowed over flying until further order, the national flag carrier’s spokesman said.

Airline spokesman Abdullah Hafeez said the extension in flight operations was granted by the EU after the foreign secretary contacted the European authorities. He said the PIA management; Foreign Office and Pakistani ambassadors were all in contact with European officials.

He told media that PIA would operate its flight PK-785 and PK-786 as per previous schedule. However, the schedule of other flights would be announced later. The PIA had already written to foreign missions and global regulatory and safety bodies, assuring them it had taken stringent steps for the safety of passengers and grounded “105 pilots” suspected of obtaining licenses through unfair means.

Dubious pilots

Meanwhile, Pakistani pilots and their union, the Pakistan Airlines Pilots Association (Palpa), say there are discrepancies in the government’s list of pilots with licences deemed dubious and are demanding a judicial investigation.

The PIA said the list showed discrepancies once the airlines received it. Thirty-six of the 141 had either retired or moved out, it said. Air Blue said seven of the pilots on the list no longer worked for the airline. “It contains names of highly educated and qualified pilots who have passed all the tests,” “We want a fair and impartial resolution to this matter,” said Palpa’s president Chaudhry Salman.

Pakistan aviation ministry official Abdul Sattar Khokhar said it did not have full details of the discrepancies and “the issue is being sorted out in consultation with airlines and civil aviation authorities”.

Aviation Minister Ghulam Sarwar Khan’s announcement last week of the grounding of 262 airline pilots suspected of dodging their exams had caused global concern. The minister said the pilots included 141 from PIA, nine from Air Blue, 10 from Serene Air, and 17 from Shaheen Airlines.

LAHORE: All hopes of getting release of Mir Shakilur Rehman from the clutches of National Accountability Bureau (NAB) were dashed on Friday when NAB filed a reference in an accountability court in an illegal plot allotment case, the official news agency APP has reported.

Mir Shakil, the media tycoon in Pakistan, was arrested on March 12 and has spent 107 days till today in custody and has been imprisoned in Kot Lakhpat Jail, Lahore, the provincial capital of Punjab.

Besides, Mir Shakil, former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, former Lahore Development Authority (LDA) director general Humayun Faiz and former director Land Development Mian Bashir Ahmed have also been named in the Rs143.5 million reference. The court will hear the matter on June 29.

NAB has alleged that Mir Shakil obtained illegal exemption of 54 plots of one-kanal each in Johar Town Lahore, with the connivance of Nawaz Sharif, the then chief minister of Punjab, in violation of the exemption policy in 1986.

It is pertinent to mention here that Mir Shakil’s bail petition is pending before the Lahore High Court and a division bench will hear it on July 7.The LHC had previously rejected two petitions filed by Mir Shakil and his wife challenging the arrest and physical remand of Mir Shakil.

He has been alleged having managed to get unlimited amount of money from foreign countries including Dfid (Britain) and Voice of America (USA) in the name of promotion of education and basic amenities to deserving sections of population in Pakistan but never delivered the goods and spent the unprecedented amount on his own empire to become media tycoon. According to informed sources; a separate case is expected to be registered against Mir Shakil for allegedly receiving foreign funds.

Meanwhile, a division bench of the Lahore High Court (LHC) on Monday adjourned the hearing of Jang-Geo Editor-in-Chief Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman’s post-arrest bail petition in a 34-year-old property case till July 7.