Mr Khan’s questionable claims
- And a foot-in-mouth remark
It was a good thing that Prime Minister Imran Khan came to address the National Assembly. The bad thing was that as usual he left soon after without listening to the opposition.
In his speech Mr Khan justified his government’s coronavirus policy, tried to negate the notion of his being vindictive and maintained that his foreign policy had helped Pakistan.
The PM has obstinately stuck to his opposition to the lockdown ignoring warnings from WHO that two weeks back ranked Pakistan among the top 10 countries in the world reporting the highest number of new Covid-19 cases. The PTI government also ignored WHO,advice to enhance daily testing capacity to 50,000 to assess the actual incidence of the disease. Last week, when the number of cases came down due to a reduction in tests, this was wrongly ascribed to smart lockdowns and the people developing herd immunity. The hollowness of the claims became clear on Thursday when with the numbers started increasing once again and with 4,044 additions, Pakistan’s tally of coronavirus infections reached 191,970. Meanwhile the daily fatality count shot up to 148 from 60 a day earlier. The inflexibility on the part of the PM on the issue could lead to tragic consequences.
The PM claimed he had no enmity with anyone and most of the cases against his opponents were filed before his assumption of the PM’s office. The claim sounds hollow keeping in view what he told a rally in Washington last year, the way he castigated NAB for being slow in sentencing his political opponents, and the way PNL(N) Punjab President Rana Sanaullah was arrested in a narcotics case. The unending media trial of the opposition leaders conducted by the ARU chief Shahzad Akbar is yet another example of the PM’s animus against the opposition.
The claim that his government’s relations with the USA are based on trust is belied by the USA’s annual report on terrorism for 2019 which alleges that Pakistan allows terrorist groups targeting Afghanistan and India to operate from its territory. The PM’s naivety is likely to cost Pakistan heavily, particularly after he declared the arch terrorist Osama Ben Laden a “martyr.” The remark showing a soft corner for terrorists will not go unnoticed in the Western countries, China and the brotherly Muslim states.
- PIA pilots with dodgy credentials cause international consternation
That no less than 152 PIA pilots had dodgy flying licenses would indicate that PIA CEO Air Marshal Arshad Malik’s action, of requesting to be provided the names so that the offending pilots could be grounded, is correct. Indeed, the grounding of all such pilots is a bare minimum, especially in view of the notice being taken internationally. The International Association of Travel Agents has taken notice of this problem, which has the potential of ballooning into an international incident, with just one foreign civil aviation regulator refusing a pilot permission to land or take off, because it did not accept his license, possibly setting off a chain of events that could leave PIA flights cancelled.
This situation has developed because of the discovery by the Aviation Minister, Ghulam Sarwar Khan, that the Civil Aviation Authority had found PIA pilots in large numbers with problems with their licenses, including having impersonators appear for them in professional examinations. This emerged in the course of investigations into the recent PIA plane crash at Karachi. It was perhaps unfortunate that pilot and co-pilot of that ill-fated flight have been damned by association. If the license of either was dubious, that should have been stated; if not, that should have been stated openly.
This occurring during the pandemic-induced downturn in commercial flying is a blessing rather than a curse, because it means that PIA would be cancelling flights anyhow, so there would be that much less temptation to keep unlicensed pilots flying. However, two issues must be resolved. PIA would look to recruit new pilots, and the tendency to look to retired PAF personnel must be resisted. While that resource should not be neglected, it should not be allowed to take over, as it well might, what with a serving air marshal PIA’s CEO. Also, there is something seriously flawed with the licensing system. The accomplices of the pilots with dodgy licenses must be traced, exposed and punished. Otherwise the kind of disgrace not just pilots, but the entire nation, are facing, will be repeated, not to mention the hundreds of passengers put at risk in the aircraft they flew.
Published in PakistanToday, June 27, 2020