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PML-N senator wants probe into PIA plane controversy

Updated 29 Nov, 2021
A PIA spokesman denies such reports that the aircraft had been rendered useless. Photo: File
A PIA spokesman denies such reports that the aircraft had been rendered useless. Photo: File

Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) Senator Afnanullah Khan has decided to raise the matter of the grounding of a Boeing aircraft by the Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) after it was damaged during an anti-hijacking drill by the law enforcement agencies, Dawn reported.

The story, which was filed by Amir Wasim from Islamabad, quotes the PML-N senator as saying that he had already asked the Senate Standing Committee on Aviation Chairman Hidayatullah to take up the matter for investigation. Khan told the newspaper he would formally write a letter to the committee chairman.

Through the letter, Senator Khan added he would explain the issue to the committee chairman, requesting him to summon the high-ups of PIA and the ASF. The opposition members in the committee would also request for a subcommittee to hold a thorough investigation, he claimed.

The PML-N senator said PIA’s Boeing 777-200 LR with the registration number AP-BGL had been parked at a storage facility in Karachi for almost two years. “The aircraft that cost over $300 million to the national exchequer has not been able to fly because of the damage caused during the drill by the law enforcement agencies when an ASF truck had hit it with full force,” he added.

He said the PIA management had initially denied any “wrongdoing” but later confirmed the drill and that the plane had been damaged.

Last month, a recently retired PIA pilot, Mumtaz Hussain, had filed a petition in the LHC on the matter. On October 25, Justice Tariq Nadeem directed the deputy attorney general “to procure a reply and para-wise comments from the PIA chief executive officer”.

The next date of case hearing is November 30 (today).

In his petition filed under Article 199 of the Constitution, the pilot urged the court to pass an “appropriate direction” for the CAA to allow inspection of the aircraft and provide information about its airworthiness.

The petitioner also sought “to initiate criminal proceedings against those who are responsible for the damage of the PIA aircraft Boeing 777-200 registration number AP-BGL”.

He claimed that the CAA had grounded the aircraft due to lack of airworthiness and the aircraft was parked at Jinnah Terminal, thus causing “millions of rupees loss to the airline and national treasure”.

Hussain also attached a complete list of technical defects in the aircraft as “reflected by the engineering department”. According to the petition, the aircraft had not flown since March 2020 “whereas in February, it took 69 flights”.

The 329-seater plane had made the first flight in March 2004.

Talking to the newspaper, counsel for the petitioner Nabeel Javed Kahloon said they would submit another application to the court today (Monday) and request it to constitute a high-level commission of technical experts to inspect the aircraft and submit a complete investigation report to the court.

Through the supplementary application, Kahloon said, they would also urge the court to direct the CAA to take the aircraft’s custody from PIA under Section 272 of the Civil Aviation Rules 1994 so that no one could tamper with the evidence.

PIA spokesperson

A PIA spokesman, however, denied such reports that the aircraft had been rendered useless.

In a statement, he admitted that the aircraft was “partially damaged” during an anti-hijacking drill, but claimed that the damage had been repaired.

“The plane is parked at the long storage,” he said, “The aircraft is parked at the long storage as the use of Boeing 777 had been decreased due to travelling curbs in the wake of Covid-19.”

He said the plane would be made operational when travel restrictions would be lifted. The use of Boeing aircraft would increase after the decision of Saudi Arabia to allow direct flights from Pakistan, he said, adding that the aircraft would be made operational as soon as the flights on long routes resumed.