Pakistan opens criminal probes into 50 pilots, 5 civil aviation officials

Pakistan has opened criminal investigations into 50 pilots and at least five civil aviation officials who allegedly helped them falsify credentials to secure licenses. (File/Reuters)
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Updated 16 September 2020

Pakistan opens criminal probes into 50 pilots, 5 civil aviation officials

  • The probes come roughly three months after Pakistan grounded dozens of pilots over allegedly dubious qualifications
  • The pilot scandal has tainted Pakistan’s aviation industry and especially flag carrier Pakistan International Airlines

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan has opened criminal investigations into 50 pilots and at least five civil aviation officials who allegedly helped them falsify credentials to secure licenses, according to two senior government sources and cabinet meeting minutes seen by Reuters.
The probes come roughly three months after Pakistan grounded dozens of pilots over allegedly dubious qualifications. At the time, the civil aviation regulator said it would conduct a detailed investigation into the scandal.
On the government’s orders, Pakistan’s Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) has launched criminal probes into the matter, according to minutes from Tuesday’s cabinet meeting and the sources, who declined to be named because the discussions are private.
A show-cause notice served to one of the pilots and seen by Reuters said the FIA was investigating “alleged corruption, violations, malpractices in (the) issuance of flight crew licenses.”
Munir Ahmed Shaikh, a senior FIA official, confirmed that a probe into the matter was ongoing, but declined to comment any further. The civil aviation ministry declined to comment until the government makes the matter public.
The ministry submitted the findings of its inquiry to the cabinet chaired by Prime Minister Imran Khan on Tuesday, said the sources, adding that another 32 pilots have separately been suspended for a year.
“The cabinet was told that FIA has opened proceedings into the pilots whose licenses were revoked, and the civil aviation officials who connived with them,” said the minutes from the meeting seen by Reuters.
The pilot scandal has tainted Pakistan’s aviation industry and especially flag carrier Pakistan International Airlines (PIA), which has been barred from flying to Europe and the United States after dozens of its pilots were named in the initial list of 262 with allegedly “dubious” licenses.
That list had been made public after an initial probe into a PIA plane crash in Karachi in May found that the pilots did not follow standard procedures and disregarded alarms.
The initial list sparked controversy however, as PIA and the local pilot’s association noted that many of the pilots named had long since retired and some were even deceased.
Reuters was unable to establish whether the remaining 180 pilots on the initial list were still under investigation or if they had been cleared of any wrongdoing.
A spokesman for PALPA, the local pilots’ association, said it had no clarity on the status of the probe. A spokesman for PIA said the airline was awaiting details.

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Britain’s COVID testing buckles, pressuring government

Updated 17 September 2020

Britain’s COVID testing buckles, pressuring government

  • Approval of his government’s handling of the crisis fell to its lowest recorded by pollster YouGov, with 63% viewing it badly
  • Ministers have acknowledged that many families are unable to get tests or were offered them only at remote locations

LONDON: Britain’s government acknowledged problems in its COVID-19 testing system on Thursday as soaring demand met with worsening turnaround times and availability during a spike in infections.
Only 14% of test results in England came back in 24 hours last week, a sharp fall from 32% the week before, data showed.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s government is under pressure over what it had said would be a “world-beating” system to test and trace cases so as to avoid a second wave.
Approval of his government’s handling of the crisis fell to its lowest recorded by pollster YouGov, with 63% viewing it badly.
“There’s a challenge in testing,” UK health minister Matt Hancock said. “The challenge is that demand has gone up faster.”
Johnson acknowledged on Wednesday that there was not enough capacity and said he was aiming for 500,000 daily tests by the end of October.
“I am certain that we will need more as we go beyond the end of October,” Dido Harding, interim chair of the new National Institute for Health Protection, told lawmakers, noting two new labs would be set up.
Ministers have acknowledged that many families are unable to get tests or were offered them only at remote locations.
Harding said 27% of people getting tests did not have symptoms, and health minister Hancock pointed a finger at people sometimes going without good reason.
“It is incredibly important that those with symptoms come forward, and that those without symptoms do not,” Hancock said.
Cases are sharply increasing, with many children, parents and workers fretting whether or not they can safely return to school or the office.
Paul Reid, Chief Executive of Ireland’s Health Service Executive, said England’s system was “almost in collapse” and UK officials had asked him for help.
The national Test and Trace scheme said there had been a 167% increase in numbers testing positive in England since the end of August.
There were 3,395 new cases of COVID-19 reported on Thursday, while Wednesday saw the highest daily number since May, although many more tests are being carried out.
There were 236,219 tests processed in the latest daily figures, compared to around 70,000 in early May.
In total, 381,614 people have tested positive for COVID-19 in Britain, and there have been 41,705 deaths within 28 days of a positive test.