PIA- My voice for victims and families | Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf
PIA Insaf Blog Andleeb Abbas



I write this article not as a journalist, nor as a parent, nor as an analyst, nor as a politician but as a human being - as this story of institutional destruction is about being inhuman, indifferent, heartless and conscienceless. Just consider the following- this is the fourth crash in ten years by Pakistani airlines killing hundreds of innocent people and destroying thousands of lives of families and friends associated with them. General reaction of pundits, analysts, politicians, media-"Look at the international embarrassment being caused by this news, PIA and Pakistan's image has been destroyed". Their twitter and social media accounts are full of clips of other countries and airlines warning or reviewing contracts of pilots hired with suspicious credentials from PIA. The media/analysts are touting this as an image destroyer, the politicians describing it as a policy disaster.

The crash was shocking. But the reaction of the pundits/analysts and twitter "experts" on this report being made public is stunning, disturbing, mindboggling and heart wrenching. That is why despite being part of the journalistic and political community I am raising voice for those whose loved ones blood is on each one who chooses to suppress, euphemize, dimplomatize the series of fatalities that keep on happening episode after episode in a serial killer fashion. Four crashes in ten years is due to the stifling of the truth by these so-called pundits whose choice of crying out about the incompetent government "defaming our own institutions" Vs destroying the lives of thousands is just sheer callousness.

My voice is with all the victims and their families. For a few minutes empathize-A father who has lost a young beautiful family; or a son who has lost parents who were coming to celebrate Eid; or a family of four who were looking forward to meet their grandparents. How would they feel if the enquiry is promised but not held as has been the tradition? How would they feel if an enquiry is done but not shared or partially shared to "save the repute of the organization"? How would they feel if an enquiry is shared but not acted upon? And the main question-How would we feel if one of our/pundits' loved ones was in one of these crashes? Would they take to the social media and say "yes, it is tragic that my loved one died in it but how stupid to make this report public causing harm and damage to the future of pilots and the image of the country,". That is the moment of truth. Some affected families are asking, "Will all those who are blasting the government on the undiplomatic and blatant handling of this report feel the same if their son or brother or mother was a victim of that crash?" That is a question each one needs to ask ourselves before we go on our click and kill routine.

When you hide mistakes, they get repeated, they become infested vertically and horizontally, and finally they become fatal. That is what has happened to institutions in Pakistan. PIA is just one sample of this institutional destruction. Post-Musharraf era PIA has always been in heavy losses, debts, damages and deficits. Numbers are abundantly available. Rs 500 billion accumulated losses and liabilities, poor service, caught with heroin smuggling in the roof of the plane, safety warnings by many international agencies etc. Nothing changed. Why? The answer is the age-old desire for our governments to treat these institutions as vehicles of corruption, payoffs, family placements, buy offs, and personal properties to be used and abused as desired. PIA is an example of all this and more. Institutions are made or destroyed on five factors, i.e., leadership, merit, performance, culture and accountability

Nepotism - The report reveals that most of these fake licence/degree pilots were hired between the period of 2010 to 2018 by both PPP and PMLN. That was because the people who hired them were also without genuine credentials. Who hired those whose own credentials were suspect? The Prime Ministers themselves. During PML-N's tenure both the people leading PIA and CAA were non-qualified. In 2014, a German, Bernd Hildenbrand, was appointed as CEO who was not even a graduate. He was responsible for the theft of a PIA plane that went missing and was later found in a German museum. On uproar in the media he was removed and his name was put on ECL. The Minister of State at that time allowed him to escape the country despite his name being on the ECL-thus the fake degrees and rule violation was led, aided and abetted by the top.

Sale of Merit - All important institutions and posts were given to people who were not on merit. Shujaat Azeem was appointed as Advisor on Civil Aviation to the Prime minister. He was removed by the Supreme Court as he had been court martialed from PAF. He was also a shareholder of the Royal Air Services which was awarded a contract by CAA. Thus the issuance of fake licenses and the license to fly despite risking lives of the passengers was a practice allowed by people whose own credentials included being court martialed by the Air Force.

Performance on quid pro quo - Even when competent people from private sector were hired they could not survive. Tariq Kirmani, a very seasoned competent private sector CEO, was hired. He instituted strict performance appraisal for employees. They say he was shocked to see that nearly 90% appraisals of employees were either Excellent or Very Good. When he asked people how come majority have performed excellently while the airline has performed terribly his fate was sealed. He did not last too long.

Culture of disengagement - PIA, which had set standards for 36 airlines was turned into a sorry dumping ground for all political appointees. During PPP's tenure, more than 1,000 people were hired despite a ban on recruitments. Many were ghost workers who collected salaries and hardly came to work. As people hired knew that they will be paid regardless, service levels and performance nosedived.

 No Accountability  - 
Four accidents in 10 years and no accountability. No independent enquiries were made and nobody was punished. Air Blue crash enquiry never came to surface as it was owned by the ex Prime minister Khaqan Abbasi. Thus airlines continued to make errors that led to killing hundreds of lives, creating miseries for thousands and shaming the name of the country and the institution.

What can be more telling than the comment by Senator Mushahidullah khan who heads the Senate Standing Committee on Aviation. He remarked "No one should be rendered unemployed for having a fake degree," he said, adding that "those deprived of their jobs would lose their livelihoods." And that is my question - Losing your loved ones Vs losing jobs of dishonest employees? While innocent people are being killed, a Senator is asking that those who have cheated, deceived, lied, misled, and may have killed hundreds should "not to be fired from their jobs"?

Final questions to all the analysts, experts, and opinion makers," Do you make an institution when you hide its errors that have resulted in killing hundreds of lives or vice versa? When they say this report should have been shared more discreetly, the question is can any report and enquiry ever be hidden from the world in this viral social media share era? Can you as a human being ever justify cover-ups, sugar coating of facts that have and will lead to more crashes? If your answer is in the affirmative, ask any parent or child who has lost a loved one in these accidents. For once let us leave our positions, our prejudices, our backgrounds, our biases, politics, economics, and, just be human.