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Malaysia reinstates Pakistani pilots after verifying licences

Malaysia has verified that all Pakistani pilots currently employed in the country hold valid licences and it has reinstated them with immediate effect, its aviation regulator said in a statement on Thursday.

The pilots were suspended earlier this month after authorities in Pakistan discovered that up to a third of the country’s pilots may have falsified their qualifications.

The Civil Aviation Authority of Malaysia said 18 Pakistani pilot licence holders in Malaysia were verified by the Pakistan Civil Aviation Authority.

Last week, the Vietnamese government said that all Pakistani pilots working for the country’s airlines had valid and legitimate licences and none of them have been involved in a flight incident or safety threat.

Vietnam had also grounded all Pakistanis flying for local airlines in the wake of Aviation Minister Ghulam Sarwar’s revelation that nearly a third of the country’s pilots had dubious credentials.

“All licenses administered by the Pakistani aviation regulator are legitimate and valid. There are no fake licenses, as mentioned by the media,” read a statement issued by the Vietnamese government statement, citing a note from the Pakistani Embassy.

Vietnam had licensed 27 Pakistani pilots and 12 of them were still active.

The contracts of 15 other pilots had expired or were inactive due to the coronavirus pandemic, according to Vietnam’s Civil Aviation Authority.

Last month, the aviation minister told parliament that 262 pilots of the total 860 in the country had “suspicious flying licences” and would be grounded immediately.

Later, PIA announced that it will ground a third of its 434 pilots on suspicion that they held “dubious” licences and flying certificates.

Sarwar said criminal proceedings would also be initiated against pilots with the alleged fake licences as the government could not allow anyone to put the lives of its citizens at risk.

The development came as an inquiry into a PIA crash in May, in which 97 people were killed, pointed to pilots not following procedures.

The CAA informed its Omani counterpart that all commercial pilot licences (CPL) and ATPLs it had issued were “genuine” and the matter of dubious credentials had been “incorrectly highlighted” by mainstream and social media.

The regulatory body also said it had verified and cleared the licences of 96 pilots of the 104 names it had received from various foreign counterparts and international airlines.

The CAA had also announced that it had cleared the licences of 21 Pakistanis flying for different foreign airlines. The 21 pilots included 18 working with Oman’s SalamAir and three with Hong Kong Airlines.

The civil aviation authorities of Oman and Hong Kong had requested the CAA to verify the credentials of the Pakistani pilots working with these airlines.

The regulatory body had also verified the licences of 48 of the 54 Pakistani pilots working in the UAE.

According to the Aviation Division, it has cleared licences of 95% Pakistani pilots working with different airlines in seven countries.

Ethiopian Airlines had also sought an explanation from Pakistan.

The PIA suffered a major blow when the European Union Air Safety Agency (EASA) suspended the national carrier’s authorisation to operate in EU member states for six months expressing concerns over the minister’s statement.

Following the EASA’s move, the UK Civil Aviation Authority said it was withdrawing PIA’s permit to operate from three of its airports. “PIA flights from Birmingham, London Heathrow and Manchester airports are suspended with immediate effect,” a spokesperson for the authority told Reuters. The three were major flying destinations for the airline.

Later, the United States also imposed a ban on flights of the national flag carrier for six months citing dubious licences.

The PIA was operating 23 flights to UK every week – nine to London, 10 to Manchester and four to Birmingham.

The national carrier’s destinations in Europe included Paris, Milan, Barcelona, Oslo and Copenhagen.

The airline will incur a loss of Rs33 billion because of the ban. It is already facing loss of Rs12 billion because it will not be operating Hajj flights this year. The suspension of flights for Umrah passengers has also affected its revenue.

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