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Daily Time Editorial 4 July 2020

PIA downgraded

 

Now that PIA (Pakistan International Airlines) has been downgraded from a three-star to one-star airline by top rating website AirlineRatings.com, perhaps the government will see the error in its decision to make the issue about fake licenses public in the way that it did. For some reason the ruling party is trying to make it an issue about honesty and transparency, which of course enables it to shift a lot of blame for a lot of things on previous governments as usual, but in reality this is a very different matter. They could still have been honest and transparent if they had undertaken all investigation, filtered out all pilots who did indeed have fake licenses, and then gone to the public with the whole thing. That would not only have ensured transparency, honesty and all that but also that the country and airline would continue to be trusted across the world.
Now, in addition to the EU, UK, UAE and Vietnam, Malaysia has also decided to ground all Pakistani pilots operating there till their licenses can be verified. And the treatment that the country, its general lack of honesty in dealings and especially the fake flying licenses are getting on international media is another matter altogether. It is not surprising at all, in light of all these things, that the national flag carrier has been downgraded. This is the last thing it needed considering how badly its finances were already being managed. Now, it is sure to take another big hit which will leave the government scratching its head all over again. Yet, even though some ministers did not think that it was the right thing to do to go public like the aviation minister did in the national assembly recently, and said so much in a federal cabinet meeting, the government’s official stance is still that it acted perfectly.
Somebody in the government should now explain that if they were right, and transparency was more important than anything else, then why is PIA being made to pay for something that is not its fault at all. After all, it is not the airline that grants licenses. It is yet another tragedy that such important things are regularly mishandled and then rather quickly all energy is put into a needless blame game that benefits nobody; especially not large public organisations in desperate need of good management. Now the matter of PIA’s privatisation will also no doubt be affected. This particular incident has only added to everybody’s problems, including the government’s. *

 
 

Yet another train accident

 

Clearly train accidents have become far too common, with 20 more people getting killed on Friday after a Karachi-Lahore express train rammed into a coaster carrying Sikh pilgrims near Sheikhupura, killing 20 at the spot which included women and children. Since the accident took place at an unmanned level crossing it is going to be considered the fault of the driver of the vehicle, as is very often the case, for trying to get across in a hurry. But since this is also one of many such accidents, it raises a number of questions. And a very important one that always goes unanswered is just why are these crossings still unmanned considering the high number of incidents that regularly take place there?
Also, as usual, the government is going to make sure that Pakistan Railways’ “operational safety SOPs (Standard Operating Procedures) will be reviewed immediately,” said the prime minister himself. But how many times have we heard and seen all this before? There is a lot of activity after an accident takes place, promises are made and orders are given, yet nothing happens till the next tragedy, when the same cycle plays out again. This government promised to do some of these things differently. Yet so far there has been nothing to differentiate it from others, especially in the way large loss making government departments are run. Some statistics are truly shocking. Last year, for example, over 100 train related incidents, including fatal accidents, were reported, in addition to 111 reports of engine failure in the first five months alone. And even though the same promises were made each time, nothing has so far been done to make sure that such accidents are not so commonplace anymore.
Also, PTI (Pakistan Tehreek e Insaf) has only itself to blame for all the calls that it is receiving for the railways minister, a very important ally, to step down. Wasn’t it the ruling party that said so loudly, in its 20-plus years in the opposition, that railways ministers must always resign whenever there is an accident anywhere in the country, for whatever reason? Didn’t they also say, especially Prime Minister Imran Khan, that such show of responsibility is actually what sets sincere leaders apart from corrupt ones? Yet here we stand, with accident after accident and no resignations yet; not even much coming from all the tall promises of reforms, etc. *
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