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CAA’s Mismanagement in Key Appointment Raises Concerns Amidst Aviation Industry Crisis

KARACHI: In a worrying development, it has been revealed that the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) has seemingly refused to learn from the fake licenses scandal and has been involved in mismanagement regarding the key appointment for the post of Additional Director Aero Medical.

The doctors appointed to this post are responsible for fulfilling their duties as Flight Surgeons and Medical Assessors, responsible for declaring commercial pilots “fit” to fly aircraft. Any wrong appointment can lead to serious concerns regarding pilots’ medical fitness.

This disclosure comes as the country’s aviation industry has not yet fully recovered from the 2020 fake licenses scandal. The scandal resulted in European authorities banning the operation of Pakistani airlines in July 2020 after it came to light that pilots possessed “fake” licenses, as stated by then-aviation minister Ghulam Sarwar.

The startling revelations came as the aviation minister presented the interim report on the probe into the Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) flight PK-8303 crash, which resulted in the deaths of 85 passengers after the plane crashed in Karachi on May 22, 2020.

Last month, sources informed that the PIA would have to wait further to resume its operations in European countries as the European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) extended its ban on the national carrier. The commission, responding to the report submitted by Pakistani officials on May 31, called on Islamabad to appoint officers with professional qualifications in civil aviation.

The report revealed that the four-year ban was imposed due to the non-seriousness of the CAA. Sources have warned that the non-resumption of flights to European countries may negatively affect PIA’s privatization.

However, the CAA has been involved in grave irregularities in the key appointment of Additional Director Aero Medical. It has come to light that the doctor who recently vacated the office suffered from hearing impairment and was ironically responsible for assessing pilots’ hearing ability. The doctor was appointed due to “favoritism” despite the Human Resource (HR) department’s reservations. Additionally, CAA sources say the official was sent abroad, and another physically fit doctor was presented in his place before the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) during last year’s audit-related visit to Pakistan.

The CAA has now appointed Dr. Ahreema Badar in his place. However, she is unqualified for the post as she lacks the required experience and academic credentials recognized by the Higher Education Commission (HEC). Dr. Badar does not possess an Aerospace Medicine Diploma from the country’s sole ICAO-recognized Aero Medical Institute at Karachi’s Pakistan Airforce Base Masroor. Instead, she completed her diploma in Aerospace Medicine from a university whose course isn’t recognized by the HEC and has since stopped offering the program.

Dr. Badar’s resume indicates no experience in medical assessment of pilots, which contrasts with ICAO’s mandatory experience requirements. Sources say she doesn’t fulfill the criteria laid out in Document 8984. Additionally, during ICAO’s audit-related visit last month, the CAA repeated its previous misconduct and presented another lady doctor instead of Dr. Badar, who has since resumed her responsibilities as Additional Director Aero Medical.

When inquired about the issue, CAA officials maintained that appointments in the regulatory authority were made purely on merit, following a strict and transparent procedure focusing on candidates’ eligibility, experience, skills, and suitability. However, they gave no response regarding Dr. Badar’s lack of experience in assessing pilots.

The startling revelations have unearthed harrowing mismanagement within the CAA and raised serious concerns among the country’s commercial pilots. They worry that the licenses of Pakistani pilots might again be subjected to severe scrutiny and skepticism if the issue comes to the attention of international organizations. This development has intensified the already precarious situation of Pakistan’s aviation industry.

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I am an accomplished graduate of Strategic Studies, driven by a fervent dedication to comprehending global affairs and devising impactful strategies. Equipped with a comprehensive skill set encompassing research, critical thinking, and persuasive communication, I possess a distinctive viewpoint and an unwavering commitment to fostering inclusive decision-making processes. As a versatile individual, I excel in collaborating with diverse groups in various settings, leveraging my strong interpersonal abilities to adapt seamlessly to new environments and surmount any challenges that arise. With a passion for contributing to strategic initiatives, I am eager to leverage my expertise and drive to effect positive change within the field.

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