ISLAMABAD - Air Marshal (r) Rao Qamar Suleman has been appointed as the Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) managing director (MD) less than a week after he relinquished the charge of Pakistan Air Force chief, in a development that has negated his elevation to the Board of Directors (BoD) chairman of the state-run airline due to some reported legal hitches.
Rao has replaced Captain Nadeem Yousufzai who has been reappointed as Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) director general (DG). Yousufzai, who has replaced Air Marshal (r) Khalid Chaudhry, was the aviation body’s chief till he was placed as the PIA MD after protest by Pakistan Airlines Pilots Association (Palpa) led to the ouster of the then MD Ijaz Haroon last year.
Air Marshal (r) Chaudhry is on an official visit to China. He did not respond to repeated calls and text message dropped at his cell, while Yousufzai was also not available for his comments.
CAA General Manager Public Relations Pervaiz George, when approached, said he was unaware about any reported change in the CAA top hierarchy, while citing a long weekend as an excuse.
Sources in PIA confirmed to this newspaper having unofficially been communicated about Rao’s appointment.
The government was reportedly mulling over appointing Rao as PIA BoD chairman till the stay granted by Islamabad High Court (IHC) against the appointment of new secretary defence was vacated, in order to get Rao elevated as the secretary defence. However, as reported in this paper last Tuesday, the portfolio of BoD chairman by default rests with the defence minister and could only be assigned to any other if endorsed by the BoD.
The board’s meeting was not likely before next month while its endorsement for Rao’s appointment as chairman seemed difficult due to the unavailability of some of the members.
A BoD member requesting anonymity confirmed the chances of the b taking key organisational decisions in the next month’s expected meeting were very slim as four of its members had engagements abroad.
“The meeting is not likely to arrive at major decisions. Even the future of this particular meeting has landed in uncertainty due to the probable unavailability of some of its members,” he added.
Some days back, Defence Minister Chaudhry Ahmad Mukhtar had told The Nation that he would relinquish the charge as PIA BoD chairman, while appearing to impliedly hinting at the probable elevation of Rao .
However, Mukhtar had cited his extensive occupational engagements as an explanation.
Following these constraints, the Ministry of Defence, with the reported approval of Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani, appointed Rao as the PIA MD.
Earlier, Yousufzai was likely to be replaced by a serving PAF commodore, who attaints the position of director at a PAF offshoot. He is reported to have been enjoying close association with Rao . Moreover, Rao has reportedly brought with him a large team of retired and serving PAF officers for deputation appointments and regular inductions in the airline that already faces fiscal losses calculated in billions. This has not boded well with the PIA personnel and the PIA Action Committee has voiced serious reservations over the development.
Reportedly, Yousufzai is not happy over his removal that came at a time when PIA was under immense criticism for operational lapses pertaining to flight safety. Although, the government gurus’ decision to replace Rao with Yousufzai was pre-planned, the suspension of PIA safety licence by European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) proved as an excuse.
Amraiz Khan adds from Lahore: Talking about current financial status, an aviation expert said it would be a challenging job for the new MD since the accumulated losses of PIA from Sept 30, 2011 had hiked to Rs 111.543 billion. When the PPP government took over, the figures stood at Rs 42.416 billion, he added.