ISLAMABAD – As the Supreme Court is to hear today (Tuesday) a petition regarding corruption and misconduct in the PIA, the national airline on Monday submitted reasons of last 20 years’ losses and mismanagement.

PML-N leaders Iqbal Zafar Jhagra and Marvi Memon had last year moved the apex court seeking direction to investigate in depth the affairs of the PIA (Pakistan International Airline) to identify corruption, mismanagement, inefficiencies and cancellation of huge number of flights.

As per the PIA reply said it operates 37 international and 24 domestic destinations; and during the last ten years, the airline suffered a total loss of Rs119.84 billion. It said presently 17,227 employees are serving in PIA who draw a total monthly salary of Rs1.16 billion, 12 percent of the earned revenue of 2011. Total number of aircraft in fleet of PIA is 38 and the ratio of number of employees to each aircraft is 453, it added.

The PIA also gave details of all the 31 air accidents it encountered. Besides technical reasons, large number of delays in PIA flights is due to colliding of bird strikes, which were 67 in 2011. This high rate of bird bumping with planes is due to housing colonies and resultant garbage dumps around the airport, the report said. It said out of total 10 aircraft grounded due to an incident/accident such as bird hit, only seven are unscheduled, while two aircrafts have been permanently grounded as per decision of PIA board of directors.

The PIA also complained in its reply that Pakistan has been liberal in granting traffic rights, while the advanced and economically developed nations have been protective about their markets and have been denying PIA the opportunity to increase frequencies, only to protect their own economy and their own airlines. PIA put examples of other countries protecting their local aviation industry as Japan, South Korea, Canada, Ireland, France, South Africa, Hong Kong and Qatar.

It said that due to this ‘unilateral liberal freedom’ granted to the foreign airlines, around more than seven million passengers from the years 2009 to 2012 travelled through the foreign airlines operating in Pakistan. Majority of these passengers were not travelling from Pakistan to the origin of those airlines but they were being carried to other destinations such as UK, USA where PIA is having direct flights from Pakistan. This engulfed PIA's share of more than Rs150 billion in three years.

The present management of PIA claimed that it was conducting a forensic audit, implementing observations of PAC and MoU with Transparency International, and has constituted a top-level accountability committee for betterment. Elaborating reasons for past deficit and present management's efforts to cope with the current challenges, the report gave a comparison between profit and losses since 1991 to 2012.

During the proceeding of Reko Diq cae, senior lawyer Khalid Anwar had requested Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry to take suo motu action against PIA, saying that “whenever he boarded in PIA planes, he became scared because the maintenance of PIA planes is not up to the mark”. The CJP said ‘tomorrow’ (Tuesday) the court would examine different petitions on the issue.

Jhagra had filed a petition on July 12, 2012 under article 184(3) of the constitution wherein the defence ministry, former defence minister Ahmed Mukhtar, PIA managing director and Naveed Qamar were made respondents. Marvi filed her petition on the same issue in August last year. According to PML-N sources the petitioners have included 30 more evidences in their petitions.

They said that the new additions include the issue of cancellation in 187 flights of PIA which were reported in the 2012 Punctuality Report issued in September this year; Transparency International’s claim of a mammoth loss of Rs1 billion to PIA during the last four years; Rs154 billions PIA loans, as per the PIA MD; and the most recent incident of delay in the PIA flight on Dec 3 which was witnessed themselves by parliamentarians, federal ministers, federal secretary and the CJP.

The petitioner prayed the court to direct the respondents to immediately take action to end all corrupt, illegal and inefficient practices within PIA, adding that the national flag carrier is being deliberately run down.

They alleged that there is a VVIP culture in PIA. The privileged elite class such as top bureaucrats, military officials, government officials and parliamentarians have access to separate lounges and fast track treatment. They maintained that article 9 ensured freedom of life for every citizen but travelling through PIA is life-threatening.

"The delays, mismanagement, lack of facilities, national honour and the senseless inconveniences are against the 'dignity' of a person... declared inviolable under article 14,” one of the petitions read. “The grievances of the petitioner and the public at large regarding PIA as submitted in the facts herein above not only restricts the free movement but is in fact counterproductive to such movement,” it says.

The petition further claimed that due to the continuous delays in PIA flights, mismanagement and corruption therein, it is not possible for a citizen to do trade or business efficiently as these people cannot travel safely. Therefore, it was said that the behaviour of PIA was a clear violation of the general public's right of conducting trade and business under article 18.