ISLAMABAD - Top heads at the Ministry of Defence (MoD) and its subordinate departments including the PIA and CAA might roll following an expected administrative reshuffle to be initiated by the new government, it is learnt on Monday.

The likely ‘casualties’ of the reshuffle are to be the Secretary Defence Asif Yasin Malik, Managing Director Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) Captain Junaid Yunus and Director General Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) Air Marshal (r) Khalid Choudhry. Senior officials up to the ranks of the deputy director generals, deputy managing directors and directors are also likely to be removed from these departments.

At the PIA, the contemplated reshuffle move is also purportedly linked to the upcoming pre-Haj flight operations starting in September this year. 

Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif would hold a meeting with his close associates on rolling the heads in the defence sector once his budget-related engagements are over, said the sources. The reshuffle process, the officials said, would be gradual and in phases. “It may take months. The government does not seem in a mood to initiate a major overhaul in the defence sector immediately or all at once,” commented the sources.

Reportedly, the ruling brass has expressed its intention to send packing some top baboos at the MoD and its attached departments in the wake of the concerns the premier holds about the deteriorating professional standards particularly at the PIA and CAA.

The premier is said to have been in extensive consultations with Petroleum Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi and Shujaat Azeem, the PM’s advisor on aviation, for the replacement of the top brass in the aforesaid departments. Regarded as an aviation expert, Abbasi owns Airblue, a medium-sized commercial airline. He remained PIA Chairman during the PML-N’s previous tenure in power. “Abbasi has an important say in aviation-related matters. The PM pays due heed to his recommendations,” the sources informed.

When approached, Shahid Khaqan Abbasi did not offer a direct comment in this regard. “It’s pre-mature to say anything at this point. Things will take time in getting unfolded,” he told this scribe.

Asked if the PM had consulted him on bringing new managements at the MoD, PIA and CAA, the minister said, “The PM has kept the defence minister’s portfolio with himself. He directly supervises the MoD. I’m always there in case he needs my advice or suggestions on any issue. The consultations on different issues continue but as I said, it’s too early to say anything. Our government’s foremost priority is good governance and we’ll strive our best for this purpose.” Purportedly, the PM has been briefed on the massive flight delays during the pre and post-Hajj operations last year as well as other operational lapses. He also had a briefing on the CAA performance, which, according to sources, he did not find satisfactory.

  In the story titled “25pc PIA flights face delay in post-Haj operations,” printed on December 1, 2012, The Nation had unearthed that one-fourth of the PIA flights faced massive delays in the post-Hajj operation that was completed on November 30 last year. As many as 49 of the total 197 flights that brought 83,019 pilgrims back home saw prolonged delays in 2012. This suggested that flight delay rate stood at 24.9 percent while that of flight punctuality rate was counted at 75.1 percent.

“The present government would not want this to happen again,” the officials said.

Moreover, in an attempt to pull the cash-starved national airline out of financial crises, the secretary defence recently decided to involve the CAA and Pakistan Air Force in getting the PIA the direct flight routes to save money. This scribe also unearthed the particular information on June 1, 2013, in the story titled, “Secy defence to involve PAF, CAA for PIA direct routing.”

However, the secretary defence faces reported opposition from certain PIA Board of Directors (BoD) members, especially Hussain Lawai, who had officially opposed the pay-raise given to the PIA employees by the management earlier this year, in the wake of a loss of 30 billion rupees the PIA suffered annually.

The said salaries’ increase was given after the PIA employees’ unions had warned the Secretary Defence Asif Yasin Malik of countrywide strikes if their salaries were not increased.

While the PIA has remained in the limelight for all the wrong reasons, the CAA role in line with its responsibilities has also been marked with controversies. Between the period from July 2010 to July 2012, seven air crashes took place in Pakistan but the CAA has not released a single credible inquiry report into any of these crashes. The seemingly fake report the authority issued on the Airblue crash has been rejected by the Peshawar High Court with the orders of re-inquiry. Under international aviation rules laid down by the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO), an inquiry report into any civilian air crash is treated as a public document and its release is obligatory.