Ghulam Sarwar Khan is the minister in charge of Civil Aviation. In this capacity he is also expected to spin some feel-good stories about Pakistan’s national flag carrier, i.e., Pakistan International Airline (PIA).

Speaking in the national assembly Wednesday, however, he continued to spill fear-inducing beans. After listening to the PIA related stories, told by him, any sane person should rather think twice before boarding a PIA plane.

May 22 of 2020 was indeed a very tragic day inour aviation history. It deepened the Corona-triggered doom and gloom with the news of a plane crash. Instead of smoothly landing at Karachi airport, PK-803 drifted towards a residential colony, where it crashed like an unguided object. Two passengers miraculously survived, but luck didn’t work for the rest of 97.

The tragedy-struck relatives of many unfortunate passengers also endured at least three full days of unbearable pain while waiting for identification of bodies recovered from the rubble. The crash had occurredclose to the festival of Eid. It could have furnished some assuaging diversion in the times of anxiety-inducing pandemic. Butmost of us were pushed to deep depression due to this crash.

The crash of a passenger plane on May 22, 2020 had triggered a plethora of questions. They don’t start and end with details related to a single flight. We desperately need a comprehensive review of the whole system, regulating the aviation procedures in Pakistan. Also in focus are the Standard Operational Procedures (SOPs) adopted for dealing with rescue related issues in case of a plane crash.

A 4-member committee had been assigned to probe the tragedy. Apparently, it merely wants to find out what had really happened to the unfortunate plane. Its “initial report” is expected to be ready by June 22. And the minister in charge kept reassuring the House that the same would instantly be put before it. The said promise should have been enough for buying time from agitated members of the national assembly.

The Imran government has a “grand narrative,” though, which is constantly churned out almost ceaselessly. It wants us to never forget that previous governments of “looters and plunderers,” which had been ruling this country from 2008 to 2018, completely ruined all the state-run institutions. PIA could not be an exception in the given context and Ghulam Sarwar Khan certainly sounded reckless while revealing the “dark secrets” of this institution before a house, proceedings of which were “live streamed” for the public at large.

He felt no shame while audaciously recalling that the tragedy of May 22, 2020 had not been a rare and exceptional story of gloom. Our aviation history is rather replete with such incidences. For him, PIA had remained frighteningly dysfunctional. The previous governments overstaffed it with relentless inductions and promotions of cronies.

 

Patronage is mostly taken as the norm in our luckless country. But it surely sounds criminal when the minister in charge of aviation tells you that some pilots, flying PIA planes had “fake degrees.” As if the academic fraud was not scary enough, Sarwar Khan also alleged that devious types were also flying PIA planes after acquiring a license to fly a passenger plane by employing dubious means.

 

Pray tell me that who would want to board a PIA plane after listening to the story told by Ghulam Sarwar Khan? Doing this, he didn’t blush for a second by recalling for a split second that the Imran government took command and control of governance, way back in August 2018. It had ample time to name and shame pilots, flying planes, allegedly after acquiring fake degrees and the license for flying. By now, such pilots should rather have been spending time in jails for committing the heinous crime of flying planes with so many humans on board.

 

From day one of the May 22 crash, however, we have been noticing a well-designed campaign. It cunningly attempted to project the pilot of an ill-fated plane as if exclusively responsible for the tragedy. Through his speech of Wednesday, Ghulam Sarwar Khan clearly sounded to have endorsed the said story. Although he kept promising to the house that the 4-member committee, probing the air crash would also ask a “credible representatives” of the international association of pilots, working for a world renowned airline, to vet its report. He dropped heavy hints to suggest that to ensure a credible report, Pakistan could ask for the help of a very experienced pilot from the Turkish Air Lines, which had a huge fleet of A-320 brand of planes.

 

Hardly, a person from the opposition benches cared to vigorously question the story, Sarwar Khan had narrated with an emotionless face. His contemptuous tone wasn’t checked either. He got away, in spite of the fact that of late he too had been asked by NAB to explain the real sources of his wealth, which looked “beyond the visible” or declared sources of his income. Not many may also remember that for many years, during the first decade of 2000, Sarwar Khan had also fought a long drawn out battle in our courts to prove the authenticity of his degree.

 

The number-strong opposition in our opposition has clearly lost the script. It hardly has a story to tell or the target to chase with some energy and spirited devotion. Close to presenting the budget for a financial year, all governments across the world, working under parliamentary system, literally start shivering with anxiety. The Imran government should have been sweating doubly in the given context, if you care remembering that it survives, thanks to a highly vulnerable “majority.” To keep the same intact, it remains miserably dependent upon the whims of its “allies,” comprising disparate elements.

 

Imran Government continues to show itself exceptionally lucky, however. Two days before the presentation of the next financial year’s budget, its number-strong opposition had generously agreed to let the same be passed without much ado. The so-called SOPs, approved for the smooth passage of the expected budget, pretend being deferential to COVID-19. They would spare the government from the pain of ensuring around the clock presence of its “majority” throughout the budget-passing procedure, usually stretched to more than four working days of an assembly session.

The opposition normally baffles a government while pressing for “cut motions,” presented to block specific allocations to various key ministries. With a very large heart, however, our friendly, responsible and humane opposition had ensured the government that it would only deliver speeches in support of its cut motion. But will not demand the head counts on them. The government has every reason to feel cool and relaxed throughout the budget-passing exercise, therefore.

 

The hardened cynics seriously believe that the opposition promised to behave during the budget session, for the fear of NAB. The accountability outfit had provided Shehbaz Sharif, the opposition leader in the national assembly and the PML-N President, with a long list of fresh questions. That seemingly extracted the promise of good behavior from his loyalists crowding the national assembly. The PPP had also fallen in line, presumably to protect its own leadership and the government in Sindh.

 

I have serious doubts, though. Both the main opposition parties are obviously bankrupt, when it comes to imagine ideas for kick starting an economy, that had already turned miserably sluggish and unpromising, even many months before the COVID-19 hit us at the outset of 2020. They viciously want the Imran government to exclusively deal with a hopeless-looking scene.