ISLAMABAD - Chief Justice of Pakistan Mian Saqib Nisar Thursday directed Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi to appear before the apex court as the CEO of Airblue in pilots’ fake degrees case.

The Supreme Court was informed that 24 pilots and 67 cabin crews of Pakistan International Airlines have fake degrees and of them 17 pilots have already left the national flag carrier.

The Civil Aviation Authority (CAA), submitting a report of 451 pilots and 29,172 crew members of the PIA, revealed 24 pilots and 67 crews have fake degrees as per their verification.

According to the report, of the 24 pilots having fake degrees, five have obtained stay orders from the Sindh High Court and one from a civil judge in Islamabad West.

On behalf of the CAA, Law Officer Sajid Ilyas Bhatti submitted the report to a three-judge bench headed by Chief Justice Mian Saqib Nisar that took up a case against fake degree holding pilots.

Of the total 451 pilots at present, degrees of 319 have been verified and found to be genuine by the PIA, the report said. The certificates/degrees of 124 pilots are under scrutiny, it stated.

“Seven pilots with bogus degrees are working because of the stay orders granted by the courts in their favour,” the report said.

The CAA report said private airlines — Shaheen Air International Limited, Airblue Limited and Serene Air — had sought time to verify degrees of their pilots and crew members, but they have never done this exercise.

“The CAA committee has directed them through letters that this exercise needs to be completed within one month positively,” the CAA report said, adding the moment the committee receives the verification letters, they would be got re-verified from the respective educational institutes.

As per the report, the CAA committee has collected the data of pilots and cabin crews from the private airlines, according to which Shaheen Air has 171 pilots and 573 cabin crews, Airblue 104 pilots and 257 cabin crews and Serene Air 41 pilots and 70 cabin crews. The committee has sent the data of 2,451 persons received from these three airlines for re-verification, it stated.

The CAA has initiated action against fake degree holders by issuing show-cause notices to them for cancellation of their licences to meet the ends of justice and that no one should be condemned unheard, it said.

The CAA has sent data for re-verification of almost two/thirds of staff. There are 3,667 pilots and cabin crews of all the four airlines. The committee has sent data for re-verification of 2,451 persons with 1,216 persons’ degrees yet to be scrutinised. The remaining will also be sent as soon as the data is received from the private airlines. The committee has received the information that 67 cabin crews have fake degrees, the report affirmed.

The colleges/boards concerned are demanding fees/charges from the CAA for verification, which is unjust in the opinion of the authority, the report said.

During the hearing, the chief justice questioned the law officer and the CAA director why the data of pilots serving in Airblue had not been provided and who was the head of the airline.

The CAA’s representative responded Shahid Khaqan Abbasi, the prime minister, was the chief executive officer (CEO) of the Airblue.

Observing that it was a conflict of interests, the chief justice remarked the PM will have to appear as the CEO of the airline to inform the bench of the veracity of the degrees of pilots.

The chief justice summoned the Airblue CEO and observed he will appear as the head of the airline and not as the prime minister.

The heads of all the airlines, PIA, Shaheen Air, Airblue and Serene, have also been summoned for tomorrow (Saturday) at the Supreme Court Karachi Registry.

Meanwhile, the chief justice also took suo motu notice of fake degree holding lawyers and issued notices to all bar councils of the country.

The top court issued a notice to the Higher Education Commission and directed it to cooperate with the bar councils on the issue of degrees verification. The top court sought a report from all bar councils on the issue within one month.