ISLAMABAD - Counsel for Pakistan International Airline (PIA) Raja Bashir on Tuesday admitted, during the hearing of PIA corruption case in the Supreme Court, that mismanagement, over staffing and frequent delay in flights caused Rs119 billion loss to the national flag carrier.

A three-member SC bench, headed by Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry, expressed displeasure over the state of affairs of the PIA and the chief justice said: “It is very painful to see the destruction of national institutions in such manner.”

He said that no one was taking action against massive corruption in the PIA, Railways, Pakistan Steel Mills and other national institutions, adding that the court was waiting for reply of the authorities concernedsince December 28, 2011 but to no avail.

The court questioned PIA’s alleged non-transparent deals, weak management, over staffing, huge losses and delay in flights.

Justice Azmat Saeed said: “It will be a miracle, if a single PIA flight takes off on time.” He also questioned about the loss of billions of rupees.

Bashir informed that increase in fuel prices was the main reason of losses. The court snubbed the reason, saying that the PIA had also increased its fare with increased fuel prices.  Justice Gulzar questioned how many people were travelling free or on concession through PIA.

The counsel informed that Lt Gen (r) Yasin Malik is the new PIA chairman and the present management had distanced itself from the wrongdoings of the previous management and decided that it would not defend the acts of previous bosses.

Justice Azmat Saeed inquired what wrongdoings had actuallybeen committed in the past.

The chief justice remarked whether the current management had conducted any forensic audit to fix responsibility for mal administration. He said that a forensic audit was necessary to run the airline properly.

The court asked the defendant’s lawyer to read out a letter sent by Transparency International in which new deals of the PIA with some other international airlines were questioned. The court sought explanation over purchasing new aircraft on lease. “Why not the grounded planes of the PIA were made operational on time,” Justice Gulzar said.

Bashir said that Oman’s engineers have repaired the planes and recently all eight aircraft were made operational.  “Why planes were sent to foreign countries for maintenance in the presence of our own engineers,” the CJP said.

The counsel for PIA said that the Public Procurement Regulatory Authority rules would be followed in future.

The court observed that perhaps the PIA employed more employeesthan any other airlines. The counsel for the PIA agreed with the court, saying that some 350 employees were attached with each PIA flight. He cited some legal issues impedingthe right sizing in the PIA.

Justice Azmat Saeed remarked “you made the laws and you are now complaining about the laws. If the employees were reinstated under the law, it is the federal government that made those laws.

The court said that assessment of degradation could not be determined without knowing the facts and gave three weeks to the PIA authorities to submit reply and adjourned the hearing until December 4.