A story that has dragged our name across TV screens around the world for all the wrong reasons; bogus pilots in the Pakistan International Airlines have been putting the lives of passengers at great risk by being under contract at the national flag carrier. The frankly shocking admission of the aviation minister when he claimed that a third of PIA’s pilots had fake licenses has resulted in swift action from PIA. 150 pilots were terminated immediately, but this does nothing to undo the damage already done.

There are also certain questions that arise out of the whole affair. PIA has rightly pointed out that this may not be restricted to just one airline – licenses have been faked and there is no evidence to suggest that PIA was complicit. But either way, this does not paint a positive picture of the national flag carrier. The lack of screening carried out is absolutely criminal and the subsequent termination makes the whole situation even more suspicious. Did PIA already know about the bogus pilots or was it just the fact that even this small and easy effort to flag dubious credentials was simply not carried out earlier? We must choose our poison here; incompetence or the rot of nepotism running deep enough to even forgo the bare minimum requirements of working at the role employees were hired for.

Pakistan has often made international headlines, but rarely for the right reasons. Biases and preconceived notions have a part to play in the formation of public perception, but we are doing ourselves no favours by needlessly throwing ourselves under the spotlight. Since there is no going back, one can only hope that the government takes this opportunity to really separate the wheat from the chaff in PIA. We cannot afford for the national carrier to be the source of any more embarrassment.