The Civil Aviation Authority has informed the Public Accounts Committee (PAC), perhaps fifteen years too late, that the airlines of several foreign countries, including the United States and India, owe billions of rupees to the CAA since 2002. The total amount to be paid by these foreign airlines is a staggering Rs 15 billion out of which only 4 million has been recovered.

This debt includes Rs18 million owed by the US Air Force for using Pakistan airspace, rent, electricity bill and aeronautical revenue during the war in Afghanistan. Repeated appeals to the US embassy have gone unheeded and will probably go ignored in the future as well as the US feels they have overcompensated Pakistan for their support in the war against terror. However bills must be paid for any services rendered and the government must develop a proper mechanism for retracting what is owed to relevant institutions. Airlines that do not make payments should not be receiving any services from CAA.

CAA Secretary Irfan Elahi told the PAC that in the head of airport tax, Indian Airlines, Russian Airlines and local airlines owed heavily to CAA.

This problem has become an endemic and must be resolved and made a top priority. International airlines have a market to cater here in Pakistan and have an incentive to provide routes here. If the CAA and the government continue to keep a lax attitude towards these airlines they have more to lose in the future. Internationally, countries do not cater to those who do not pay, and there is no reason we should not adopt this policy as well.

PkMAP chief Mehmood Achakzai, a committee member, proposed that some of the top officials should be sacked for their negligence towards duties, but what good will that do as the next cohort will fail at their job too in the absence of proper mechanism for retrieving the money owed. The biggest defaulter remained PIA, proving once again that the company constantly running in deficit could benefit greatly from being privatised.