Friday Jun 26, 2020
ISLAMABAD: Chief Justice Gulzar Ahmed expressed astonishment over the preliminary investigation report of the PIA plane crash, saying in his remarks that it seems as if pilots are flying "propelled missiles that can blow up anytime, anywhere".
Heading a five-member larger bench that was hearing a suo motu case on combating the COVID-19 on Thursday, Justice Gulzar also took notice of reports about pilots with fake degrees and fake licenses issued by Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) flying planes in airlines.
The chief justice summoned the chief executive officer (CEO) of Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) as well as the relevant officials of the CAA on the next date of hearing to provide clarification on the matter.
“It is the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) which issued fake degrees and licenses to pilots,” Justice Gulzar remarked. The court summoned Director General Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) to appear before it in person on the next date of the hearing and to explain as to why the authority was issuing licenses to pilots.
The DG CAA will be asked to explain how such pilots were employed by airlines in Pakistan, who are playing havoc with the lives of people and which is a serious offence to the law.
The court directed the CAA to submit within two weeks a comprehensive report through the Attorney General's office. The court also summoned chief executive officers (CEOs) of Pakistan International Airlines (PIA), Air Blue and others, asking them to submit detailed reports regarding pilots, their educational qualifications and licenses' verification by the CAA and other airlines.
The court raised questions over the preliminary report submitted by the government regarding PIA flight PK8303 Airbus A320-214 that crashed near Karachi airport on May 22, 2020, killing 97 passengers on board. The chief justice observed that the worthy minister for aviation on the floor of the house held responsible the pilot of the plane as well as the CAA
The court also expressed dissatisfaction with the report submitted by the National Disaster Management Authority with the observation that the authority was spending money left, right and centre.
"We don’t know as to whether there is any mechanism available for monitoring the work of NDMA with particular reference to import of medicines,” the chief justice remarked while Justice Ijazul Ahsen, another member of the bench, asked the attorney general as to whether the medicines being imported were provided to the public sector hospitals.
The AG replied that these drugs were provided for patients in critical condition, but not for prevention. The AG further added that the NDMA has been established under the National Disaster Management Act.
The court asked the AG as to how NDMA is charting a plane of a private company AL-Hafeez for airlifting equipment machinery from abroad for manufacturing N-95 masks. The AG, however, replied that the NDMA had only facilitated the company in importing the said machinery, adding that the company had paid customs duty as well as tax and the government has nothing to do with it except for facilitating it.
He added that the government is facilitating anybody willing to import the said machinery. “But you have facilitated only one company and further, did you advertise in the papers regarding the provision of support in this regard?,” the CJ asked the AG.
The AG replied that the government had convened a meeting where 28 companies came and asked for facilitation. “But you should have given an advertisement in this regard in order to maintain transparency,” Justice Ijazul Ahsen asked the AG. “Whosoever is the owner of the company might have become a billionaire,” the CJP remarked, adding that the pandemic has turned people into billionaires overnight.
"Our fate will certainly change if you are facilitating the people and not a single person is left unemployed,” the CJ remarked, adding that there is unemployment and the NDMA was not facilitating people. “There must be assurances on your part that complete transparency is observed in the process and nobody is given any tax exemption by importing this machinery,” Justice Ijazul Ahsen asked AG.
The chief justice asked the AG as to whether there is any plan available with the government for facilitating Pakistanis returning to the country. He asked the attorney general regarding the estimated 50,000-100,000 people coming back because of the pandemic and how the NDMA intended to engage them.
"There are millions of students graduating from universities with high degrees and PhDs, what would you do with them,” Justice Gulzar asked adding that is there any business policy for the future and any vision and whether there is any consensus on the part of the Parliament as well.
“You are giving statements on TV, but statements cannot feed the people and they need health facilities, education, clean drinking water,” the CJ remarked. “Your prime minister is declaring a chief minister of a province a dictator; so how will you explain that there is no writ of the PM in that province,” the CJ asked. "There are crises of sugar, wheat and medical [issues], but nobody is here to solve problems being faced by people,” the CJ continued.
Justice Qazi Muhammad Amin, another member of the bench, asked the AG as to whether the government has any remedy to bring down the prices of drugs. Even Dettol is not available in the market, asking the Advocate General Punjab, who was on video-link from Lahore, as to whether he can arrange one bottle of Dettol? Attorney General Khalid Javed, however, submitted before the court that the government is undertaking efforts to take strict action against those persons responsible for high prices of medicines in accordance with the law.
"The government is not going to surrender before those firms and companies,” the AG added.
During the hearing, the CJ noticed with great concern that since the lockdown, there had been severe loadshedding despite offices, educational institutions and other places remain closed due to the pandemic outbreak.
"When there is no load on the grid stations, then why is load-shedding [taking place]," asked Justice Gulzar, adding that in a country where you do not provide electricity, employment, education and adequate health facilities, how people can then abide by the government's orders.
The chief justice noted that in Raza Abad, an area of Faisalabad, sewage overflowed flooded the whole of the city. Justice Qazi Amin, another member of the bench, asked as to whether there is any government or chief minister in Punjab? The CJ said that people had great hopes; that’s why they brought in a change, but they received nothing.
“Now decide what to do as we cannot tolerate further deprivation of people as they are entitled to have all basic facilities as provided to them by the Constitution,” the CJ asked the attorney general. “Give us the plan as the pandemic is going on in the country,” the CJ continued. However, Attorney General Khalid Javed said that a draft for the legislation had been prepared as per the direction of the court.
During the hearing, the chief justice noted that the government of Sindh had allocated in the budget Rs4 billion for importing luxury vehicles for government functionaries. “People have no money to buy two-time food, while the provincial government was importing 40 double-cabin vehicles”, adding that each vehicle is worth one crore 68 lakh rupees.
He added that there was no money for giving salaries to the sanitary workers in Hyderabad, while billions of rupees were being spent for importing luxury vehicles for the government functionaries. "This money should be deposited with the Supreme Court and we will decide how to utilise it for the benefit of people,” the CJ remarked.
During the hearing, the CJ asked Advocate Generals for Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa, Balochistan as well as Gilgit-Baltistan whether they allocated any money in the budget 2020-21 for import of luxury cars, to which they replied in the negative.
Meanwhile, the court in its order noted that there was no justification for importing luxury vehicles by the Sindh government and to allocate Rs4 billion for such purpose and noted that the money should be utilised for provision of water, health and medical facilities. The court restrained the Sindh government from importing the luxury vehicles for the government functionaries and the allocation of such amount in the budget 2020-21.
The court also directed the National Disaster Management Authority to file a complete report within two weeks regarding the import of medicines and machinery through a company Al-Hafeez for manufacturing N-95 masks in the country.
“We do not know the machinery imported by the said company through the facilitation of the government has paid any tax or customs duty or not, and whether the facilitation of import of such machinery was openly advertised by providing an opportunity to other businessmen,” the CJ noted in his order, adding that the same is not done by the NDMA.
The bench said that it seemed as if the company had been favoured by the NDMA for import of machinery for manufacturing N-95 masks; therefore, the NDMA should provide details of the purchase of masks from this company and the money to the company paid so far besides details pertaining to the taxes, paid by the company should also be filed," said the bench.
Later, the court adjourned the hearing for two weeks.
Originally published in The News