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Islamabad, Pakistan – Pakistan’s civil aviation regulator will outsource license examinations to the United Kingdom in response to allegations of widescale fraud in the licensing process, the regulator’s head says.
Speaking at a virtual public meeting on Wednesday, Civil Aviation Authority Pakistan (CAAP) Director-General Khaqan Murtaza said the authority would henceforth be conducting all examinations through its counterpart in the United Kingdom.
“We are outsourcing our licensing [process] and this is now being finalised with the UK’s Civil Aviation Authority,” said Murtaza.
He said he expected examinations, suspended for months, to resume within two months through the new arrangement.
The move comes after remarks from the country’s aviation minister last year that 262 pilots, or almost one-third of all licensed Pakistani pilots, had obtained their credentials fraudulently.
A subsequent investigation by the aviation ministry found dozens of cases of wrongdoing in the licensing process, and 50 licenses had been cancelled and 32 licences temporarily suspended for lesser offences, Murtaza said on Wednesday.
The claims by the aviation minister in June 2020 rocked the country’s commercial aviation sector, causing widespread pilot suspensions both in Pakistan and abroad until credentials could be verified, and prompting the United States to revoke authorisation for Pakistan’s national carrier to fly there over the issue.
The EU’s air safety agency also suspended authorisation for Pakistani airlines to use EU airspace over these and other safety concerns, partly for the lack of adherence to safety management system protocols.
An Al Jazeera investigation found the existence of a widely known “pay to pass” system in place at the Civil Aviation Authority, where pilots could pay officials to pass their examinations without ever having sat for them.
The investigation also found the prevalence of widespread safety issues in Pakistan’s commercial aviation sector, with pilots said to routinely ignore safety protocols and airlines to ignore safety management system guidelines.
Asad Hashim is Al Jazeera’s digital correspondent in Pakistan. He tweets @AsadHashim.