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More Battering to Pakistan’s Image

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Shantanu Mukharji

Pakistan’s international image continues to receive a series of battering for a number of issues, terror being the foremost cause of concern. Recently, the UN as well as the US State Department has released a wide range of observations hitting hard on Pakistan to comply with stipulations to contain terror and the terrorists but they are going unheeded. As things are rapidly unfolding in Pakistan in domestic politics, failure to battle the Covid menace, the Pakistan Stock Exchange (PSX), situated at the heart of Karachi was struck by a deadly terror attack killing 4 including security guards and a cop belonging to the security forces.

The act was quite chilling as the terrorists suspected to be belonging to the Baloch Liberation Army (BLA) claimed the responsibility for the attacks though in the process, all four terrorists, armed with most sophisticated weaponry, who had stormed the PSX premises, were gunned down by the counter terror forces. It might give a temporary succour to the Pakistani forces yet its high voltage ISI and the army were left red faced that the terrorists could manage to enter the much fortified infrastructure and sent a string message about prevailing chinks in the armour and a fragile security apparatus. As expected, Pakistani establishment was quick to shift the blame on India for planning this attack as there are no other convenient and convincing excuses available to tell the public or to the political opposition.

As if this is not enough to dent Pakistan’s tattering image in the global community, in a most recent order, the European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EUASA) has banned operation of all Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) flights within and outside Europe for a period of six months. This is a huge blow to Pakistan and its national carrier in terms of its reputation, which was already very low and bereft of any credibility. These orders, swiftly issued, come in the wake of the recent revelations by the Pakistan Civil Aviation Authority (PCAA) Thar at least 260 flying licenses obtained by the PIA pilots were found to be certified fraudulently, out of a total of 860 pilot licenses. This has caused a huge sensation in the aviation world, globally.

Acting in electric speed due to apprehension arising out of safety and security concerns, the UK Civil Aviation Authority has suspended all PIA flights to and from Manchester, Birmingham and London. This is in sync with the just received EUASA directives banning PIA flights. Alarmed by the PIA pilots in possession of fake licenses, the Air Travel Focal Points (ATFP) has also notified all UN travellers not to fly PIA for the said reasons. So it’s a tremendous hit at Pakistan and the PIA, adversely affecting its already battered image.

It’s equally pertinent to recapitulate that a PIA Airbus A320 flight crashed on May 22 this year near Karachi airport killing 97 people. This had raised questions about the PIA efficacy and the people are not at all convinced about the findings of the preliminary report. Knowledgeable sources asserted that the PIA management was overtaken by the Pakistan Air Force (PAF) retired and serving officers affecting its autonomous character and the PIA was steeped in nepotism and neck deep corruption marring its operational capabilities. The Karachi crash of the PIA and the fresh scandal of obtaining licenses through fraudulent channels have compounded the problem leading to these radical measures by the UN and the EU. This gives an idea of the gigantic scam taking place threatening the lives of thousands of flyers. Ethics and commitment are conspicuously missing, though not surprising.

The battering for Pakistan continues nonstop as very recently, Vietnam’s Civil Aviation Authority acting quickly has grounded all 27 Pakistani pilots flying for the Vietnam Airlines. What could be more shameful for Pakistan that it’s taking a beating ranging from the far west to South East Asia? It is an uphill task for Pakistan to refurbish its battered image which looks distant.

Judging by the spate of negative happenings, which have currently inundated Pakistan, it would seem that luck is running out for Prime Minister Imran Khan due to his countless failures to govern the country. He should have no reasons to be jubilant on completing two years in office next month. The PIA suspension of flights is indeed a dampener among many other glaring failures and lack of vision.

(Writer is a security analyst and a freelance columnist on matters of security. Views expressed are personal.)

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