By resigning from his post as chairman of the Pakistan International Airlines Azam Saigol has done the right thing. He has set an example for others by owning up the ultimate responsibility for the crash of PK661 which caused a huge loss of human life, although he insists that he resigned for “personal reasons”.
Given his consistent stance that there was nothing wrong with the engine of the crashed ATR42 the resignation on his part was not expected. But it came within a couple of days of the crash. Maybe an aborted ATR flight takeoff at Multan a day later and then the cancellation of London-Karachi flight due to a technical fault made him rethink his hard line on technical ‘invincibility’ of the national airline fleet. Or, maybe he felt he had lost confidence of his subordinates and was being misinformed about the overall functioning of the airline. And also the impression that the PIA does not follow international safety standards.
Appointed in May 2016, the well-reputed businessman Azam Saigol was working on a pro bono basis (for the public good without salary and perks). Is it then the case that sheer professionalism was missing from the scene? And if this is the right tradition the chairman has set then Defence Minister Khwaja Asif under whom PIA operates too should resign. The resignations following accidents are a time-honoured practice, which one expects of the high-ups in Pakistan Railways also for there you have accidents rather frequently. It is also one’s hope that in PIA some more heads would roll. It is just possible that Azam Saigol was asked to resign for consistent stance that there was nothing wrong with the engines of the ATR42 even when the pilot had given the Mayday call before crash.
The plane crash deaths of 47 persons, followed by cancellation of two flights and resignation of Chairman Azam Saigol once again bring the future of the national airline under a sharper focus. Once upon a time a great airline the PIA has indeed fallen on bad days as much for its poor management as for the excessive trade unionism. It is a grossly bloated airline, with over one thousand employees per plane. Not only are a large number of them poorly trained, a considerable chunk of the fleet is also out of operation at any given time or flies in violation of its time schedules. These factors, therefore, negatively impact its earnings and image.
Consequently, the Pakistan International Airlines is a net loser unlike most of the international airlines including some it helped come into being. That the PIA should be privatised is a plausible demand. But as of today the issue is efficient running of the national airline and that is not possible in its present form. The predicate is that it should have highly professional management and lean but trained workforce.
At the same time, there should be a thorough investigation into the causes that led to the crash of Chitral-Islamabad PK661, and those found guilty should be brought to the book – within a specified timeframe.