Pakistan's state-run airline has sacked four pilots who had logged thousands of flight hours for possessing fake degrees, officials have told a parliamentary panel.
One of the sacked pilots of Pakistan International Airlines had served for over 25 years and two of them had piloted special aircraft used by VVIPs during the regime of former military ruler Pervez Musharraf, media reports said.
The national flag carrier recently sacked the four pilots, PIA chairman and Defence Secretary Asif Yasin Malik said while briefing a special committee of the National Assembly or lower house of parliament yesterday.
The panel is looking into delays in PIA flights and the grounding of aircraft.
Malik said persons with fake degrees were still working in high posts in PIA.
He was quoted by the media as saying that a "full-fledged crackdown" on the fake degree holders will be undertaken as soon as possible.
He said the airline would have to follow appropriate procedures while taking action against such employees, including the issuance of show-cause notices. Malik said the lack of an accountability system is the main cause for corruption and mismanagement in PIA.
In addition to facing a severe financial crunch, PIA's reputation has taken a hit in recent months due to the poor maintenance of its fleet.
On Sunday, a PIA flight carrying the Supreme Court Chief Justice and several federal ministers and parliamentarians aborted take-off in Karachi after one of its engines reportedly caught fire.
Malik further told the parliamentary panel that PIA was in debt to the tune of Rs152 billion and an emergency grant of Rs25 billion had been sought from the government.
"There are issues of corruption and incompetence as well," he said.
"PIA is a bleeding organisation and needs some time for recovery before getting rid of fake degree holders and incompetent and corrupt officials," he said.
In response to queries from the lawmakers, Malik said PIA plans to get rid of 12 Airbus A310 and four Boeing 747 aircraft over the next year.
"We are acquiring 11 to 15 new aircraft on lease," he said. PIA Deputy Managing Director Qasim Masood Khan told the lawmakers that 26 of the airline's 38 aircraft were operational while the rest were grounded for maintenance.