ISLAMABAD: An audit report compiled by the Auditor General of Pakistan (AGP) has termed the Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) Chief Executive Air Marshal Arshad Malik’s appointment “illegal”, recommending he be removed immediately and return salaries he withdrew as the airline’s top boss.
Noting that Malik’s appointment was ill-intentioned, nepotism, a violation of rules and regulations, and illegal, the AGP said the CEO was appointed using the Securities and Exchange Commission of Pakistan’s (SECP) rules and forces’ deputation. This, he added, was clearly and blatantly against transparency.
The AGP’s report further recommended that the CEO’s appointment, which was against the national carrier’s rules, be investigated by an independent institution. The Aviation Division should also point out who was responsible behind Malik’s hiring.
Moreover, it should be determined where the PIA Board of Directors displayed negligence, especially when the Supreme Court had clearly ruled that the appointment of the airline’s former boss, Musharraf Rasool Cyan, was illegal and declared it null and void.
In fact, at that time as well, the Board had come under fire when Justice Ijazul Ahsan — part of the top court’s three-judge bench — had asked if it had interviewed Cyan.
Why, then, the AGP asked in the report, was the top court’s ruling in the Cyan case violated again? Had Malik presented himself to the interview board, he would have had to resign from the Pakistan Air Force (PAF).
It was further claimed in the report that the PIA refused to assist the AGP’s team, which is why it could not be determined as to how much Malik illegally gained in financial benefits. However, an estimate suggests that around Rs3 million were provided to him as allowances and entitlements during the eight months he remained the CEO.
In addition to this, the PIA’s rules and regulations stipulate that three months prior to a sitting CEO’s term is set to end, there should be a call in the newspapers for applications for the soon-to-be-vacant post. In Malik’s case, the opposite was done.
He was appointed, through a written order dated April 26, 2019, as the chief executive for three years. Experience requirements in the newspaper advertisements published after the appointment included war course, shipping, naval aviation, and military operations in order to provide Malik an edge over other applicants.
SC rejects Malik’s plea
Last month, the Supreme Court had rejected Malik’s plea seeking the court’s intervention in allowing him to continue as the national carrier’s chief executive. He had approached the apex court against the Sindh High Court’s Dec 31, 2019, order, which stopped him from performing his functions.
In the Jan 21 hearing, Chief Justice Gulzar Ahmed had remarked that the airline was not someone’s private property and reminded the petitioner that it was a national asset. “We will not allow anyone to play with PIA’s fortune,” the CJP remarked, observing further that a case regarding appointments in the PIA was already filed as a human rights case.
The apex court, while disposing off the petition, said all cases related to the PIA would be merged into a single case. The bench also summoned the record of the pending SHC case.
The apex court directed the PIA’s board to run the the affairs of the airline.
SHC stops PIA CEO from working
Last year, the SHC had stopped the PIA CEO from performing his functions as the airline’s head after a petition by Safdar Anjum — the general secretary of the airline’s Senior Staff Association (SASA) — challenging Malik’s appointment was filed earlier at the high court.
The petition stated that Malik neither fulfilled the post’s educational requirements nor had any relevant experience.
At the time, the two-member bench had told the airline from transferring, hiring or firing employees and from buying or selling any assets. The bench said the national flag bearer could not sell assets worth over Rs10 million or make policies for the time-being.
A graduate of the National Defence University (NDU) and qualified in Air Command and Staff Course from the US, Malik had served as the vice chief of the air staff prior to joining the PIA.
He also served more than 40 years in the Pakistan Air Force (PAF) before being appointed the airline’s chairperson on October 11, 2018, by the federal government, and, later, on April 2, 2019, as its CEO.