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KARACHI: Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) has to wait till next year to resume its US, UK and EU operations as the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) has postponed its Universal Safety Oversight Audit (USOAP) of Pakistan Civil Aviation Authority (PCAA) by 2021.

The United Nations' aviation watchdog ICAO, which audits the aviation safety and aviation security oversight capacities of its 193 member countries (USOAP in the safety domain and Universal Security Audit Program in the security domain), was supposed to come for an audit in November, 2020.

However, sources in PCAA confirmed that the ICAO team has postponed its trip to Pakistan for USOAP of PCAA till next year, due to COVID19 pandemic.

Furthermore, they said under USOAP, the ICAO team would check that safety aspects of airlines, airports, ground handling firms, regulatory bodies were up to the international standards, despairing PIA hope to resume UK and EU operations soon.

Although the audit, which was pre-planned, assumes significance as it comes in the aftermath of the fake pilots' licenses case that triggered the European Union Air Safety Agency (EASA) to impose a six-month ban on PIA to operate to the EU member states from July 1, 2020.

The ministry of aviation, which had unwisely issued a list of 262 pilots under fake pilots licenses case without fact-checking, has later given a 'clean chit' to 119 pilots and claimed that only 22 pilots were proven guilty in the case.

But, the irresponsible attitude showed by the authority in this case has given irreversible damage to the country's aviation sector especially PIA, which is putting all efforts to drag out from the pit of unwarranted discomfiture, sources said.

"Now instead of facilitating PIA, the PCAA is allowing foreign carriers to operate in Pakistan, which is another source of concern for the national flag carrier," sources said.

Replying to a question, sources said that International Air Transport Association (IATA) after a weeklong Operational Safety Audit (IOSA) had given satisfactory remarks to PIA, which complied 98.5 percent of safety parameters.

Furthermore, they said that without ICAO's positive audit report, PIA could not resume its operations for US, UK and EU even after a six months ban and IOSA positive interim report and added that now ICAO postponed its USOAP by 2021 hence the national flag carrier had to wait till next year to resume its US, UK and EU operations. Needless to mention, ICAO after USOAP in June, 2011 rated Pakistan about 83 percent compliant against the world average of 65 percent.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2020