30 Days of Blog

No! 1 in 3 pilots in Pakistan is not operating on a fake license.[30 Days of Blog 8]

This post is part of my 30 blogs in 30 days series. More details here.

By Shadman Samee from Dhaka, Bangladesh — AP-BLD:PIA A320 at DAC, CC BY-SA 2.0,

Information spreads, very fast on the internet and misinformation spreads like wildfire. I saw this headline not just on the usual news channels but also on the first page of reddit, one of the top headlines on Hacker News, BoingBoing and even on a daily ‘Assorted Links’ page of Blogger and Economist Tyler Cowen. The reason this seems so plausible especially to locals is that corruption is the default. However, the truth is a little more nuanced. It reveals the how general corruption is not only nuisance, but can warp the lens through which through which we experience reality.

Corrupt Aviation Authority

I once told of a retired CAA authority employee. He worked in maintenance. He proudly claimed that in 25 years of service he never picked up a screw driver. One other anecdote from a vendor to the regulatory body mentioned over-invoicing for Compressors by a factor 10. Compressors which were thrown in storage immediately. In a sea of graft, that is the Pakistani bureaucracy, Civil Aviation seems to stand out above all else.

Half-truths and Blame Game

The idea of a fake license seems to suggest that these pilots are unqualified. However, all the ‘unqualified’ pilots already had a commercial pilots license, and thousands of hours of flight time. Some of them are even licensed outside Pakistan. Also, the pilots licensing process is not that complicated or difficult.

However, in 2012, CAA changed the testing system to a database of 22,000 questions. There are lot of political and policy reasons for this, but suffice to say, it is the most complicated pilots test in the world. But I think you know where this is headed. Some pilots didn’t bother and just payed the bribe.

Even if you can question the integrity of the people, these test were produced by the CAA, taken on their equipment and assessed by the CAA. Somehow it is only the pilots’ fault.

The Truth putting on its boots

None of this is my original reporting. This was all already report by the BBC…Urdu(translated link). Since even Native speakers do not afford any cache to the language, it did not gain any traction online. And Anglophonic media gave it about as much care as they do for most issues east of Germany. This has created a narrative that puts the blame solely on the pilots on the dismal condition of the PIA, especially after the horrible Karachi crash. The spread of this misinfo also removes pressure from the PIA and the CAA. It allows them to spread the blame outwards. These are systemic problems. Slapping a simple Eventually these pilots will be cleared once the spotlight is off. The graft will continue until the next tragedy. Whom will they blame next?

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