The Supreme Court allowed Air Marshal Arshad Malik to function as Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the Pakistan International Airlines Corporation with full authority.

He was restrained from functioning as CEO of the national flag carrier by the Sindh High Court on Dec 23 last year.

A three-judge SC bench headed by Chief Justice Gulzar Ahmed on Wednesday asked the PIA management to furnish a thorough business plan and different business contracts the airline had entered into with international organizations as well as the liabilities it was burdened with.

The apex court asked the Pakistan Airline Pilots Association (PALPA) and the Collective Bargaining Agents (CBA) Union to appear before it at the next hearing on April 20.

The SC bench was seized with an appeal moved by PIA CEO Arshad Malik against the SHC order.

The petitioner had before the high court argued that Arshad Malik was a senior serving officer of the Pakistan Air Force (PAF) and his appointment as the PIA chief was made in utter disregard of the law laid down by the apex court in its Aug 3, 2018 judgment against the appointment of the then CEO.

Arshad Malik was allowed to continue performing as the head of the national flag carrier when Attorney General Khalid Jawed Khan assured the apex court that he was ready to submit in writing regarding the continuity of the present CEO, adding that he would not be recalled by the PAF any time soon.

The AG said he was extending the desire on behalf of Prime Minister Imran Khan that Arshad Malik should be allowed to continue since the organization virtually was on the ventilator and he represented the best possible team that could turn around the financial health from the current dismal situation of PIA — an airline once a pride of the nation.

He said this was the last arrangement since the financial situation in the national carrier was like a bottomless pit and, if not arrested, it would soon turn into the Pakistan Steel Mills and the one to suffer the most would only be the people of this country.

The AG assured the court that the present CEO would soon deliver given the experience he possessed and emphasized that the biggest malaise the airline was suffering from was overstaffing since the ratio of employees per aircraft was the highest and highly disproportionate compared to other airlines of the world.

Regarding justification for appointing an officer in uniform as the PIA CEO, the AG explained that it was not for the love of any individual but the federal government was not happy with the state of affairs in the airline as during the last nine years, 12 CEOs had been appointed and one of them was even locked by the union members in a washroom. “But there are many hardworking employees in the airline who are carrying out their responsibilities honestly and justly,” AG said.