BRUSSELS: The European Union has granted temporary permission to Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) to operate flights to and from the continent till July 3, confirmed a spokesperson of the national flag-carrier on Wednesday.
The development comes a day after the European Union Air Safety Agency (EASA) suspended the authorisation for the PIA to serve EU member states for six months amid concerns over the authenticity of licenses held by Pakistani pilots. In another blow to the airline the same day, the UK Civil Aviation Agency also suspended its flight operations from three major British airports — Birmingham, London’s Heathrow and Manchester.
The spokesperson said that two established PIA flights to and from Islamabad to London – PK-785 and PK-786 – will operate as per schedule. According to him, an announcement with regard to other flights will be made soon.
According to the spokesperson, the airline was allowed to land in the UK and Europe after the Foreign Secretary Sohail Mahmood reached out to his European counterparts. The EU states also permitted PIA to use their airspace, he said.
He confirmed that the airline’s administration, Ministry of Foreign Affairs and its diplomats were in contact with European authorities over the issue of allegedly fake licenses.
Earlier in the day,
Minister for Foreign Affairs Shah Mahmood Qureshi telephoned EU’s foreign policy chief Josep Borrell and, while conveying concern on temporary suspension of PIA flights into Europe by the EASA, stressed the need for review of the decision.
During a telephonic conversation with EU’s high representative of the EU for foreign affairs and security policy, the foreign minister underlined that the steps being taken by the government were to ensure highest level of flight safety in PIA operations.
He said that the PIA remained committed to maintaining highest standards and quality in its air operations and stressed the need for review of the EASA decision.
The foreign minister offered condolences on the loss of precious lives in Europe due to Covid-19 and acknowledged the efforts of the European Commission to come up with a coordinated strategy to deal with the pandemic.
He delineated the steps taken by the government of Pakistan to save lives, secure livelihoods, and stimulate the economy and thanked the EU for its support to Pakistan in its endeavors to tackle Covid-19.
FM Qureshi conveyed the desire to expand cooperation between Pakistan and the EU, post Covid-19, and expressed the hope that Pakistani nationals would not be subjected to any restriction or discrimination as and when travel restrictions were relaxed by the EU.
The foreign minister and high representative exchanged views on a range of subjects related to Pakistan-EU partnership-including trade, next phase of GSP Plus, and early operationalization of Strategic Engagement Plan (SEP).
The foreign minister suggested that the two sides might also engage in a structured dialogue on migration-related matters, while providing opportunities for skilled human resources from Pakistan.
The foreign minister apprised his EU counterpart on the deteriorating humanitarian and human rights situation in Indian Occupied Kashmir (IOK), and the latest moves by the Indian government to perpetuate its illegal occupation. He stressed the need for urgent steps to address the grave situation.
In the regional context, FM Qureshi reaffirmed Pakistan’s commitment to an Afghan-owned and Afghan-led peace and reconciliation process and highlighted Pakistan’s positive contribution towards that end.
He stated that peace in Afghanistan was vital for regional peace, stability and prosperity and assured his EU counterpart that Pakistan would continue to facilitate the peace process as a shared responsibility.
The high representative of the EU condoled with the foreign minister on the loss of precious lives in the terrorist attack on the Pakistan Stock Exchange (PSX).
Thanking the EU high representative, the foreign minister underlined Pakistan’s concerns about externally-sponsored terrorism against Pakistan and India’s material support to terrorist outfits targeting Pakistan.
FM Qureshi invited the high representative to visit Pakistan once the pandemic subsides, which he accepted. Borrell stated that he also looked forward to welcoming the foreign minister in Brussels in the near future.