PIA seeks aid over missing crew in Canada


The Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) is planning to seek the help from the country’s Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) and Canadian immigration authorities after two attendants on its flights to Toronto slipped away in Canada this week, a PIA spokesperson said on Saturday, adding the latest incident marked the 10th such case in a span of two years.

The development comes amid a noticeable surge in the number of Pakistani nationals attempting to reach developed countries in Europe and North America through irregular means in recent years, driven by their desire to escape challenging economic conditions at home.

In June last year, a weathered trawler carrying more than 750 irregular migrants, including 350 from Pakistan, sank near Greece, prompting Pakistani officials to sign a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with Greek authorities to enhance cooperation against human traffickers and avert similar tragedies in future.

The recent disappearance of two PIA employees, Flight Steward Jibran Baloch and Airhostess Maryam Raza, in Canada suggests the emergence of a similar trend among white-collar workers in the country. Baloch, who was aboard the Toronto-bound PK-782 flight on Feb. 29, failed to report back, while Raza, who flew to Toronto, did not show up for the return flight PK-784 to Karachi.

Confirming both incidents, PIA spokesperson Abdullah Khan said the airline, after implementing several measures, had decided to seek assistance from the FIA and Canadian immigration authorities to locate and bring back the missing cabin crew.

“Now we are planning some action through the FIA and Canadian immigration authorities,” Khan told Arab News. “Approaching them both.”

The development comes more than a month after Airhostess Faiza Mukhtar, assigned to PIA flight PK-781, disappeared in Canada in January.

With three such cases this year, Khan said, the number of airline crew who “vanished” in the North American country had now reached 10 over the last two years, a trend he attributed to “easy access to asylum and general trend of people trying to flee the country.”

Khan said the airline had implemented various measures, including profiling and restricting crew to those aged 50 and above as well as retaining passports with the station manager upon arrival at foreign destinations, but none had proven effective in preventing the crew members from slipping away.

“A lot of things have been tried so far from profiling to sending only 50+ crew to retaining passports with the station manager upon arrival,” he said. “Nothing has worked.”

Pakistan has witnessed an economic meltdown over the last more than a year, with inflation hitting record highs, local currency devaluing and costs of living rising to unprecedented levels.

The situation has forced many young Pakistanis to leave the country, some even risking their lives, in search of greener pastures abroad.__Daily Times