Passengers walk after their arrival at the Jinnah International Airport in Karachi on January 31, 2020. - Pakistan on January 31 temporarily suspended all direct flights with China, after a global health emergency was declared over the coronavirus epidemic which has killed more than 200 people. (Photo by ASIF HASSAN / AFP)

False claim circulates online that an international aviation authority barred Pakistan from issuing pilot licences

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Multiple posts shared repeatedly on Facebook and Twitter in September 2020 claim the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO), a specialised agency of the United Nations, barred the Pakistan Civil Aviation Authority (PCAA) from issuing licences to pilots, crew and engineers. The claim is false; in response to the misleading posts, the ICAO said it had not issued any such directive for Pakistan; the PCAA also said the claim was false.

This post was shared here on Facebook on September 24, 2020. 

The post’s caption begins with a sentence in Urdu language which translates to English as: “Another medal of destruction for the country…!” 

The rest of the post’s English text reads: “International Civil Aviation Authority (ICAO) has issued notice to Pakistan Civil Aviation Authority that it is no longer allowed to issue licences to pilots, crew or engineers. ICAO has also delayed its inspection to Pakistan and expressed reservations over safety.

A screenshot taken on September 28, 2020, of the misleading Facebook post

Regulators barred Pakistan International Airlines from the European Union for six months after the state-run carrier grounded nearly a third of its pilots for holding fake or dubious licences, AFP reported here on June 30, 2020.

A similar claim about the ICAO was shared on Facebook here, here and here, and on Twitter here, here and here.

The claim is false.

In response to the misleading posts, Civil Aviation Authority Pakistan official Amir Habib said the claim was “false”. 

"It's false news,” he said. “There is no such thing. ICAO has also tweeted and clarified it," he told AFP by phone on September 29.

On September 24, 2020, the Montreal-based International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) tweeted that it had not issued the purported directive cited in the misleading posts.

The tweet reads: “Our agency is neither designed nor empowered to issue such directives. We call on @ARYNEWSOFFICIAL, @RehamKhan1, @NewsweekPak, @BaaghiTV, @raisinganchor and others to retract the statements they have promoted on twitter. https://twitter.com/ARYNEWSOFFICIAL/status/1309042705805312000”.

A screenshot taken on September 28, 2020 of a tweet by ICAO

In response to an email from AFP on September 28, 2020, William Raillant-Clark, spokesman for the International Civil Aviation Organization, said that UN agencies have no authority over countries.

“It is important to understand that ICAOs auditing programmes were created at the request of states to help them meet their commitments to one another, per the standards and recommended practices they adopt together under the Chicago Convention. UN agencies have no authority over countries but rather are designed to assist them in cooperating diplomatically,” Raillant-Clark said.