According to Geo News TV, the airline operated 46 regular flights and 36 Hajj pilgrim flights between 2016 and 2017 with no passengers on board. Already cash-strapped (due to the unsteady national economy) airline suffered an estimated 180 million Pakistan rupees (over $1.1 million) in losses.
The figures were apparently revealed in an internal audit report seen by the news outlet. The report also stated that no internal inquiry was launched regarding the flights despite the administration being aware of the problem.
The reasons for operating empty flights, as well as for the administration ignoring the matter, have not been revealed. The airline is yet to issue an official statement.
The report comes as Pakistan’s economy faces rising inflation, current account deficits, and downward pressure on its currency. In an attempt to deal with the situation, Pakistan’s Central Bank was forced to raise rates nine times since the start of 2018. Pakistan also secured bailouts, including from the International Monetary Fund, in July to keep the economy afloat. An IMF team arrived in Islamabad earlier this week to review the country’s progress on reforms agreed on as part of the bailout package.
Pakistan also faces the possibility of being blacklisted by the Paris-based anti-money laundering watchdog Financial Action Task Force (FATF) for alleged terrorist financing. The FATF placed Pakistan on its ‘grey list’ of countries with inadequate controls to prevent terrorist funding last year. The rating could damage the country’s investment aspirations or even attract sanctions from international organizations if it is downgraded further. Islamabad has repeatedly denied any connection with militant groups.