Malaysian authorities on 18 January had impounded a Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) plane because of the inability of Islamabad to repay the money it owed to Kuala Lumpur. However, the PIA, in its official statement, said that the detention owed to a legal dispute between the airline and another party.
The plane returned to Pakistan last night.
Malaysian authorities seized the Boeing 777 aircraft after a court order, the PIA said. The Pakistani airline said it was making alternative arrangements for passengers due to fly from Kuala Lumpur back to Pakistan while those on board were given nothing to eat and no place to stay for the while that their plane was stuck in Malaysia.
The case involved a $ 14 million lease dispute, a PIA official said, posting on Twitter, “A PIA aircraft has been held back by a local court in Malaysia taking a one-sided decision pertaining to a legal dispute between PIA and another party pending in a UK court. The passengers are being looked after and alternate arrangements for their travel have been finalised. It is an unacceptable situation and PIA has engaged support from the government of Pakistan to take up this matter using diplomatic channels.”
“We were told that the plane has been impounded on a court order,” PIA spokesperson Abdullah Hafeez Khan said later in a video statement. “PIA’s legal team will pursue it in the Malaysian court, and we hope that we will resolve this issue as soon as possible,” the Pakistani airline said.
Commenting on the legal dispute, Khan said that it was a “payment dispute between us and the party Peregrine” that had been filed in the UK courts about six months ago.
The spokesperson refused to give further details on the dispute, adding that the Malaysian court took an “ex-parte decision causing inconvenience to the passengers who had already boarded the plane”.
According to orders passed by the Kuala Lumpur High Court last Thursday, the plaintiff of the case is Peregrine Aviation Charlie Limited and the matter pertains to two jets leased to PIA by Dublin-based AerCap, the world’s largest aircraft lessor, in 2015.
They are part of a portfolio that AerCap sold to Peregrine Aviation Co Ltd, an investment unit of NCB Capital, the brokerage arm of National Commercial Bank SJSC, in 2018.
According to the interim injunction, PIA is restrained from moving two aircraft in its fleet — a Boeing 777 200ER with serial number 32716 and a Boeing 777- 200ER with serial number 32717 — once they have landed or parked at Kuala Lumpur International Airport until a further hearing on the matter later this month.
Tracking data from Flightradar24 showed only one of the two Boeing 777s covered by the court order is currently in Kuala Lumpur. The other was last recorded in Karachi last month. AerCap, which continued as part of the agreement to provide lease management services to Peregrine, declined to comment.
Meanwhile, not ready to accept the technical jargon, the opposition slammed the Imran Khan government for its “callousness” in not repaying what it owed to different countries and global institutions. In the Pakistani senate, MP Ghafoor Haideri said, “Today, Malaysia has impounded our plane because of debt. Tomorrow, if at any airport, they detain our prime minister, what will happen?”
“And they will stop you. Whe you do not clear their dues, they will stop you,” the MP said.
“How ignominious and shameful this is! And you claim you have put the country on the track of growth! Whereas you take loans and do not repay,” Ghafoor Haideri said.
“If even Malaysia, a friendly and Islamic couontry, was forced to stop our plane, I am convinced it could detain our prime minister tomorrow,” the MP said.
Meanwhile, Malaysia Airports Holdings Berhad, the country’s airport operator, and its subsidiary were ordered to make sure the aircraft does not leave the Kuala Lumpur International Airport. Malaysia’s Ministry of Transport said in a statement on Friday that the aircraft was being held pending legal proceedings set for 24 January.
Malaysia Airports Holdings Bhd said the matter was not related to airport operations.
In response to a question about the issue, Foreign Office spokesperson Zahid Hafeez Chaudhri said the Pakistani high commission in Malaysia was in close contact with the relevant Malaysian authorities and PIA “to address the issue at the earliest”.
“Meanwhile, the passengers are being properly looked after and alternate arrangements for their travel to Pakistan have also been finalised,” he claimed, adding that they would be departing Kuala Lumpur by Emirates flight EK-343 later tonight.
Pakistani high commissioner in Malaysia Amna Baloch said on television that PIA’s legal experts would deal with the situation. She said the high commission would provide all necessary assistance to the airline to resolve the matter. She said the passengers due to fly on the impounded aircraft were being provided with all possible facilities.