It seems that the chief of the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA), the country’s aviation regulator, had it coming after two horrific plane crashes in as many years that have collectively killed 279 people.
A fiery Peshawar High Court on Wednesday – as it resumed the hearing into the 2010 Airblue crash case – issued stern directives to the government to immediately suspend CAA Director-General Nadeem Khan Yousafzai until, in accordance with an earlier court order, an inquiry is completed by international experts into the airworthiness of domestic passenger aircraft as well as the probe into the recent Bhoja Air crash.
The court also served him a contempt of court notice, along with Defence and Cabinet Secretary Nargis Sethi, ordering them to appear in person on May 30 for ‘violating writ of the court’.
The PHC also issued a show-cause notice to Bhoja Air Managing Director Arshad Jalil and to the airline’s licencing authority.
On a writ petition, filed by Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz’s (PML-N) Marvi Memon, PHC Chief Justice Dost Muhammad Khan was informed that the court orders to engage international experts to examine the airworthiness of aircraft of all domestic airlines, including state-owned Pakistan International Airlines (PIA), had been ignored.
“Since the order, dated January 19, 2012, no examination was conducted. If the court verdict had been respected, the [recent] Bhoja Air crash could have been averted,” Umer Farooq Aadam, counsel for families of Airblue crash victims, said.
“From factual circumstances available on record, we are of the view that the government of Pakistan’s defence secretary and the CAA DG appear to have committed contempt of court. Therefore, under Section 3 of the Contempt of Court Ordinance 2003, [they] shall submit their replies,” the order read.
CAA’s initial defence
Obaidur Rehman Abbasi, CAA’s senior legal officer, told the court that a letter had been written to Mukhtar Awan, who represents Asia at the International Civil Aviation Organisation Headquarters in Montreal, Canada. “His reply has been received and they will soon be sending their experts. However, all aircraft have been examined by local experts.”
He reiterated that the CAA would not conceal facts from the court and could even produce audio records of the Airblue flight from its takeoff to its crash.
Afnan Kundi, attorney for the defence ministry which is the single largest shareholder in PIA, confirmed that ICAO’s reply had been received on April 12.
Dissatisfied still, Justice Khan said that the defence ministry took around two months to write to the ICAO which shows that the court orders were defied and citizens were treated as ‘Category C’ human beings. “The delay [in investigating the Airblue crash] was caused not only due to procedural impediments but also due to criminal negligence.”
Criticising Defence Minister Ahmed Mukhtar, the chief justice said that he should decide whether his position or the safety of citizens was more important to him.
Meanwhile, an assistant to Airblue’s counsel Wasim Sajjad told the court that 107 of the 152 affected families had been compensated. He claimed that Rs5.5million had been given to the legal heirs.
“Thirty-four families are under litigation, two are unwilling to take the amount and two others cannot be compensated because of a personal dispute,” he said. No explanation was given for the remaining seven families. The chief justice remarked that the responsible Airblue persons should go door to door, apologise and present cross-cheques.
The court then gave Airblue 20 days to compensate all heirs, saying that in the event that the airline fails to comply with the order, the court will ask the federal government to suspend its activities and airport to withdraw all facilities to the airline.
Published in The Express Tribune, April 26th, 2012.
More in KP & FATABISP officials are beaten up in Mohmand Agency