DG CAA set to retire on Thursday, extension unlikely

Sources say main reason behind not granting extension were recent protests against the authority’s chief

Sardar Sikander January 31, 2018
DG Pakistan Civil Aviation Air Marshal (Retd) Asim Suleiman Photo: Twitter/zainasghar98

ISLAMABAD: Director General (DG) Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) Air Marshal (retd) Asim Suleman is set to reach the age of superannuation on Thursday, and it is expected that the federal government may not grant him the extension due to the recent protests by the CAA personnel against their boss.

As per the official record, the DG CAA’s date of birth is February 1, 1958, shared by sources with The Express Tribune. This implies that tomorrow (February 1) would be Suleman’s last day in office as he would have reached the age of 60, the official retirement age of federal and provincial government employees across the country.

Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi is weighing multiple options to find a replacement for the CAA’s top slot, said officials. These include the immediate appointment of a new DG or assigning Aviation Secretary Irfan Elahi to run the authority till someone has been appointed. The third option is to give Additional DG CAA Air Vice Marshal Usaidur Rehman Usmani the charge of Acting DG till the appointment of a new DG, added the officials.

Action committee insists CAA DG must go home

If the PM Office intends to grant extension to any retiring officer of basic pay scale 21 or 22, it seeks a summary from the concerned department which is routed through the Establishment Division. In case of the incumbent DG CAA no summary for extension has been moved by the Aviation Division, officials added.

Presently, the sources said the outgoing DG CAA is not attending to his office and the authority’s affairs are practically being managed by the additional DG CAA.

A close aide of PM Abbasi, who spoke on condition of anonymity, told The Express Tribune that the recent protests by the CAA personnel against their boss have also mounted the PM’s concerns that granting extension to DG would fuel further anger among the protesting staff.

CAA officers suspend office activities

Furthermore, the source said Abbasi is not in favour of granting extensions to top government officers upon their retirements. “Unlike former prime minister (Nawaz Sharif), his successor has generally followed the policy of not granting extensions— and to give extension to any retiring officer under ‘inevitable’ circumstances. So, it is unlikely that the incumbent DG CAA would be able to get a favourable nod to continue performing his duties after retirement,” said the aide.

Few weeks ago, reports made headlines in the national media that CAA employees of different departments had joined hands against the DG CAA’s insulting behaviour and demanded his removal. The related letters written by the CAA personnel to aviation secretary, PM’s Adviser on Aviation Sardar Mehtab Ahmad Khan and other senior officials termed the DG as ‘mentally ill’ and ‘deranged’ while demanding Suleman’s medical examination to determine his mental health.

“Director General Asim Suleman is ill-treating the staff for a long time. His attitude is a source of extreme psychological stress for the staff— Suleman is a deranged person and needs immediate medical attention,” read the content of the related letters.

Goat sacrificed to rid CAA of its boss

PM took stock of the situation and tasked the aviation adviser to reach out to the protesting CAA personnel in a bid to allay their concerns.

In a meeting between the protesting CAA officers and aviation adviser, the latter urged the officers to call off the protests— and that the government would find a solution to the crisis that would be “acceptable to all.”

Sources said this was an indication that the government would not remove the DG CAA but wait for his retirement. The protesting personnel also ended the protests hoping that the DG would not get an extension, they said.

The PM has also expressed his reservations with how the CAA is being run. In a recent meeting with a delegation of journalists, Abbassi had categorically expressed his reservations regarding the competence of CAA’s management.

The PM said the managerial control of the New Islamabad International Airport, which he had claimed would be ready by March this year, needed to be outsourced because the CAA “lacks the capacity to run such an advanced international airport.”

He further added, “Have a look at the conditions of washrooms at our airports. If a department can’t maintain washrooms, what else it’s capable of?”