ISLAMABAD: A Senate sub-committee was informed on Tuesday that it was on the request of former interior minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan that the name of former German chief executive officer of Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) Bernd Hildenbrand was removed from the exit control list (ECL) in the wake of guarantees received from the German embassy.
The Senate’s Special Committee on PIA had formed a three-member subcommittee to look into the controversial sale of the national carrier’s Airbus A-310 to a German firm in violation of the Public Procurement Regulatory Authority rules.
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The four-member committee headed by Senator Farhatullah Babar expressed serious reservations over the report of the Ministry of Interior that named the then minister for removal of his name from the ECL.
In this regard, interior ministry officials also presented a letter before the sub-committee that carried Nisar’s signature.
The ministry further stated that the Ministry of Foreign Affairs had requested the removal of the PIA chief’s name from the ECL.
“The ministry was told that Hildenbrand’s son had met with an accident so his name should be removed [from the ECL],” said the official, adding that the German embassy had guaranteed that he would return after one month.
Hildenbrand was initially appointed as PIA’s chief operating officer but was later given the charge of acting chief executive officer on April 22, 2017.
On March 16, 2017, Hildenbrand was barred from travelling abroad after his name was put on the ECL. The former interior minister said Hildenbrand was being investigated over corruption charges.
The committee members, expressing surprise over the matter, stated that Hildenbrand had failed to return to Pakistan after the expiry of the guaranteed one-month period.
The interior ministry official also stated that it wrote to the Foreign Office to take up the matter with the German embassy in Islamabad on whose guarantee and commitment the permission had been granted.
“We will demand of the Foreign Office to produce the written commitment and guarantee given by the embassy and ask whether and when it took up the matter with the German embassy in Islamabad, and about its response,” Babar stated.
“They must not let the former chief of PIA escape from answering some searching questions about the attempted sale of the aircraft,” he added.
The sub-committee also sought clarity on the matter in the next meeting after Senator Nauman Wazir stated that it was a serious matter because it carried the signature and note from the then interior minister.
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“How can they take such a step without taking the PIA management into confidence?” Wazir asked ministry officials.
If there was no such guarantee, the officials responsible for allowing him to leave the country must be held accountable, Senator Babar retorted.
On the second agenda point, the committee was informed that under directions of the Public Accounts Committee the case of the sale of PIA airbus A-310 to a German museum had been referred to the National Accountability Bureau for inquiry.
Similarly, aviation officials told the house that the Federal Investigation Agency had also taken notice and initiated investigations.
The committee members were surprised at the glaring flaws in the tendering process while neither the director procurement nor the PIA managing director had the authority to finalise the sale and mobility of the aircraft outside the country to Germany.
Civil Aviation Secretary Irfan Elahi said sale of the aircraft in question had been stopped and that it was still the property of the government of Pakistan.
“However, negotiations not to charge the parking fee for the aircraft are still underway.”
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