Aviation division told to form JIT on IIA corruption

Senate panel warns division of facing privilege motion if it fails to comply

Waqas Ahmed February 13, 2020

ISLAMABAD: A Senate panel on Wednesday directed the Aviation division to set up a joint investigation team (JIT) to probe alleged corruption in the construction of the Islamabad International Airport (IIA).

The panel further warned the division’s minister and secretary that a privilege motion will be initiated against them if they fail to comply with the body’s directions.

The directions were issued by the Senate Standing Committee on Aviation on Wednesday as it met in the Parliament House with Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) Senator Mushahidullah Khan in the chair.

During the meeting, the panel reviewed preliminary investigation reports into the alleged irregularities in the construction of the airport and expressed its dissatisfaction of them.

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Senator Mushahidullah, who twice served as the Minister for Climate Change under the last regime of the PML-N, asked whether the Aviation Division had formed a JIT to probe irregularities in the airport. When he was told that the division has not, he expressed his displeasure over the matter.

He said that that Aviation Minister Ghulam Sarwar Khan had assured the committee that a JIT will be formed to probe irregularities in the construction of the airport.

“Why was the JIT not formed, the committee must be informed about the progress made in forming the body,” he remarked, asking officials of the division to explain the delays in forming the JIT.

Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) Senator Bahramand Tangi, who had originally raised the matter on a point of public importance in November 2018 after which the committee had taken it up, said that they have been asking for answers about the airport for over a year but have yet to receive any.

“If they [officials] do not want to give us an answer, there is no use of sitting before us,” he said.

Aviation Secretary Hussain Nasir Jami said that separate investigations are underway on the IIA, including one by Justice (retired) Shamsul Mulk, General Shahid Niaz and the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA). Furthermore, the prime minister had formed a committee comprising federal ministers to probe the matter. Additionally, he said that the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) and the Special Assistant to Prime Minister Shahzad Akbar were probing different aspects of the airport separately.

At this, the panel’s chairman remarked that the committee formed by the prime minister is not an investigation agency. He added that investigation agencies are neither apologetic nor are they providing any answers on the corruption done in the airport.

The committee’s convener further said that it had recommended forming a JIT to avoid "conflict in findings of different committees."

Muhsahidullah added that a promise made by a minister is intrinsically a promise made by the relevant ministry and that it is the ministry’s responsibility to fulfil such a promise.

The aviation secretary clarified that they are not trying to cover up anyone’s corruption and that those who were involved in the alleged corruption should be punished for it.

"The ministry [Aviation Division) must give a reply at the next meeting on the formation of the JIT as recommended by the committee and explain if it is not constituted,” Mushahidullah observed, warning that a privilege motion will be moved in the Senate if the division fails.

He added the body has received six extensions to address this agenda item, but it is still waiting for the compliance report.

Earlier, the meeting reviewed a resolution raised by Senator Professor Dr Mehr Taj Roghani regarding the re-employment of retired PIA employees referred by the House. Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) officials told the committee that the Supreme Court had banned recruitments in 2018 but the apex court has since been asked to grant permission to recruit 100 former employees, including pilots, keeping in view future requirements of the national flag-carrier.

The matter was disposed of, and the committee stressed on creating a policy on hiring fresh candidates.

In the case of fake degree of employees, the committee was told decisions have been taken on 600 employees while a further 186 cases are pending. Mushahidullah directed to review decisions taken on employees with fake degrees and formed a three-member sub-committee under Senator Mustafa Nawaz Khokhar to speak with PIA’s Review Committee and to probe the matter in greater detail with options for dealing cases on humanitarian grounds.

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Deliberating over a dubious financial deal of Rs700 million for awarding a contract to install In-Flight Entertainment (IFE) systems, the committee sought details of the tender along with criteria for prequalification to discuss the matter in its next meeting.

Reviewing an alleged harassment case referred by the Senate chairman, the committee took strong exception over the absence of both, the accused and the complainant. It was stressed that if the two do not appear in the next meeting, a Privileged Motion will be moved against them.

Discussing details of recruitments in the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA), PIA, Airport Security Force (ASF) and the Pakistan Meteorological Department in the past three years, the committee directed that details of qualification criteria, testing services, policies for minimum marks and interview details be shared.


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