New Islamabad airport: Airport consultants told to leave passports with registrar

Apex court says as long as case continues, those involved in the project should remain in the country.

Mudassir Raja July 12, 2013
Apex court says as long as case continues, those involved in the project should remain in the country. PHOTO: APP


The Supreme Court asked the consultants and contractors of the new Benazir Bhutto International Airport to file an undertaking and submit their passports with the SC registrar, ensuring they would not exit Pakistan as long as the case was heard by the court.

A three-judge bench headed by Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry on Thursday verbally asked the lawyers representing Louis Berger Group, US-based engineering consultant group, and as many as 17 contractors led by Lagan, Technical Associates, Habib Joint Venture LTH JV to file undertakings for not leaving the country.

“There are precedents about certain accused running from Pakistan after cases were initiated against them. As the matter regarding the airport is pending before the SC and the NAB is also looking into it, all the persons involved in the case should file an undertaking about not leaving the country and submit their passports with the registrar of the court,” remarked Chief Justice Chaudhry.

The bench, also comprising Justice Ijaz Ahmed Chaudhry and Justice Sheikh Azmat Saeed, adjourned the hearing until Friday (today) and asked the lawyers to forward their arguments, especially about an inquiry conducted by Lieutenant General (retd) Shahid Niaz which had held the Civil Aviation Authority, the consultants and contractors responsible for the delay in the project which has led to an escalation of its cost manifold.

Hearing a petition filed by Advocate Fasihuddin Khan Vardag against the appointment of Air Marshal (retd) Khalid Chaudhry as Director General CAA and the increase in the cost of constructing the new airport, the bench was informed that the inquiry had blamed CAA, its consultants and contractors for irregularities.

The bench asked the lawyers representing them to put forward their detailed arguments, saying it wanted to dispose of the case early.

Additional Attorney General Shah Khawar told the apex court that there had been correspondence between CAA and National Accountability Bureau regarding carrying out a criminal investigation about alleged corruption in the new airport project, especially after the conclusion of Niaz’s inquiry in January of this year.

Then, on July 6, NAB wrote a letter to CAA asking for a copy of the inquiry report to proceed further in the case.

Regarding the appointment of Khalid Chaudhry as DG CAA, Khawar said the secretary Establishment had maintained that the appointment was made in accordance with the recruitment rules for CAA and there was no need for an open advertisement for the post.

Contesting the arguments of Khawar, petitioner Vardag said the head of CAA’s human resource department – based on the opinion of Pakistan Engineering Council – had declared Khalid Chaudhry unqualified for the post of project director of the new Benazir Bhutto International Airport, despite there already being a project director in place.

Published in The Express Tribune, July 12th, 2013.