The Supreme Court has summoned Adviser to Prime Minister on Aviation Shujaat Azeem to explain his position on his dual nationalities, court martial by PAF and shares in a firm involved in the new Benazir Bhutto International Airport project near Islamabad.
A three-judge bench – headed by Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry – expressed dissatisfaction over the written responses submitted by Additional Attorney General (AAG) Shah Khawar on behalf of the Aviation Division. Azeem was directed to appear before the court on Thursday.
AAG Khawar informed the bench that Azeem was a Canadian citizen and was court martialled by Pakistan Air Force for having differences with his seniors. Azeem had resigned as the chief executive officer of the Royal Airport Service in February 2013 before his appointment as adviser to the prime minister, he added.
Khawar clarified that there was no conflict of interest if Azeem continued to work as adviser since he was not a partner in the company executing the new Benazir Bhutto International Airport project.
“What were the charges against the adviser when he was court martialled while serving with the air force?” Justice Jawwad S Khwaja asked Shah Khawar, who was unable to give a definite answer.
“Do not be economical with the truth,” observed Justice Sheikh Azmat Saeed and asked for details of the court martial proceedings.
The bench directed the Security Exchange Commission of Pakistan (SECP) to furnish details of the shareholders and directors of the company executing the airport project.
Earlier while hearing arguments about the delay and irregularities in the airport project, the bench was informed about a media claim that Azeem had been convicted by a military court, possessed dual nationality and owned shares in a company working on the airport project.
Advocate Iftikhar Gillani, representing the Civil Aviation Authority’s director general, urged the court to review Article 93 of the Constitution which says there is no bar on dual nationals’ appointment as advisers. He was responding to the chief justice’s observation that how a person holding dual nationalities could be assigned the task of overseeing the country’s Aviation Division.
The bench was also informed that the delay leading to the escalation of the cost from Rs12 billion to Rs73 billion was due to repeated changes in the master plan and basic designs of the project.
Advocate Uzair Bhindari, representing Louis Berger, the consultant for the project informed the court that the delay was CAA’s responsibility, as they had asked for adding an alternative runway in 2010, that was only needed by 2035, as per the master plan.
He said the alternative runway was part of the long term project but the CAA wanted it to be added in the short term project. The court directed all contractors, consultants and the CAA to get copies of each others’ replies and prepare their formulations for further arguments. The court will take up on July 25, 2013.
Published in The Express Tribune, July 25th, 2013.
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