The federal government assured the superior judiciary on Tuesday that it would open a probe on why the New Benazir Bhutto International Airport (NBBIA) Islamabad had been delayed and the project’s cost had ballooned. Additional Attorney General (AAG) Shah Khawar said the government would consider involving an appropriate investigation agency.
“At the same time the government will have to ensure that the project does not suffer,” Khawar added. A three-judge bench, headed by Chief Justice Iftikhar Mohammad Chaudhry, had taken up advocate Asaf Vardag’s petition against appointment of Khalid Chaudhry as Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) director general and delays in the new airport’s construction.
According to the petitioner, the project which had to be ready by December 2011 was still under way. As a result of the delay, the cost of the project had escalated to Rs73 billion and might further rise to Rs90 billion, the petition said.
The assurance of the AAG came in the backdrop of a voluminous report, compiled by a five-member inquiry committee.
The January 23, 2013 inquiry report had highlighted that the tendency of taking arbitrary decisions delayed the process of awarding contracts.
During the proceedings Advocate Iftikhar Gillani representing CAA Director General Air Marshal (retd) Khalid Chaudhry informed the bench that the head of the authority on May 26, 2013 had written a letter to Defence Secretary Asif Yasin Malik, asking him to use an external agency to carry out an independent investigation into the airport project.
The counsel also read out the contents of the letter, in which the CAA chief had deplored that the project had suffered from a serious lack of professional enterprise. During the proceedings, the chief justice observed that the subsequent joint venture between the Lagan Construction Company, Technical Associates (Pvt.) Ltd and Habib Construction Company (JV [Lagan –Tech – Habib]) had not been done in a transparent manner and was not properly pre-qualified in accordance with the law.
On Tuesday the CAA law director, Obaidur Rehman Abbasi, explained to the court that the relevant record pertaining to the project would be placed before the bench at the next hearing date.
Published in The Express Tribune, July 31st, 2013.