Runway to nowhere: The curious case of the sinking runway

FIA probe finds eight CAA officials, six consultants guilty on various counts

Vaqas August 19, 2014


A patch of quicksand would rarely be thought of as ideal terrain to place important infrastructure on, but new information suggests that Pakistan’s aerospace managers would strongly disagree.

A Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) inquiry report on the new Islamabad airport debacle – the findings of which are available with The Express Tribune – found seven Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) officials including four former project directors guilty of various offences including two cases of ‘criminal negligence and misconduct’.

The inquiry team – the FIA Director General Ghalib Bandesha and additional directors Yaseen Farooq and Ahmed Afani – signed off on July 10, 2014 on their findings after having started the probe in September 2013.

The inquiry panel also suggests criminal action against senior officials of project management consultants – Louis Berger Group (LBG) and Engineering Consultants International (ECIL), and design consultants Aéroports de Paris Ingénierie (ADPI), National Engineering Services Pakistan (Nespak), Arcop and CPG Corporation.

CAA staff capers

Of the seven CAA officers declared guilty by the inquiry team, Vikram Sodha, a CAA director and former project director for the airport, leads the pack with eight charges against him.

The most significant of these include splitting the project into 17 packages, preparing a PC-1 using ‘rough estimates’, selecting the LBG despite the fact they are ‘not civil engineers’ and without verifying their degrees, failing to take any action against the LBG and other non-performing consultants, and general mismanagement.

Meanwhile, the CAA planning and development directors, Asif Bashir Ahmad and Roohullah, and project directors, Brig (retd) Iftikhar Ali and Brig (retd) Bilal Hameed, have also been charged with splitting the project into multiple packages, failure to take action against non-performing consultants, and mismanagement. Ahmad was also charged with criminal negligence in the selection of LBG, the detail of the charge being the same as Sodha.

In addition, the CAA works and development director Yousaf Kamal and Musharraf Khan, the project director at the time the inquiry was ordered, have also been charged – Kamal for preparing the PC-1 on rough estimates and failure to take action against the LBG, and Khan for mismanagement and failure to take action against design consultants.


The report also recommends criminal action against senior officials of project management consultants – the LBG and the ECIL – for violating the Pakistan Engineering Council (PEC) Act by failing to disclose that the officials were not qualified civil engineers.

It also states that they showed ‘no interest in the project despite charging exorbitant fees of Rs374 million, remaining absent from the site, taking totally wrong decisions against all engineering principles’, and non-supervision of design consultants and contractors, leading to delays and cost escalation.

Design consultants – the ADPi, Nespak CPG and Arcop – are charged with submission of faulty designs, which were also submitted late, and showing no interest in the project. The report recommends recovery of fees paid – Rs388.5 million – from ADPi and Nespak, and Rs410 million from the CPG and Arcop.

Speaking on the accusations, a source directly involved in work on the airport referred to the site, as a ‘bad choice’, saying that as some of the area was 30 to 35 feet deep and required extensive levelling.

The source said the lack of utilities such as water and power also meant that extensive rainwater harvesting had to be done, and this might have further affected the soil quality.

He said the problem with the consultants lacking relevant qualifications could be blamed on the CAA. “The CAA did not explicitly mention that the qualified civil engineers duly accredited by the PEC were required.”

The CAA spokesperson Pervez George said he could not comment on the report as it has not been shared with the CAA yet.

Published in The Express Tribune, August 19th, 2014.


Ali | 7 years ago | Reply

If I am not mistaken the project begun mid 2007, PPP came into power in 2008. I am not sure who chose the site, but I think the PPP should shoulder most of the blame.

The Source | 7 years ago | Reply

The article is fairly clear in my mind and relates to the New Islamabad Airport at Fateh Jang (in case there is any lack of clarity).

The 'red herring' regarding the Consultants' appointment and they either being or not being 'Engineers' as per the PEC description requires further discovery in that they (the Project Management consultants) were not formally contracted by the CAA to be PEC registered in the first place: in just about every other country in the World, the 'Project Managers' are not 'Engineers' but are specialist Project Managers and Pakistan appears to be about 30 years behind the times here allowing a PEC to monopolize the industry. Whether the project management consultants (Louis Bergers) breached contract is another matter of course....

The project is a classic case of a badly drawn brief (by the CAA) and a 'eyes in the tummy' syndrome which has meant in real terms that the Pakistan Govt. has leaked cash at an alarming rate and ended up at worst case building a white elephant out in the middle of nowhere devoid of transport links, power and water! Shameful waste - the project grew arms and legs from its inception from being a simple terminal building and single runway to a development more suited to large European capital.

It is correct to investigate the nepotism and behavior of the CAA project staff at Director level and if found to be illegal then good luck to them. Kickbacks? - well of course that happened.

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