KARACHI: The office of the deputy director general of the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) has been handed over to Manzar Jamal Siddiqui, an officer who had been on “leave” in the United States where he reportedly worked as a private consultant for over two years.
Ironically, the CAA handout announcing the development on Wednesday night went on to add that this has been done as a reward for his “excellent performance”.
One of the senior most officials in the organisation, Siddiqui is currently principal director regulatory and the additional charge of deputy DG has been given to him because incumbent Air Vice Marshal Khawar Hussain has been ill for nearly a year.
“Siddiqui rejoined a couple of months ago,” said an official. “This is how things work here. Someone who was away at a time when aviation industry was going through a terrible time is rewarded.”
CAA officials are entitled to long and paid leaves, but not everyone is allowed absence for such a long period.
Performance of Pakistan’s aviation regulator has come under the spotlight as it struggles to boost stagnant passenger traffic, attract European and far eastern airlines and complete work on stalled projects.
Internal rift, out of turn promotions and increasing interference of Prime Minister’s Advisor Shujaat Azeem-led aviation division has also left many officers disgruntled.
Just last week, CAA DG Air Marshal (retired) Muhammad Yousaf was unceremoniously removed on grounds that he was too slow in taking action for early completion of projects.
But people close to him say that Yousaf was actually frustrated at Azeem’s interference when it comes to awarding projects and appointing officers to key posts.
“This is a dictatorial shakeup,” said an officer. “And it’s not necessarily meant to benefit the organisation. It’s being done to reward a few of the favourites.”
As part of the sweeping changes, the Legal Department of CAA is also being outsourced to a Lahore-based firm. “CAA’s legal officers follow rules and often they would raise objections on how things are done. The people at top don’t like this.”
Every project, be it construction of a runway, installation of radars or awarding a consultancy contract, is vetted by the regulator’s legal officers.
Siddiqui joined CAA in 1983. As principal director regulatory, he is looking after seven divisions including Air Transport and Economic Affairs, Security and Regulation.
Published in The Express Tribune, July 9th, 2015.
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