A classic case of conflict of interest

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ISLAMABAD: Prime Ministerís adviser on civil aviation Shujaat Azeem appears to be in such breathless haste that he cannot help making headlines and for all the wrong reasons.

While he is already on Supreme Courtís radar for the questionable decision about PIA and allegedly keeping dual nationality, a company owned by him has applied for a licence to run the business of chartered planes and its final approval will be made by the ministry headed by Shujaat himself, a classic case of conflict of interest.

Although the word circulating in the aviation circles suggests that the licence being obtained is for running a private airline, DG Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) Khalid Chaudhry said that Royal Airport Services (RAS) has applied for the licence of chartered operation to offer commercial services like Princely Jet. The RAS, among others, has the PMís adviser as one of its shareholder, DG CAA confirmed to The News. He also acknowledged that Air Indus has also been granted licence to start air service, a case that was pending for the last two years amid speculations that it is owned by the family of President Asif Ali Zardari.

Princely Jet is the main service provider in Pakistan. The PML-N leadership had also hired two planes from the company during election campaign, a fact confirmed in the past by Information Minister Pervaiz Rashid.

As for as the RAS licence is concerned, the DG CAA said that the request of RAS was under process and licence would be granted once the minimum requirements in this respect were fulfilled. He said the case was first considered by the CAA itself and its recommendations would lead to the final approval of the case from the ministry of civil aviation that was created haphazardly and Shujaat Azeem was made PMís adviser on civil aviation.

He also explained the difference in requirement for airline licence and chartered operation licence. For the former, the CAA official said, minimum three aircraft have to be physically present and the Air Indus had to produce them for obtaining license. In order to acquire chartered operations licence, a kind of taxi service that one charters, minimum two aircraft are required. He said RAS did not have these aircraft at the moment.

At the first step, approval in principle is granted that follows Air Operations Certificate (AOC). According to the insiders the principle approval was granted on June 26 when PMís advisor took along DG first to Quetta and then Karachi on a private jet. Shortly before taking off from Islamabad, an insider said, the DG directed the concerned officials in Karachi to ensure the completion of necessary formalities regarding licence within a day and thus all process was completed in undue haste.

As The News contacted DG CAA, he feigned ignorance about the date the licence process was started though denying that it was initiated the day he flew with the adviser. He confirmed having travelled with the adviser in a private jet and said he did so on the adviserís insistence since he was reluctant to travel on official expenses regardless of the fact he was entitled to travel and other facilities.

In contrast, what favours are thrown to the owners of private jet is anybodyís guess. In this case, a businessman has been inducted as director of the PIA Board. Other three recently inducted directors are the office bearers of Huner Foundation, an NGO run by Shujaat Azeem and others. Likewise, his decision of appointing chairman PIA has been questioned by the Supreme Court, which has asked the government to follow transparent procedure.

Shujaat Azeemís dual nationality is yet another question the government has to answer before the Supreme Court.

Courtesy: †the News

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