Shujaat Azeem.—Photo by INP
ISLAMABAD: Facing a controversy over having been court-martialled and holding Canadian citizenship, Adviser to the Prime Minister on Aviation Shujaat Azeem appeared before the Supreme Court on Thursday and informed it that he had decided to resign from the post.
“Since he (Shujaat Azeem) is embroiled in the controversy which he does not want to expand because it will hamper his performance, he is tendering his resignation,” Attorney General Muneer A. Malik said on behalf of the adviser.
A three-judge bench headed by Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry had summoned Mr Azeem to explain why in the light of articles 93(1,2) and 63 of the constitution, he was occupying the sensitive post with a status of minister of state when he had been court-martialled and was a dual national.
The matter cropped up on July 12 when the court’s attention was drawn to a news item headlined “New order for aviation causes uncertainty” during the hearing of a case relating to the delay in construction of the New Benazir Bhutto International Airport in Fatehjang, 30km southwest of Islamabad.
The report said that before his appointment as PM’s adviser Shujaat Azeem had served as chief executive officer of the Royal Air Service, a ground handling company, and was reportedly a partner of Chaudhry Munir, the main infrastructure contractor for the new airport -- an example of conflict of interest.
According to the report, Mr Azeem is a former pilot of the Lebanon’s Hariri family and he started his career as a PAF pilot. He holds Canadian citizenship.
Mr Azeem was court-martialled during his stint in the PAF and his not-so-good memories in the air force might not help him develop an interface with the defence ministry for coordination, the report said.
When the case was taken up on Thursday, the attorney general, along with the adviser, walked up to the rostrum and conceded that there was no doubt that Mr Azeem professed dual nationality but he did not solicit to become the adviser on aviation; rather he was invited by the prime minister to perform in the capacity of adviser.
Mr Azeem said he would meet the prime minister and tender his resignation.
The attorney general said Mr Azeem had been court-martialled on four minor charges, one of insubordination, but none involving offence of moral turpitude.
Referring to Mr Azeem’s appointment as chief executive officer of Royal Air Service, the AG said he had quit the post in February well before assuming the office of adviser to the prime minister. He accepted that aviation facilities had a relationship with national security but Mr Azeem wanted to assure the court that his loyalty was with Pakistan and in view of the controversy over his appointment he had decided to tender his resignation to the prime minister in order to avoid being embroiled further in such controversy.
The court ordered the attorney general to place on record the notification of acceptance of Mr Azeem’s resignation.