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—File Photo.
—File Photo.

ISLAMABAD: The government announced on Sunday that it would unveil a ‘transparent’ aviation policy in a couple of months as it sought to justify the creation of the new aviation division.

The policy will address concerns of “all stakeholders”, a statement issued by the aviation division said.

“To meet the international standards and to get the viewpoint of all stakeholders, letters have been dispatched for their suggestions and comments. Tentative date for holding the first aviation seminar to develop a comprehensive strategy to formulate a National Aviation Policy is under consideration,” it said

The announcement gave reasons for separating the aviation sector from defence ministry and setting up an independent division to run its affairs with a litany of complaints against the ministry for neglecting it.

The government’s intention to separate aviation sector from the ministry had become obvious at the time of formation of the federal cabinet when Shujaat Azeem was appointed adviser to the prime minister on aviation. The absence of any preceding consultation stirred fears of complications, particularly about overlapping roles of the ministry and the division.

The Senate Standing Committee on Defence is meeting on July 17 to discuss the issue while Chief Justice Iftikhar Mohammad Chaudhry has sought response to reports that the aviation adviser has dual nationality.

Sunday’s statement attributed the prime minister’s “landmark decision” to separate aviation sector from the ministry to his vision to improve air travel facilities.

“The prime minister gave a clear vision to streamline air travel by upgrading the CAA infrastructure, improving passenger facilitation by streamlining outdated procedures, inducting new technologies, and importantly, changing the attitude of all agencies at the airports to make the life of travelling public comfortable and hassle-free,” it said.

In what was literally a charge-sheet against the former managers of the aviation sector, the defence ministry, it said the country’s airports depicted a picture of neglect. No sincere efforts had ever been made to make them operationally convenient for the passengers and secure. The statement said the division had been established to turn around the sector in a positive direction through “sincere, honest and focused approach” of the new leadership.

Sarcastically responding to the often cited pretext of high security at airports as a reason for keeping the Airport Security Force (ASF) under military control, it said: “While security is the number one priority, yet ASF is still operating with CAT-I scanning machines while CAT-III scanning machines are the standard configurations at all major international airports to counter increasing security threats. This area has been overlooked for a considerable period of time.”

It said efforts had been initiated on war footing and with the collaboration of the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) and the ASF to ensure that airports in the country were properly equipped with latest technology. A working paper has been prepared to immediately procure CAT-III scanners.

Furthermore, the statement said, the Civil Aviation Authority had been working with outdated radars and communication and radio navigation equipment, worn-out runways and passenger terminal infrastructure.

“No major upgrade or induction of latest technology/equipment has taken place in CAA for the last 20-25 years,” it said, adding that a renovation plan envisaging a cost of Rs100 billion was being worked out to ensure that the vital changes were brought in by 2015.