ISLAMABAD: At a time when the government has reportedly decided to privatise the Pakistan International Airlines and converted the corporation running the national flag carrier into a company, the aviation division told the Supreme Court on Wednesday that it had no role in the appointment of Shujaat Azeem either as adviser or special adviser to the prime minister on aviation.

This was stated in a reply submitted by the aviation secretary to a three-member bench of the apex court headed by Chief Justice Anwar Zaheer Jamali. The bench is seized with two petitions challenging the appointment of Mr Azeem.

The petitions have been filed by Mehmood Akhtar Naqvi, a private citizen, and the general secretary of the Pakistan Airline Pilot Association. They have challenged the appointment of Mr Azeem as the special adviser with the status of minister of state on the ground that the move was “in contravention of earlier court directives”. They have also nominated Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif as a respondent.

Also read: PIAC converted into company

The court, which will resume hearing of the case on Thursday (today), had taken a strong view at the last hearing of Nov 12 of the appointment of Mr Azeem and even come close to issuing a contempt notice to the prime minister.

The court asked the government either to immediately cancel the appointment or contest for acquiring services of Mr Azeem who had earlier been court-martialled.

Earlier Mr Azeem had to resign from the post of adviser to the PM on aviation on July 25, 2013 after he got embroiled in a controversy in the court over having been court-martialled and holding dual nationality.

Mr Azeem had to appear before a Supreme Court bench headed by then chief justice Iftikhar Mohammad Chaudhry, which was seized with a case relating to delay in the construction of the New Benazir Bhutto International Airport near Islamabad. He told the court that he was resigning because he did not want to embarrass the prime minister.

On Nov 12, the apex court had provided two options to the government after taking exception to the service profile of Mr Azeem provided by the government to the court. The service profile was silent about the fact that he had been court-martialled when he was working in the Pakistan Air Force. Similarly the summary moved to appoint Mr Azeem as the special adviser also had not mentioned his conviction.

The reply submitted by the secretary on Wednesday said that the aviation division had not deliberately concealed Mr Azeem’s conviction. It said that the fact had not been mentioned in earlier replies submitted to the court because of an oversight and misunderstanding as the replies focused on his appointment.

That was why the secretary could not offer a plausible explanation for the omission of the fact from the earlier replies and was unable to recapitulate facts of the case at that moment, it said.

The reply recalled that the secretary had tendered an unconditional apology and left himself at the mercy of the court over his inability to give a plausible justification about alleged concealment of the court martial of Mr Azeem.

It requested the court to treat the omission of the fact from the earlier replies as an error committed unintentionally and not willingly.

The reply said that the summary for the appointment of Mr Azeem had been moved and initiated by the cabinet division.

Published in Dawn, December 10th, 2015

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