A Senate Standing Committee on Thursday initiated an investigation into the role of retired Air Commodore Imran Akhtar and Pakistan International Airlines' (PIA) former CEO, Bernd Hildenbrand, in the sale of an aircraft to a German museum in gross violation of procedures and laws.

During the meeting, Senator Farhatullah Babar accused Imran of preparing the summary to sell the aircraft but then informing the committee that he was unaware of the deal. He said that a privilege motion can be brought against Imran in the Senate.

Aviation Secretary Irfan Ilahi informed the committee that Imran had been issued a notice, but he has since retired.

Babar responded that an investigation against a retired officer can still move forward under Pakistan Air Force (PAF) laws. "Who removed the former CEO's name from the Exit Control List?" he additionally asked.

The standing committee also formed a sub-committee chaired by Babar to investigate the allegations against Imran and Hildenbrand. The committee has been empowered to fix responsibility.

Air Cdr Imran Akhtar had been posted in 2014 as senior general manager in PIA's Procurement and Logistics Department on a lucrative pay along with four other officers of the PAF.

Earlier this year, lawmakers had raised a furor after they found that a PIA plane had gone 'missing'. However, as PIA Spokesperson Mashhood Tajwar later clarified, the plane had not gone 'missing' but was in fact in a German museum, where it had been flown after initially being chartered to a British company for the filming of a movie in Malta.

Lawmakers had subsequently questioned why the 'flight-worthy' airplane had been sold to the museum even though relevant permissions had not been sought. No agreements were signed and the PIA did not receive any advance payment for the sale of the A-310, they had said.

Not satisfied with PIA's response — that the aircraft had been grounded and was not airworthy — the Public Accounts Committee had asked the National Accountability Bureau to investigate the issue.

Senator Tahir Mashhadi, who had initiated the summary in the case, also confirmed to DawnNews that Imran Akhtar is the brother of former DG ISI Rizwan Akhtar, who took an early retirement from the armed forces earlier this month citing "pressing personal commitments".

"I want everyone [...] to respect my decision and not succumb or resort to speculation in any domain. I shall be available for any service in the army whenever needed," Rizwan had said in his parting note, but speculation had nonetheless been rife as to the reason behind his abrupt departure; with some linking it to his brother's alleged role in the aircraft's sale.

Heroin smuggling via PIA

Members of the Senate committee also expressed concern over increases cases of heroin smuggling via the national carrier and demanded an investigation against all those involved.

They said they feared higher level officials of the Airport Security Force, PIA and Customs may be involved in smuggling contraband out of the country.

Senator Usman Khan Kakar and Aviation Adviser Sardar Mehtab Abbasi traded barbs when Kakar complained that aircraft never went missing nor was heroin ever found in PIA planes before Abbasi took over his role.

The committee also expressed severe displeasure at the non-implementation of its earlier suggestions for PIA's improvement.

The committee's chair, Syed Muzaffar Hussain Shah, said that PIA is bound to ensure the implementation of the committee's suggestions.

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