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ISLAMABAD: The Supreme Court on Monday set aside the appointment of Musharraf Rasool Cyan as Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) on the grounds that his elevation to the post was against rules and procedure.

“For the reasons to be recorded later, the petition against the appointment of Musharraf Rasool is accepted because he was not qualified to be appointed as CEO,” said a short order dictated by Chief Justice Mian Saqib Nisar.

A three-judge SC bench headed by the chief justice had taken up the petition filed by Safdar Anjum, general secretary of the PIA Officers Association, challenging the appointment of Rasool Cyan.

Justice Ijaz-ul-Ahsan regretted that not a single criterion or guideline developed for appointments in public sector companies was adhered to and wondered what kind of CEO was running a corporate entity when he did not possess even a single-day experience in the field of aviation. Moreover, he said, the tenure was always for two years, but Mr Rasool was awarded a three-year period.

The court regretted that no shortlisting was done by the airline’s board of directors and that Adviser to the Prime Minister on Aviation Sardar Mehtab Ahmed Khan was also present in the meeting where the decision on appointment was taken only because Mr Rasool had served under him.

“What sort of ship you are running?” Justice Ahsan asked.

“The ship was grounded many years ago,” replied senior counsel Naeem Bokhari, representing Mr Rasool.
The chief justice deplored that the ailing corporation had accumulated hefty losses of Rs360 billion.

The counsel argued that the PIA had a long history of appointing CEOs without prior experience in aviation and the worst experience the airline ever faced was when pilots were appointed to the top slot.

The chief justice observed that Sardar Mehtab might be a good politician and “we have complete respect for him, but what experience of aviation he had to run an organisation with such a huge debt”.

The counsel explained that there was no mandatory requirement that the CEO should have a prior experience in aviation and that it was the board of directors of the airline which had made recommendations for the appointment of Mr Rasool. Moreover, Sardar Mehtab was invited by the board to attend the meetings on the appointment of the CEO.

Mr Bokhari said Mr Rasool was summoned by Prime Minister Imran Khan on Sept 11 and, therefore, the court should give the new government an opportunity to decide about the appointment — a decision which could always be challenged in this court.

The turnaround of the airline was on, the counsel said, adding that the cash flow situation in the airline had improved.

Published in Dawn, September 4th, 2018