ISLAMABAD: Former adviser on aviation in ex-prime minister Nawaz Sharif’s government Shujaat Azeem on Wednesday rejected as baseless the allegations levelled by Aviation Minister Ghulam Sarwar about kickbacks in the leasing of the Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) aircraft that had recently been seized in Malaysia.
The ex-adviser, when contacted, said he was in charge of the aviation division but the day-to-day affairs and actual running of PIA were managed by the board of directors that also undertook the acquiring of the lease of the aircraft.
Proper procedures were adopted through advertisement in the press inviting tenders and the lowest price was accepted and further negotiated and finally further reduced, he said. “Allah may guide him [the minister] to learn to speak the truth,” he remarked.
Commenting on the minister’s claim that the Indian lobby was behind the conspiracy involving seizure of the plane, the ex-adviser said: “It is very easy to blame India and the previous governments for everything that goes wrong.”
Speaking to Dawn, the former chairman of the board of directors, Nasser Jaffer, stated: “It is unfortunate that people who are unaware of the facts level such baseless allegations. In fact, Shujaat Azeem had no role to play in the leasing.”
The two aircraft had been obtained on lease through a competitive procedure in accordance with the PPRA rules, he said, adding that an advertisement had been published and the deal with the lowest bidder was finalised after the rent had been further brought down through negotiations.
Mr Jaffer said the lowest bidder had quoted $670,000 as monthly rent for each of the two 777-200ER wide-body aircraft, which was brought down to $580,000 through negotiations. He said two other bidders, Kenya Airlines and LLFC, had quoted the monthly rent of each aircraft as $1.5 million and $760,000, respectively.
Meanwhile, an aviation division spokesperson while referring to a news report published in Dawn on Feb 2, 2021, headlined ‘Minister sees Indian lobby behind PlA plane seizure’, said that the minister was wrongly quoted as saying that “[Former adviser on aviation Shujaat] Azeem was ‘controlled’ by some Indians”.
Published in Dawn, February 4th, 2021