LAHORE: The Lahore High Court (LHC) on Monday dismissed as withdrawn a petition challenging the alleged likely ‘deal’ with Qatar reportedly for selling 51pc shares of the Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) and handing over the administrative control of the national flag carrier and the Islamabad International Airport to the Gulf state.

Nabeel Ahmad Kahloon, a lawyer with expertise in aviation laws, had filed the petition, saying that during a recent visit of Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif to Qatar, a massive investment had been pledged by Doha in Pakistan’s aviation sector.

At the outset of the petition’s hearing, an additional attorney general told the court that no such deal was under consideration of the government.

Justice Shahid Bilal Hassan observed that the lawyer (Kahloon) had filed the petition on the basis of media reports only. He asked the lawyer to withdraw the petition or facea fine.

Kahloon opted to withdraw his petition and the judge dismissed the same as withdrawn.

The petitioner had contended that, as per reports, Qatar expressed its interest in making investments in the airport and hotel sectors.

He said that under the ‘deal’ the federal government would hand over administrative affairs of the Islamabad International Airport to Qatar whereas a Qatari company would provide the relevant services of the airport’s terminal and cargo.

The petitioner submitted that the Qatari government would also be given shares of the PIA’s Roosevelt Hotel in Manhattan, New York, in return for the investment, which would be received through state-to-state agreements between Pakistan and Qatar. He further submitted that the worth of Islamabad airport’s land was around Rs4tr, besides the revenue being generated out of it.

He argued that the government, while signing such a deal with the gulf country should keep the commercial potential of the land in mind.

Kahloon explained that the Public Procurement Regulatory Authority (PPRA) rules would apply to all financial transactions since both the PIA and the Pakistan Civil Aviation Authority were federal government entities. He argued that the federal government did not get approval of the parliament before making the impugned deals for the Qatar investments whereas the PIA had been converted into a public limited company through the PIA Conversion Act 2016, passed by the parliament.

The lawyer said any such impugned deal and sale of the national nag carrier needed approval of the parliament through amendment to the relevant law.

The petitioner asked the court to declare the impugned deals by the government regarding sale of the PIA shares and surrendering administrative control of the Islamabad airport to Qatar as illegal.

Published in Dawn, August 30th, 2022

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