ISLAMABAD, April 6: Rumours about irregularities have started flying long before any aircraft could from the New Islamabad Airport to be built near Fatehjang. Dawn learnt on the eve of the groundbreaking ceremony, likely to be performed by President Pervez Musharraf on Saturday, that the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) set aside the requirements of the Land Acquisition Act 1894 in purchasing recently some 500 kanals of extra land directly from a retired military officer.

Sources in the CAA were wondering aloud why this additional piece of land, if really needed, was not bought in 1985 when the rest of the land was bought for the project.

Apparently the difference between the price paid then and now answers the why. In 1985 the landowners got between Rs300 and Rs1,500 per kanal. Today the retired officer was paid Rs500,000 per kanal.

CAA’s Senior Estate Officer Fahim Khattak, when approached, refused to comment on the issue. “We have been directed not to respond to the media. Only the project director Brig Masood Salam can issue such statements,” he said.

Despite repeated efforts the project director could not be contacted.

CAA sources said under the aviation rules the CAA was bound to follow the Land Acquisition Act 1894.

The Act lays down a set procedure of acquisition of land, including publishing a notice in the press about the land to be acquired, announcement of the award to compensate the land holders, calling of objections from the stakeholders and finally the award of compensation.

But no such procedure was followed in purchasing the additional land in the Rs250 million deal.

In the recent past CAA’s Planning and Development Division (P&DD) had objected to the demand for an amount of Rs2.6 billion for purchase of additional land for the proposed new airport and also to the extension in the approval period of Rs100 million by failing of fulfil the conditions of physical and financial progress on the project.

Meanwhile, non-availability of water at the site is stated to be one of the main problems confronting the CAA in constructing the new airport.

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