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PIA puts inquiry into Rs10m scam on back-burner

August 23, 2012

KARACHI, Aug 23: An inquiry into the alleged bribe/gifts given by a PIA official to Saudi authorities to ensure smooth operation of Haj flights in 2010 has been swept under the carpet because he is reportedly a relative of the airline’s chief Rao Qamar Suleman, it is reliably learnt.

However, PIA’s spokesman Sultan Hassan has claimed that the inquiry is in progress.

According to well-informed sources, instead of taking action the authorities concerned have transferred the official and given him a better post dealing with special projects.

The official who unearthed the scam was promised an extension in service and the official carrying out the inquiry was given the charge of an important department, in violation of service rules, in order to cover up the issue, according to the sources.

They said the PIA’s former country manager in Saudi Arabia, Maj (retd) Khurrum Mushtaq, had given bribe/gifts of over Rs10 million to the Saudi government officials belonging to different departments working on airports to get favour during the Haj season.

In his report submitted to the head office, PIA’s country manager in Saudi Arabia Shahbaz Ahmed said his predecessor Mr Mushtaq had purchased gifts of over 337,000 Saudi riyals (about Rs10 million) for their distribution among officials/staff of the General Authority of Civil Aviation (Gaca), PPMDC and immigration and customs to ensure smooth Haj operations.

The report said a fine of about six million riyals was expected to be imposed on the PIA by Gaca for various violations, including delays, cancellations, etc.

“These giveaways were very instrumental in getting waivers of fine of over six million riyals (Rs140 million) and also softened their attitude towards PIA in allocation of bays for our flights on a priority basis to ensure timely departure/processing of PIA Haj flights,” said Shahbaz Ahmed, a former Olympian.

The gifts/giveaways distributed by PIA coordinators — M.A. Zurmani (P No 39385) and Shah M. Jamali (P No 39380) — included carpets, home decoration pieces, BlackBerry phones, sunglasses (Police), pens (Mount Blanc), sunglasses (American Cap), gift collections, sunglasses (Cartier), pens (Cartier), and perfumes, etc.

Meanwhile, Khurrum Mushtaq said in his report: “Imposition of recent fines by Gaca for not filling up immigration cards on schedule/Haj flights, late cancellation of flights, etc, called for immediate remedial actions and with the consent of higher management various types of giveaway items were purchased locally and distributed to the concerned officials of these agencies in order to soften their attitude towards PIA for having smooth Haj operation.”

The sources said that when the media first highlighted the issue the PIA had launched an inquiry half-heartedly that was moving at a snail’s pace. However, after Mr Suleman took over the reigns of the national flag-carrier the inquiry went into cold storage and the official was given a better post.

But the summary for extension of service of the official who unearthed the scam was not approved and he got retired.

The PIA spokesman said the airline and Gaca enjoyed cordial relations and there was no outstanding issue between the two organisations. “There is no question of Saudi authorities proposing any action against PIA nor has it happened. As far as the inquiry into the incident is concerned it is under process as per rules. As soon as it is finalised details will be released to the media,” he added.