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April 22, 2012
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CAA — the highly politicised house of favourites

April 22, 2012

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ISLAMABAD: The frequently growing technical faults, crash landings and catastrophic air accidents of passenger airplanes, belonging to public and private airlines of the country, speak volumes about the incompetence of Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) that has become the hub of blue-eyed boys, cronies and favourites of the rulers.

Led by the known favourite of the top rulers, Capt Nadeem Yousafzai, the CAA is full of deputationists from PIA, Pakistan Air Force and even from civil bureaucracy.

This institution, which is primarily responsible to ensure the security of airline operations for the safety of passengers, lacks independence from government influence as it is politically run instead of professionally.

Being a regular department, the CAA is supposed to keep a check on airlines whether it is PIA that belongs to the government, Shaheen Airlines that belongs to the PAF or any other private operators like AirBlue or Bhoja, the two airlines whose aircraft met serious accidents in 2011 and 2012 respectively.

However, such is the situation of this aviation body that presently it is led by an employee of one of its clients -- PIA's pilot Nadeem Yousafzai. His predecessor was retired AVM Khalid Chaudhary, who too was a choice of the rulers and a retired officer of the PAF, whose Shaheen Airlines, too, is monitored by the CAA.

Before Chaudhry, the CAA was again under Yousafzai, who till recently was the MD PIA, again thanks to his connections at the highest levels in Islamabad.

In the past, we have even seen favourite bureaucrats like Aminullah Chaudhry (the infamous approver in Oct 12 1999 plane hijacking case), who had no CAA expertise but belonged to the influential civil service of Pakistan and Khalil Ahmad, who was a Customs officer but appointed the CAA head for his close association with the government in Benazirís second term.

Such are the attractions in the CAA for the outsiders that a relative of a top notch

in the government has also been recently appointed as the chief financial officer in the authority despite repeated requests by the CAA to retain a competent officer to the post. According to newspaper reports, former DG CAA Air Marshal (retd) Khalid Chaudhry had requested the authorities in the Ministry of Defence to retain the female officer Fauzia Saleem Khan to the post but to no avail.

A PIA pilot, who made headlines for boarding a friend in the cockpit without a boarding card and taking him to London, is enjoying directorship of the CAA. All the top positions of the authority, according to sources, are held by favourites, deputationists and those given one step higher appointments on acting charge basis. Several directors and general managers of the CAA are serving on acting charge basis.

The CAA is also used to stuff it with political appointees instead of ensuring neutrality and independence of the organisation so that it could be run professionally without any external influence. The News report about the politicised decision to relaunch the Bhoja Air despite shortcomings proves that the body is badly politicised and lacks professionalism.

Similar mishandling of the state-run organisations like PIA, Pakistan Steel, Pakistan Railways, Pepco etc. have ruined these entities. Of late, the rulers' favourite former Air Chief Marshal Rao Qamar Suleman has been made the MD PIA, which along with other corruption-infested state-owned corporations, has already eaten up over Rs01 trillion of taxpayers during the last four years.

Such politicised appointments are made despite Prime Minister Gilaniís earlier commitment of restructuring these corporations and getting them top executives through a transparent procedure.

Only recently, the finance ministry had confirmed that only six state enterprises were doled out injections of about Rs1,000 billion under Gilani.

These include Pepco, KESC, Railways, Trading Corporation of Pakistan, Pak Steel and PIA, which devoured up to Rs189.7 billion, Rs148.5 billion, Rs221.9 billion and Rs396.1 billion from the public kitty between 2007 and 2011 respectively. For the current fiscal year, the ministry said that Rs192.7 more had been allocated for these white elephants.

Irony, however, remains that the Gilani regime has utterly failed to implement its own reforms programme to check corruption and improve governance that included restructuring of the eight corruption-hit and mismanaged loss making public sector enterprises.

As per Gilani's own commitment, the restructuring of these state corporations was to be completed by September 1, 2010, but the government hardly moved an inch to achieve the goal or stop the wastage of almost Rs300 billion per year on these state-enterprises.

In April-May 2010, Shaukat Tareen, just before leaving the government, had submitted to the prime minister a ìNational Governance Planî that sought from Gilani to take some bold initiatives and undergo radical changes to improve governance and check corruption.

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