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PAF denies contacting FIA on PIA plane sale issue

By Shahid Aslam
September 19, 2017

LAHORE: The Pakistan Air Force (PAF) has formally approached the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) for forming a Joint Investigation Team (JIT) to probe the role of the then Director Procurement Pakistan International Airline (PIA) Air Commodore Imran Akhtar in the sale of an aircraft, The News has learnt.

When contacted, PAF spokesman Air Commodore Syed Muhammad Ali said PAF didn’t contact the FIA regarding the PIA plane sale issue. Sources in the Interior Ministry, however, told this correspondent that the Director General, Air Intelligence of the PAF, has contacted the FIA DG and conveyed his desire to probe the matter through a JIT having the representation of PAF officers.

“It is apprised that the subject investigation is under progress at your esteemed organization in which one of the PAF officers is being alleged for violations. The inquiry is still under progress yet there are media reports that the officer has committed certain violations which is bringing bad name to PAF”, a letter written to the Chief Staff Officer (CSO) to FIA DG Ahmed Mukkarram by Squadron Leader Abid Iqbal, Senior Staff Officer to the Air Intelligence DG, Islamabad, reads.

Titled with, “Case No 84/2016: Investigation on sale of for Air Bus A 310”, the PAF further wrote in the letter that in accordance with PAF Act, 1953, officer is to be tried under PAF Act, therefore, it is proposed that the Ministry of Interior (MOI) may be approached for ordering of Joint Investigation Team (JIT).  “Until such time the inquiry may be held in abeyance.”

Furthermore, the senior PAF official also nominated two officers — Wing Commander Nadeem Ajmal Khan, Sector Commander CI (Federal),  Squadron Leader Muhammad Hassan, Officer Commanding, Financial Intelligence Unit, PAF, — suggesting FIA make them part of JIT for investigations.

After receiving correspondence from the PAF, the FIA DG sought opinion of investigators of FIA, Lahore. Responding to DG’s letter, the investigators told their chief that only the ministry can form any JIT. “The Air Intelligence DG may please be intimated to approach MOI for the said purpose,” investigators informed their DG.

When contacted, Interior Ministry spokesman Yasir Shakeel told The News that the ministry hasn’t received any correspondence from the FIA about PAF’s letter to the agency as yet. “I have confirmed from the ministry that it hasn’t received anything from FIA regarding PAF's request to form JIT,” the spokesman told The News.

Talking to this correspondent, the recently-appointed FIA DG Bashir Memon said he has taken over the charge only a few days back and doesn’t know much about the issue, but he promised the probe would be completed on merit. "We don’t care who the accused is as the enquiry would be finalised soon and law will take its course," the DG added. .

An internal inquiry of the PIA had found its former Acting CEO Bernd Hildenbrand (a German national), Director Procurement and Logistics (P&L) Air Commodore Imran Akhtar Khan and former Technical Consultant Helmut Bachhofner guilty of "gross violations of rules and regulations, manipulating facts and figures to achieve their ulterior objectives in the sale of a aircraft A-310." The accused, according to the report, had caused a financial loss of over Rs 500 million to the national carrier in the plane sale issue. 

After the report and subsequently launch of a probe by FIA, Air Commodore Imran Akhtar Khan, serving with the PIA on deputation, left the national flag carrier and rejoined the PAF.  Former Acting CEO Bernd Hildenbrand, who was on Exit Control List (ECL) due to FIA’s probe, was allowed to travel to his country for a few weeks, but he never returned to Pakistan to face the enquiry.