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An unregulated regulatory body... By Ali

24 January, 2014

The Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) is a regulatory body, acting on behalf of ICAO which has been established to regulate, control and enforce Pakistan registered and foreign airline operators. The airport authority as well as the air traffic control mechanism to strictly follow rules so as to ensure primarily safety of passenger' lives and carriage of cargo, to contain predatory pricing and unfair competition, improve the terminal services and remove bottlenecks for passengers. Like any regulatory body, choice of executives, their credibility, track record, criminal history or act of indiscipline, skills and willingness to strictly follow professional ethics, with no conflicts of interest, determines success and failure of their sphere of activity under regulatory control.

Unfortunately Pakistan's aviation industry, especially CAA has had a very tarnished history, with numerous unresolved fatal air crashes, accidents, imposition of ban on aircrafts regulated by them from operation into Europe, formation of cartels, not following bilateral agreements in granting traffic rights to foreign airlines, lack of technology for effective control of increasing air traffic, enforcement of National Aviation Policy and submitting to political and bureaucratic pressures in granting waivers. CAA has failed to regulate grant of 5th Freedom Traffic to foreign airlines strictly on basis of reciprocity, to ensure balancing of market and commercial interests of Pakistan national aviation industry. It has also failed to install an Independent Accident Investigation Board and a Market Clean-Up Board for reviewing tariffs filed by airlines.

All this has been done because of unfair practices, lack of transparency and political interference by sitting government or Ministry of Defense. As for choice of Shujaat Azeem for appointment as Special Assistant to CAA, after his removal by Supreme Court of Pakistan as Adviser to PM only six months ago, it is not only an act of defiance of judiciary on technicalities, but also a compromise on ethics.

The SC had established that he holds a Canadian citizenship, was court-martialled, and he owns an RSA Ground Handling Agency, apart from his partnership with Munir for contract to build main infrastructure for the new airport at Islamabad, all of them under administrative control of CAA, thereby establishing a 'Conflict of Interest'. Reports suggest his financial interests are in acquiring a license for a chartered airline company to be registered by CAA, yet his appointment has been made, perhaps to repay for making available a private jet in the 2013 election campaign to the most powerful political party in the country?.


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