LHC moved against appointment of PM’s special adviser on aviation


The appointment and notification of Capt. (R) Shujaat Azim as Special Assistant to prime minister on aviation was challenged in the Lahore High Court on Friday.

Barrister Syed Ali Zafar, on behalf of the petitioners, argued the case at length before Justice Ijaz ul Ahsan and submitted that the Prime Minister had appointed Shujaat Azim as special assistant on aviation without following any proper process for appointment whatsoever.

Barrister Zafar maintained that no process of advertisement, competition and/or examination of any candidates was conducted prior to the appointment, and even the status and functions for the post were never specified. Azim was appointed on the whim and fancy of the authorities, which is against the fundamental principles laid down by the Superior Courts of Pakistan.

He quoted Muhammad Yasin (PLD 2012 SC 122) in which the Supreme Court had decided that the days of Caligula are over and appointments to public offices have to be made on merits.

Zafar further submitted that Capt. (Retd.) Shujaat Azim suffers from a blatant and very serious conflict of interest in as much as he is also owner of a company under the nomenclature of Royal Airport Services which carries out aircraft ground handling business at all airports in Pakistan. Capt. (Retd.) Shujaat Azim has been giving concessions including landing rights to airlines in return for the airlines giving handling business to his company (Royal Airport Services) and this in law amounts to automatic disqualification on account of bias. He specifically referred to the cases of Doha, Turkish and Eitihad Airways who had been given and offered landing rights in return for giving business to Royal Airport Services.

Zafar argued that under the Constitution the executive functions of the Federation can only be carried out by the Prime Minister acting through Ministers/Advisors or Secretaries. There was no Constitutional or legal power available with the Prime Minister to give executive functions of the Federation to a newly created post such as this one.

He argued that in contravention of these constitutional and legal requirements Capt. (Retd.) Shujaat Azim was in fact executing the functions of the Federation which itself was unlawful. He gave the example that Capt. (Retd.) Shujaat Azim was in charge of making the policy of Aviation which was a purely executive matter to be undertaken by the PM.

Zafar also alleged that Capt. (Retd.) Shujaat Azim had virtually become in charge of CAA, which is a regulatory authority and independent of the government and in this connection had been inspecting and deciding upon matters relating to the construction at airports, which fell exclusively in the domain of CAA. He also maintained that Capt. (Retd.) Shujaat Azim was even visiting departure lounges,  discussing the contracts for expansion and scrutinising the taxiway project, and instructing the engineers in this regard. Azim was even forming committees to look into the grievances of the pilots of PIA. He submitted that because of this abuse of powers in law the independence of the regulator, the CAA has been eroded and in fact one person has become in charge of the regulator as well as the regulated. On this basis he submitted before the Court that Capt. (Retd.) Shujaat Azim should be stopped from exercising any executive functions in violation of the law.

The honourable court considered and noted all these points, and decided that the matter involves a question of the interpretation of the Constitution and the validity of the appointment of a public office and accordingly directed that immediate notices be issued to the Attorney General and the Deputy Attorney General for appearance and filing of comments on the matter. The case is now fixed for March 26, 2015.