LAHORE: Pakistan’s Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) has granted permission to an airline owned by an Indian national for passenger and cargo services.
The development has set alarm bells ringing as the airline will now have access to all international operations and sensitive areas at the country’s airports, most of which are also used by by the agencies tasked for security of this country.
Interestingly, in the recent past operations by Rayyan Air, which was previously granted Airlines Operating Certificate (AOC) by CAA Pakistan, was banned. This chartered airline is owned by Nithin Merchandani and Jaidip Merchandani – two Indian national brothers residing in UAE.
But now a new company, named AHS Air International and owned Jaidip – one of the two Indian brothers – has been granted permission for ground handling at all the international airports, said sources in CAA. This new airline has appointed Asif Mahmood, who had previously been serving at Rayyan Air and is a dual national, at key management position.
Previously, Rayyan Air was granted AOC – with aircrafts registered in Pakistan, stationed in UAE and involved in chartered operations, including carriage of military hardware for US and Nato forces stationed in Afghanistan, operating even via Karachi and Islamabad.
This CAA permission to AHS Air International is being considered a breach of security by independent aviation and defence analysts, with drastic consequences for national security. On the other hand, Indian laws do not allow any Pakistani citizen or even a foreign nationality holder of Pakistani origin to run airline operations or even ground handling business for security reasons.
Capt Nadeem Yusafzai, during his tenure as CAA DG, had given approval to four new airlines to start domestic operations within Pakistan, which included Rayyan Air. Sources in CAA said that Nadeem was also a partner in Rayyan Air and its cargo flights had started operation in Pakistan while approval for the passenger flights in Pakistan was under consideration and CAA was considering the case positively.
It is strange coincidence that while PIA has been sinking, its politically appointed MDs – both from civil and military bureaucracy – have prospered, starting from Shahid Khaqan Abbasi – who started his own airline – to Capt Aijaz Haroon – who is now living luxuriously in a villa located in Manchester and running an ‘airline catering’ business to Capt Nadeem Yusafzai – who himself, having worked as MD and DG CAA, has plans to open a new airline.                      –AMRAIZ KHAN