ISLAMABAD - The Supreme Court on Saturday directed the Auditor General of Pakistan to carry out a special audit of Pakistan International Airlines Corporation Limited (PIACL) and submit a comprehensive report to the court.

The top court, meanwhile, barred PIA from using the picture of Markhor on aircraft’s tail.

The top court also ordered to take off the name of former adviser on aviation Shujaat Azim from the exit control list (ECL). The top court, however, directed Azim to ensure his appearance before the auditor general if summoned and warned him that his assets would be seized in case he failed to comply with the order.

A two-judge bench headed by Chief Justice Mian Saqib Nisar took up the suo moto case pertaining to losses incurred by the national flag carrier, handing over profitable routes to other airlines and pasting Markhor on the planes instead of the Pakistani flag.

During the hearing, the chief justice observed that audit of policies and reasons behind the losses will also be carried out. 

The chief justice questioned what the reasons were behind greater losses during the tenure of political governments. 

Auditor General Jawed Jahangir, during the hearing, also submitted terms of reference prepared in line with the report of Farrukh Salim, an economist and amicus curiae appointed by the top court in the case. 

He said that a loss of Rs360 billion will be analyzed to ascertain whether a policy or the decision-making has affected the corporation.

The chief justice observed that a policy may be defected but the intention behind the policy had to be examined. 

The auditor general further told the bench that recruitment in the PIA will be examined along with financial management, sales revenue, flight operations, assets and expenditures, lease of aircraft and routes etc.

The chief justice observed that the PIA's losses had reached Rs360 billion and the government continues to run the airline on a subsidy. Justice Munib Akhtar observed that the aspect of political interference could not be ruled out as the PIA in its report had held the previous management responsible.

Former adviser on aviation Sardar Mehtab Abbasi contended before the bench that the auditor general could not determine the causes of losses and a forensic audit should be carried out. The chief justice expressed displeasure and asked Abbasi about his qualification regarding aviation. The chief justice told Abbasi that the latter was a constructor and a politician. 

Abbasi responded that he had administrative experience as he had been the chief minister and the federal minister and had the know-how of the process of recruitment in government departments. He further said that airlines could not be run as government departments rather it is run through a company or a corporate management.

The chief justice told Abbasi that “you were removed from the governorship and appointed in the PIA and now you were refused to award the party ticket and now you are quitting your party”. 

“I (Abbasi) was not removed. I tendered resignation and remained out of the picture for a year, thereafter, I was called again. I take decisions by my conscience and I am answerable to God and public,” Abbasi replied. 

Justice Munib Akhtar observed that the airlines in the rest of the world recruit employees as per aircraft while in Pakistan staffers were more than required. He questioned what kind of corporation that was.

He asked Abbasi how much employees he had terminated as 14,000 staffers had been recruited for 34 aircraft.

The chief justice observed that a bailout package of Rs30 billion was awarded to the PIA this year and causes for such losses were necessary to be determined. The bench adjourned the hearing till next week.