ISLAMABAD -  The Supreme Court on Thursday observed that due to delay the cost of construction of new Benazir Bhutto International Airport (BBIA) has escalated and if the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) is also found responsible then action should be taken against the Authority as well.

A three-judge bench headed by Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry and comprising Justice Jawwad S Khawaja and Justice Sheikh Azmat Saeed heard a petition against the delay in the project and appointment of an unqualified person as director general CAA.

The petitioner Advocate Fasihuddin Khan Vardag has challenged the appointment of Air Marshal (retd) Khalid Chaudhry as DG CAA and had claimed that the delay had escalated the cost of the project from Rs35 billion to Rs73 billion. Additional Attorney General Shah Khawar, representing the federation, said: “The government stance is very clear that the illegalities and irregularities in the project should be referred to the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) to probe all the aspects of the case.” The chief justice remarked by the government should itself have constituted a team of FIA to investigate the matter, adding why it wanted the apex court decide all the issues. Justice Jawwad S Khawaja said he did not see the seriousness of the government pertaining to the matter, adding if it is serious then it needs to manifest.

The AAG replied that the government has all the intention to take action, but as the matter is sub judice in the apex court, therefore, it was showing restraint. Khawaja Haris, counsel for Lagen Construction Limited, a lead company that had been carrying out the construction work of BBIA along with other companies, said they have objection if the FIA probes the matter. He said that Shahid Niaz report was not based on true facts, but right in giving the reasons for the delay.

According to the report of Lt Gen (retd) Shahid Niaz, who conducted the inquiry about the new BBIA delay, says; “Arbitrary decisions taken by the client (CAA) at various stages of the project has led to not only major cost escalation but has also indirectly affected the scheduled working of the overall design process. This has further delayed the process of award of contracts and execution of work. Various committees, oversight bodies constituted at different stages gave recommendations for major changes in the scope of the project, which were then approved by CAA Board.”

Khawaja Haris further said the court has to see what are the remedies of the delay. He argued there were nine packages regarding BBIA construction, while still it was not determined from where the water and electricity would be supplied to the new airport.

The CAA failed to provide the documents about the second Joint Venture Agreement (JVA) signed between Lagen Construction Limited, Technical Associates and Habib Construction Services. The bench observed that the first JVA had timeline but in the second one timeframe is not given.

The court directing the CAA to provide the documents adjourned the case till September 2.