LAHORE: The Lahore High Court has been requested to restrain the federal government from striking a “deal” with Qatar allegedly for selling 51 per cent shares of the Pakistan Internat­ional Airlines (PIA), and handing over the administrative control of the national flag carrier and the Islamabad International Airport to the Gulf state.

Nabeel Ahmad Kahloon, a lawyer with expertise in aviation laws, has made this request through a writ petition, saying during a recent visit of Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif to Qatar, a massive investment had been pledged by Doha in Pakistan’s aviation sector.

He stated, as per reports, Qatar expressed its interest in making investments in the airport and hotel sectors. He said that under the “deal” the federal government would hand over administrative affairs of the Islamabad International Airport to Qatar, whereas a Qatari company would provide the relevant services of the airport’s terminal and cargo.

The petitioner submitted that the Qatari government would also be given shares of the PIA’s Roosevelt Hotel in New York’s Manhattan in return for the investment. The investment would be received through state-to-state agreements between Pakistan and Qatar, he adds.

He further submitted that the worth of Islamabad airport’s land is around Rs4 trillion, besides the revenue being generated out of it. He argued that the government, while signing such a deal with the gulf country should keep the commercial potential of the land in mind.

The lawyer explained that PPRA rules would apply to all financial transactions since both the PIA and the Pakistan Civil Aviation Authority were federal government entities. He argued that the federal government did not get approval of the parliament before making the impugned deals for the Qatar investments, whereas the PIA has been converted into a public limited company through PIA Conversion Act 2016, passed by the parliament.

He said any such impugned deal and sale of the national flag carrier need approval of the parliament through amendment in the relevant law.

The petitioner asked the court to declare the impugned deals by the government regarding sale of the PIA shares and surrendering admi­nistrative control of the Islamabad airport to Qatar as illegal.

Published in Dawn, August 27th, 2022

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