Musharraf's business honcho pal comes in Sharif's line of fire

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Islamabad, May 15 : A common friend of Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf and Punjab Governor Lt. General (retired) Khalid Maqbool has had his priviges withdrawn by the Sharif-controlled Punjab Government.

This business tycoon friend's private jet was once allowed to taxi at Lahore Airport and park in the VIP parking lot, free of charge.

Now, the provincial government has said that will be recovering the parking fee for the last six months, totalling about Rs.7 million from Iqbal Z Ahmad, reports The News.

The facility was awarded as a service to the Ahmad's Associated Group without any competitive process or agreement signed between the Government of Punjab and the company. The six months period expired on April 30, 2008 but the company is still using the facility.ocuments available with The News reveal that in his letter last year, Ahmad had requested the Punjab Government to take responsibility for the operation and management of the Raytheon 400XP aircraft, being purchased by the Associated Group, through its VIP Flight Unit, using the Governor's fleet facilities.

In return, it was offered, the aircraft would be available for use by the Government of Punjab, when not in use by the owners, at the approved charter rates being paid for a similar aircraft by the provincial government.

On October 6, 2007, the then chief minister approved an arrangement subject to the conditions including (i) It should not affect the structure and working of the existing VIP Flight; (ii) VIP flight pilots would only be made available to the Associated Group in their excess/spare time; (iii) No additional pay/allowances would be allowed to the VIP flight staff; and (iv) Government of Punjab would separately negotiate the rates of the charter flights vis--vis its share based on the commercial rates being charged for such flights.

Later, the Punjab Government advised the governor to approve an agreement with the company so that the Associated Group should be made to pay monthly charges for using the facility, which was already in use with effect from November 1, 2007.

However, in his meeting with the then chief secretary Salman Siddiq, the governor asked the government to take a fresh look into the proposed charges and if the recommended charges were reasonable and rational. The governor also asked if there was any security risk involved in the proposal.

Following the governor's desire, the authorities concerned revised the proposed rates to Rs.1.1 million per month. The chief secretary on November 13 submitted the file to the governor for orders clarifying that this was not a case of the government desiring to procure the service but a stand-alone case where the private sector had requested for a government facility, subject to availability.

The chief secretary said there might be no bar to extend the facility to the private sector, even though temporarily.

He further said that the Punjab Government would receive Rs.1.1 million as service charges for providing the facility.

Later, the governor, instead of approving the proposed charges, once more discussed the matter with the chief secretary, who wrote on the file, "The governor was pleased to discuss the case at length and had desired that with a view to ensure propriety and probity, a fresh look may be taken in the case."

Later, the issues were discussed afresh in a meeting with secretaries of finance and law department on January 11, 2008.

After a lapse of several weeks and following the February 18 elections, the Principal Secretary to Governor, Hassan Waseem Afzal returned the case to the chief minister on March 4, 2008 carrying the governor's "provisional approval" for a period of six months with effect from 1-11-2007. But while conveying his "provisional approval", the governor raised some additional points that were required to be considered by the Punjab government before entering into formal agreement with the Associated Group.

As things stand at present, no formal agreement was ever signed with the private party; however, they were provisionally allowed to use the service for six months, a period that has already elapsed.

Now the concerned authorities have sought from the chief minister to debar the company from using any facility at the VIP Area and also recover the cost for facilities provided for six months as per the rates agreed before.

ANI

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