A Senate special committee on Wednesday asked the Foreign Office (FO) to approach the German Embassy in Islamabad to extradite Pakistan International Airlines’ (PIA) former CEO Bernd Hildenbrand for his alleged involvement in the unauthorised renting and subsequent sale of an Airbus-310 belonging to the national carrier last year.
Hildenbrand and retired Air Commodore Imran Akhtar (brother of former director general of the Inter Services Intelligence (ISI), Rizwan Akhtar) are under investigation in Pakistan — the former for reportedly having flown the said Airbus to Germany and the latter for selling the same for the price of scrap in Germany.
A German national, Hildenbrand had his name on the Exit Control List but was still allowed to leave the country for a month in June 2017 on the intercession of the German Embassy.
Senate’s Special Committee on PIA, acting upon the recommendations of a subcommittee, on Wednesday directed the FO to vigorously pursue the matter of bringing Hildenbrand back to Pakistan to face accountability.
The committee also remarked that Akhtar’s retirement from the Pakistan Air Force should be of no consequence in the investigation and that the matter against the co-accused should be pursued to logical conclusion.
The National Accountability Bureau (NAB), which is already probing the matter on the directives of National Assembly’s Public Accounts Committee, was urged to be diligent with its investigation and also asked to regularly inform the Senate Secretariat on the progress of the case.
The report said the PIA management cannot be absolved in the scandal as it failed to report the matter in a timely manner and only came alive when the media and the parliament took notice.
The missing Airbus scandal came to light last year and created such pressure that the incumbent air chief, Sohail Aman, had to issue a statement declaring that if Akhtar is indeed caught by NAB or the Federal Investigation Agency, the air force would not stand by their man (who was in service at the time).
A few days later, ISI chief Lt Gen Rizwan Akhtar had resigned from service — a decision that raised a few eyebrows in Senate.