- Indian authorities allege PIA purchased office property in contravention of law, PIA denies claims
- Pakistan FO takes up matter with Indian authorities, directs PIA to follow legal course
Relations between India and Pakistan may suffer another blow as national flag carrier Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) has alleged it is being harassed into “shutting down” its operations in India.
India’s Directorate of Enforcement has issued a notice to PIA asking it to “dispose of” its properties in New Delhi calling their purchase as “unauthorised”, according to a report onThe Hindu. Moreover, Indian authorities are also reportedly denying extension of visa to PIA staff.
The notice served to PIA by the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) and the Enforcement Directorate (ED) states that the properties in New Delhi were acquired in contravention of the Foreign Exchange Management Act (FEMA) and without prior permission from the RBI.
It may be noted that the case is pending in court and according to PIA officials all the property was purchased in 2005 as per Indian laws.
Nine years since RBI first wrote to the Indian Finance Ministry, notifying it about the PIA’s acquisition, the Indian Department of Economic Affairs (DEA) informed RBI in June 2014 that “the proposal has been examined and rejection of the government of India is hereby conveyed to the proposal of M/s Pakistan International Airlines for acquisition of immovable property at New Delhi, India”.
The properties in question include four flats on the Barakhamba Road in New Delhi, which house the main PIA office in India.
However, PIA replied to the notice saying that the flats, including the parking lots, were purchased in 2005 as per the Foreign Exchange Management (Acquisition and Transfer of Immovable Property in India) Regulations and that a declaration of the acquisition was filed with RBI within the stipulated 90 days.
PIA had bought four flats in Kailash Building in Kasturba Gandhi Marg totalling 2,576 square feet in 2005 from the “surplus funds of Pakistan International Airlines, New Delhi”, according to the declaration the PIA submitted with the RBI in 2005. In the declaration, PIA had stated that the property was bought for its offices.
Officials said FEMA laws stipulate that “no person being a citizen of Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Afghanistan, Iran, China, Nepal or Bhutan without prior permission of the RBI shall acquire or transfer immovable property in India other than lease, not exceeding five years.”
PIA, they said, was allegedly found contravening the above mentioned clause and hence the ED issued summons to it for scrutiny of official documents and records, after which the agency will decide the further course of action.
PIA DECIDES NOT TO GIVE IN TO ‘INTIMIDATION’:
In the meanwhile, PIA Manager in North India Saeed Ahmad Khan told The Hindu that the purchases of four office spaces in Connaught Place in 2005 had received clearances at the time and the airline has been operating from there for nearly a decade.
“We are at a loss to understand why they are acting now, and how we will operate without marketing and sales offices,” Khan said.
PIA has now asked RBI and ED to immediately withdraw their notices “in larger interests of people from both countries” saying these were hampering its operations in New Delhi.
The violation of the RBI guidelines seems odd to come up after 10 years of purchase of the flats, according to Pakistani officials. Reports suggest that it may be related to the change in government in India, now led by Narendra Modi.
PIA spokesman Rana Hanif told a local news outfit that its staff in New Delhi would appear before Indian authorities on January 29 and present the record and documents pertaining to the purchase, which had been carried out in accordance with the law.
Meanwhile, Pakistan High Commission sources said PIA staff was being harassed by Indian agencies and the purpose of this drive was to shut Pak-India flight operations.
PIA operates a weekly flight to Lahore and Karachi from Delhi and twice to Karachi from Mumbai. It has had its office in India since 1976. PIA, according to Pakistan, will not give in to any “intimidation” and will not stall operations until it is specifically asked to do so by India.
Commenting on the denial of visa extension to PIA staff, Hanif said, “Given the relations between India and Pakistan, denial of visa extension is a routine issue faced by the airline’s staff; the visas are normally extended via diplomatic means.”
He added that the staff had been instructed to maintain contact with the Pakistan High Commission in New Delhi in this regard.
The Pakistani officials have stated that the visa of the PIA chief in India has not been extended and his cell phone has also been disconnected by Indian authorities.
“It reflects malafide intent to stop PIA operations and cause a blow to people to people contact. If PIA shuts down, people in northern India may still travel to Pakistan through Wagah but it will greatly inconvenience those in other parts of the country,” a Pakistan official stated.
Pakistan on Sunday raised with India the issue of extension in the visas of Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) employees in New Delhi.
According to Pakistan Foreign Office spokesperson Tasnim Aslam, the issue will hopefully be resolved soon. She said the Indian authorities have also been informed about the notice received by PIA office in New Delhi regarding its property whereas PIA has been advised to follow the legal course.