Confusion leaves ASF vacillating between two ‘owners’

* Officially the newly created Aviation Division runs the force but practically army is at the helm of affairs

ISLAMABAD: A year after its separation from the Ministry of Defence (MoD), the Airport Security Force (ASF) continues to function in an air of confusion due to conflicting domains over its administrative matters involving Aviation Division and the Defence Ministry.
Last June, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif took stock of the deteriorating commercial aviation standards under the control of the Defence Ministry and set up an Aviation Division comprising of the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA), Pakistan International Airlines (PIA), ASF and Pakistan Meteorological Department (PMD). Resultantly, all the four departments were separated from the administrative control of the Defence Ministry and assigned to Aviation Division.
While CAA, PIA and PMD are completely under the Division’s control, the ASF’s style of functioning, however, remains marked with complexities. “Officially, the Aviation Division runs the ASF, but, practically, it’s very different,” stated a senior aviation official in a background interaction with Daily Times recently. Explaining the ASF’s existing administrative setup, the official said that the Force is headed by a director general, a serving army officer up to the rank of brigadier, and a team of his associates up to the ranks of lieutenant colonels who work as chief security officers (CSO) at the airports.
“The Aviation Division has no role as far as the appointment or removal of the DG ASF and the CSOs is concerned. These officers are sent to the ASF by the military and report back when they receive related orders from their parent department,” the official said, adding that the postings of the army officers to and from the ASF are made on the army command’s recommendation and the government has a ceremonial role in this regard.
In such a scenario, the official stated, it is not correct to assume that the ASF is under an effective control of the Aviation Division. “Civilian personnel are also part of the ASF but the top management comprises of the military men. This, obviously, allows the defence authorities to have a role in the affairs of the Force.” The defence minister, Khawaja Asif, when approached, said he was not updated on the particular issue and needed to check from the officials concerned before offering a formal comment. 
Secretary Aviation Muhammad Ali Gardezi, on contact, did not offer a direct response to the queries on the ASF’s administrative control. “”ASF is a great force and an integral component of Aviation Division in airport management,” he said without commenting any further. On Monday, the Defence Ministry issued a statement to dissociate itself from the ASF in the wake of deadly terror attack on Karachi airport from Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), leaving many dead. “This is to correct and inform all media, print and electronic, that since June 2013, aviation does not fall under Ministry of Defence. 
It has been taken out of the control of MoD and made a separate Division which is being headed by Mr Shujaat Azim, Prime Minister’s Special Advisor on Aviation. Therefore, news concerning the response of Ministry of Defence and Defence Minister Khawaja Mohammad Asif in the incident on Karachi airport are not related to this ministry,” it said in a statement.

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