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‘Absurd scheme’: third Islamabad airport

September 05, 2013

THIS is apropos of your editorial ‘Absurd scheme’ (Aug 31) which has rightly raised questions about suggestion for building a third airport when the second one is incomplete and the budgeted cost of Rs35 billion has already crossed to Rs66 billion that ultimately may cross the Rs100 billion figure.

At present, it is without any proper infrastructure like connecting road, power, water and gas facilities. The Auditor General of Pakistan has already detected massive irregularities worth Rs30.37 billion in the execution of the new Benazir Bhutto International Airport during the last year even before completion of the multi-billion-rupee project.

The CAA constructed a secondary runway parallel to the main runway at a distance of 210 metres between the centre lines of both runways against the recommended distance of 1,035 metres at a cost of Rs719.09 million at New Benazir Bhutto International Airport, rendering it unsafe for its usefulness.

The Supreme Court is already hearing the case of New Benazir Bhutto International Airport, yet to be completed. It is worthwhile to go through the payments made against the work done which will reveal how this prestigious project has been grossly mishandled.

No one can deny the congestion at the existing Benazir Bhutto International Airport, as pointed out in the editorial.

The CAA is probably one of the most neglected and a visionless government agency. All highups are corridors walkers who come and go after reaping perks, privileges and benefits.

We have not produced a single aviation official or expert of any repute as such have least representation in the FAA or the IATA, etc. The terminologies like the aviation industry, management of airspace, airports, cargo and passenger handling and bringing foreign airlines are naïve for the CAA.

The CAA operations are restricted to management of real estate and massive commercialisation.

How ably they have converted Jinnah Airport into Bohri Bazaar, Benazir Bhutto International Airport into Raja Bazaar and Allama Iqbal International Airport into Anarkali Bazaar by erecting a variety of kiosks and stalls in every nook and corner of the premises, making it difficult for air passengers to move freely. This is a unique example of facilitating the travellers. With a roadmap, the agency is nose-diving.

The prime minister, instead of planning a third airport, should form a commission to go into irregularities and escalation, about Rs3 billion, paid to contractors, as reported in the press, without completion of the airport and bring all to justice. Normally, escalation is considered once the project is completed and a decision is taken after scrutiny of claims.

Wisdom lies in completing the second airport instead of going for the third.


Future of Fateh Jang

A FEW days ago, I was listening to a live briefing on developmental projects being given to the prime minister on PTV.

Progress on the new motorway, Kashghar-Gwadar rail and road network and other projects of similar nature was being reviewed. It was indeed a welcome sign to see the prime minister being given an update with all the personnel concerned present.

However, I was surprised to hear the prime minister directing his staff to plan a new international Islamabad airport near Rawat.

He also desired to have a five-lane (each side) expressway built from the airport to the Islamabad’s Zero Point. This expressway will have commercial centres on both sides on the pattern of Abu Dhabi.

The construction of Benazir International Airport at Fateh Jang Road began about 15 years ago. About Rs45 billion has already been spent and 70 per cent of the work is complete.

What prompted the prime minister to shift its venue at this belated stage is difficult to comprehend. What will be the future of the present airport at Fateh Jang Road? What about the billions of rupees which have already been spent?

About 25 full-fledged housing schemes have already sprung up right up to Fateh Jang just because of the new Benazir International Airport. What will be their future?

The above is not to belittle the efforts being made for development but decisions like that of Islamabad airport reflect bad on the long-term planning. If there was something technically wrong with the airport, why couldn’t it be highlighted at initial stages or are there any political considerations behind this change of hearts?

There is, however, one silver lining due to this new plan. The property value along the new route right up to Rawat has started increasing. I am surprised that our ever-vigilant media is also quiet on this issue.

The government needs to give an explanation on the future of the airport at Fateh Jang Road.