In a latest attempt to defend the move and provide plausible reasoning for Prime Minister Imran Khan's use of a helicopter for travel between his Banigala residence and the PM House, senior PTI leader Naeemul Haq tweeted on Thursday that the premier wants that "people should not be troubled when he travels".
"PM [Imran Khan] wants that no traffic sh[o]u[l]d be stopped on roads when he travels and people sh[o]u[l]d not be troubled. He also wants that expenditure incurred on security arrangements by posting hundreds of policemen on a route and large number of vehicles sh[o]u[l]d be curtailed," Haq said in his statement on Twitter.
In an earlier tweet, Haq expressed annoyance at the "ill-advised and ill-informed debate going on in the media about the PM's helicopter expenses" and issued a clarification in the matter saying that the premier's use of the copter is limited to twice a week.
"On Friday evening when he moves to Bani Gala and on Monday morning when he moves back," he explained in the tweet.
In recent days, as news about the use of helicopters spread, a debate triggered on social media about Prime Minister Khan’s claims of taking ‘austerity’ measures and living a simple life. While the public questioned the contradictions in the premier’s words and deeds, his party leaders continued to deflect the criticism, saying there was nothing wrong with the practice.
PTI’s leader from Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Muhammad Ali Khan tweeted: "Those unduly criticising PM @ImranKhanPTI for the use of Helicopter from PM house2 Banygala must know that 1.Using Heli for 3min Fly is more CHEAPER fuel consumption wise considering at least 5 to 7 vehicles of necessary Security to be used instead 2. More SAFE 3. No Traffic BLOCKAGE."
Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry rejected an allegation that frequent use of the official chopper by the prime minister constituted VIP culture. Of the two options available for the premier to travel — by road or by air — Chaudhry defended the use of a helicopter by saying that motorcades cause traffic blockades.
Furthermore, he insisted that the use of a chopper was a cost-effective option and claimed that the three-minute flight between Banigala and PM House cost as low as Rs55 per km, as researched by him on Google.
The PTI government has played down the use of helicopters by government officials for travel, terming it ‘official prerogative’ that does not go against the watchword of the austerity campaign it has initiated amid much fanfare.