ISLAMABAD: The National Assembly on Tuesday decided to form a committee for renaming the new Islamabad International Airport (IIA) after former prime minister Benazir Bhutto or another national hero.

The decision was taken after PPP leader Syed Khursheed Shah raised the matter on a point of order.

He said the previous PML-N government had not named the new airport after Benazir Bhutto despite the fact the old airport at Rawalpindi had been closed down for commercial flights which now operate from the new airport.

Names of Benazir Bhutto, prominent social worker suggested for the airport, minister tells house

“The authorities concerned were of the view that as the old airport had been named after Benazir Bhutto, another airport of the country could not be named after her,” he said.

“However, today I saw a media report regarding the return of Prime Minister Imran Khan from China which said he landed at Nur Khan Airport, which means that the old airport is no longer called Benazir Bhutto International Airport,” he added.

Shazia Marri, another PPP leader, said a resolution should be passed so that the new airport could be named after Benazir Bhutto.

In reply, Minister of State for Parliamentary Affairs Ali Mohammad Khan said he admired the services of Benazir Bhutto, adding that respect for her and her international repute would not be affected even if the airport was not renamed after her.

“Those who are not aware of Benazir’s services to the country must read her book [Daughter of the East].”

The minister assured the opposition that the government would consider its demand and suggested that a committee should be formed to decide the matter.

“A committee should be formed as not only Benazir Bhutto but also the name of a leading social worker has been suggested for renaming the new airport,” he maintained.

Standing committees

The minister told the house that the formation of National Assembly’s standing committees was facing delay due to a government-opposition tussle over the slot of Public Accounts Committee (PAC) chairman.

“We have completed all the work and even finalised the names of members of the standing committees but the appointment of chairman PAC is the main hurdle,” he said.

Interestingly, the opposition has nominated Leader of the Opposition Shahbaz Sharif as the chairman of the PAC as normally the slot is given to the opposition leader.

However, the PTI-led government is dead against the nomination of Mr Sharif with a plea that “how Shahbaz Sharif could audit projects carried out by his (PML-N) government.”

“More than two and-a-half-months have passed and even today the house is being run without committees,” said another opposition member, Maulana Abdul Akbar Chitrali.

Iqbal Day holiday

A controversy sparked in the NA when PML-N leader Nisar Cheema demanded a national holiday on the birthday of Dr Allama Mohammad Iqbal.

“Nov 9 should be declared a national holiday as a tribute to the national hero or the holiday on the birthday of Qauid-i-Azam Mohammad Ali Jinnah should also be abolished,” he said.

He said over 52 holidays had been added to the national calendar by announcing two weekly holidays on Saturdays and Sundays but the government had reservations on announcing Iqbal Day as a national holiday.

But his own party leader and former federal minister Ahsan Iqbal rejected the demand and said the country could not afford more national holidays because Pakistan was already on the top of the list of countries with the highest numbers of national holidays.

He said the present economic conditions of the country required that people should work 24/7.

The PML-N leader suggested that educational institutions should remain open on Iqbal Day so that the students could be imparted knowledge about Iqbal and his struggle for the creation of Pakistan.

Minister for Human Rights Dr Shireen Mazari endorsed the remarks of Mr Iqbal and said there should be no national holiday on Iqbal Day. “Despite my all differences with Mr Ahsan I endorse what he has said.”

Education Minister Shafqat Iqbal said he would make efforts to incorporate chapters on Allama Iqbal’s life in the curriculum.

Earlier, Speaker National Assembly Asad Qaiser and members from opposition and treasury benches mediated between Abdul Majeed Niazi and Syed Rafiullah who had scuffled in the house on Tuesday. The mediation resulted into a patch-up between them.

Published in Dawn, November 7th, 2018



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