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New airport woes

December 17, 2018

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MONTHS after the new Islamabad international airport was inaugurated, the transport and other infrastructure at the airport continues to be a problem, in particular inconveniencing many of the staff and workers who rely on public transport for commuting to and from the premises. A report in this newspaper has revealed that with the metro bus route to the airport still under construction, transport authorities have been unable to persuade private bus operators to run their buses on two routes between the airport and Rawalpindi. Transporters have not only baulked at the special rates that would be applicable on the two bus routes, but have also complained of a lack of parking space at the new airport. It would appear that the previous PML-N government was in such haste to inaugurate the new airport before the end of its term that it did not take into consideration even basic issues, eg how the staff and workers in the airport would be able to commute to their workplace.

The transport woes in the new airport are arguably symptomatic of a broader approach to development and mega infrastructure projects that often ignore the needs of middle- and working-class individuals. The new Islamabad airport is branded as a symbol of 21st-century Pakistan and is meant to leave behind the reputation of the previous airport as one of the most passenger unfriendly in the world. But the transport needs of the very people that the new airport depends on to function and run smoothly have not been catered for. Meanwhile, anti-encroachment drives in various parts of the country have suddenly uprooted small businesses and in some cases destroyed homes, often in the name of allegedly visually improving neighbourhoods without heed to economic costs. Surely, the federal, provincial and local governments can and must do better.

Published in Dawn, December 17th, 2018

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