SWAT: Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Chief Minister Mahmood Khan on Friday said that resumption of flights to Saidu Sharif after 17 years was an achievement of the government as it was a longstanding desire of the people of Swat valley.
He was addressing the elders of Swat after the inaugural flight landed at Saidu Sharif Airport in Swat. Federal Minister for Aviation Ghulam Sarwar Khan, Minister for Communications Murad Saeed, PIA’s chief executive officer Arshad Malik, MNA Saleemur Rehman and MPAs from Swat were present on the occasion.
In 1994, the airport was briefly seized by the Tehreek Nifaz Shariat-i-Muhammadi, but security forces took control of it after a clash with the banned outfit. The airport was closed temporarily in 2002 when Pakistan International Airlines suspended its flights. Moreover, due to insurgency in Swat from 2006 to 2009 the airport could not be made functional.
Following the public demand, the federal government decided to reopen the airport in 2014; however, after a test flight the same year the airport could not be made operational due to unknown reasons.
KP chief minister says resumption of flights a longstanding desire of people of Swat
The chief minister said the opening of the airport would boost tourism in the entire Malakand division and create unlimited opportunities of jobs, trade and investment for the people of the division. “Promotion of tourism is one of the top priorities of the PTI government and vision of Prime Minister Imran Khan.”
He said it was a historic day for the people of Malakand division, especially for Swat district which was badly affected by terrorism, floods and earthquake. It is another promise fulfilled by the PTI government,” he said, adding that the government was opening new spots in Swat and other districts of Malakand division to promote tourism.
The chief minister said the runway of Saidu Sharif Airport would soon be extended to provide more facilities at the airport. “An Austrian investor has selected Swat to establish a skiing village of hundreds of houses that will promote tourism and international skiing sports here.”
He said the completion of the first phase of Swat Motorway had already had positive impact on tourism, while its second phase, from Chakdarra to Fatehpur Madayn, would open up the entire Swat valley for tourism and trade. He said Prime Minister Khan would be invited to the groundbreaking ceremony of Swat Motorway Phase-II.
“A mega project of a cable car will be initiated which will help tourists enjoy the dazzling beauty of Kalam in Swat, Kumrat in Dir Upper and Matakhaist in Chitral,” he said, adding that completion of an expressway from Chakdara to Chitral and Shandor would boost tourism in the region and make Dir Lower, Dir Upper and Chitral districts a hub of tourism, trade and investment.
CM Khan said a project worth Rs14 billion for lifting of water from River Swat to Mingora city would be completed with the assistance of the Asian Development Bank (ADB) to address the issue of clean drinking water in the area. He said work on several mega projects was under way while many others were in the pipeline, including a 300MW hydropower project in Balakot.
The chief minister also planted a tree to formally inaugurate a spring tree plantation campaign under a 10-billion trees project in Swat.
Federal ministers Ghulam Sarwar and Murad Saeed and PIA CEO Arshad Malik also addressed the gathering.
Flight to South Africa
For the first time, PIA on Friday operated a direct flight to South African city of Johannesburg with the Pakistan cricket team aboard.
PIA spokesman Abdullah Hafeez said the Pakistan cricket team and other officials onboard the PIA flight departed for Johannesburg. The flight PK-6721 will reach its destination after 11 hours of journey.
The spokesman said it would be the first PIA flight which would touch down on South African’s soil.
Mohammad Asghar in Rawalpindi also contributed to this report
Published in Dawn, March 27th, 2021