NA passes resolution seeking to name Islamabad’s airport after Benazir Bhutto

Published October 14, 2022
A view of Islamabad International Airport which was inaugurated by the then prime minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi in May 2018. — File Photo
A view of Islamabad International Airport which was inaugurated by the then prime minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi in May 2018. — File Photo

ISLAMABAD: The National Assembly on Thursday approved a resolution seeking to name the Islamabad International Airport (IIA) after former prime minister Benazir Bhutto with a majority vote as the Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) opposed the move.

The resolution, which was not a part of the agenda issued for the sitting, was moved by Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) MNA from Muzaffargarh Nawabzada Iftakhar Babar after Deputy Speaker Zahid Akram Durrani allowed him to move a motion for suspending the rules, before formally putting the resolution for a vote.

Mr Babar, who is the son of late veteran politician Nawabzada Nasrullah Khan, while moving the resolution said that former prime minister Benazir Bhutto and her family had rendered great sacrifices for the cause of democracy and the people of Pakistan and her services must be acknowledged by renaming the Islamabad airport after her name.

The PPP MNA recalled that the old Islamabad airport which was located in Chaklala, Rawalpindi, had been given the name of Benazir Bhutto International Airport. However, he regretted that the previous government did not name the newly-built airport after the former prime minister.

MQM opposes move; calls for naming facility after Liaquat Ali Khan

Taking the floor, MQM’s Kishwar Zehra protested against the chair to allow tabling of the resolution after suspending the rules, stating that she had submitted a resolution seeking to name the Islamabad airport after former prime minister Liaquat Ali Khan many months back but it was not taken up.

Ms Zehra said that she had a great respect for Ms Bhutto as a woman leader and for her contributions, but there were already many places and institutions which had been named after her.

Stating that the death anniversary of Liaquat Ali Khan was round the corner, the MQM lawmaker said like the Indians considered Gandhi and Nehru as the two leaders of the freedom movement, the people of Pakistan treated Liaquat Ali Khan as the second important leader of the Pakistan Movement after the Quaid-i-Azam.

Ms Zehra also criticised the PPP for bringing the resolution to the house without taking her party into confidence despite the fact that it was a part of the ruling coalition at the centre.

Later, another PPP MNA Nasiba Channa castigated the MQM for opposing the resolution and recalled that the old Islamabad airport had already been named as Benazir Bhutto International Airport, but the previous governments did not give the name to the new airport.

The then prime minister, Shahid Khaqan Abbasi had inaugurated the Islamabad International Airport on May 1, 2018, just two months before completion of the five-year term of the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) government.

Built at a cost of Rs105 billion, the IIA is the country’s largest and first greenfield airport.

The plan to construct a new airport in Islamabad had been conceived about 39 years ago.

In April 2018, without giving any specific justification, Mr Abbasi during a cabinet meeting had rejected three names that had been proposed by a four-member ministerial committee headed by the then ports and shipping minister late Hasil Bizenjo for the Islamabad’s new airport, leaving the issue open for debate.

A majority of the members were reportedly of the view that they should name the new facility after some Pakistan Movement personality so that no one could dare change its name later on political grounds.

The committee had suggested the names of Liaquat Ali Khan, Mohtarma Fatima Jinnah, and Gandhara, the name of the land and its associated civilisation that existed in the areas now situated in northern Pakistan and Potohar plateau.

A number of cabinet members had later confirmed that there was almost a consensus among them on the name of Liaquat Ali Khan because of his contribution to the Pakistan Movement.

Most of the ministers during the debate had reportedly said they should not provide an opportunity to any political party, particularly the PPP, to change the name at any later stage.

The cabinet members decided to name the airport as IIA when the officials of the Civil Aviation Authority told them that in their correspondence with national and international organisations, they had been using the name of the airport as Islamabad International Airport.

Published in Dawn, October 14th, 2022

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