LAHORE, March 17: Lahore’s new Rs10-billion Allama Iqbal International Airport was inaugurated by President Gen Pervez Musharraf on Monday where he said the Civil Aviation Authority would also set up modern airports at Sialkot, Gwadar and Islamabad to accelerate the pace of economic development.

The new airport will have a capacity to handle 6.5 million passengers a year.

In a brief written speech, the president, clad in his military uniform, said credit for planning the project went to the previous government. However, he said, his government should be credited for completing it, rather than shelving it, as was the practice in the past after a change of government, and saving as much as Rs3 billion by modifying the design.

The president invited foreign investors and entrepreneurs to benefit from the state-of-the-art aviation infrastructure developed in Pakistan.

He said foreign travellers gauged the socio-economic development of a country from the appearance of and facilities available at the airport where they landed first.

The president hoped that Pakistan in general and Lahore in particular would become the regional hub of aviation activities after inauguration of the new airport.

Governors Khalid Maqbool and Dr Ishratul Ibad, Chief Minister Chaudhry Pervaiz Elahi, National Assembly Speaker Chaudhry Amir Husain, Foreign Minister Khurshid Mehmud Kasuri, Defence Minister Rao Sikandar Iqbal, Commerce Minister Humayun Akhtar Khan, Labour Minister Abdus Sattar Lalika, Health Minister Nasir Khan, Adviser Shaukat Aziz, former law minister Dr Khalid Ranjha and a large number of officials were present at the ceremony.

General Musharraf said he would look into a request by the CAA director-general for the allotment of additional 600 acres of land for future expansion of the airport.

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