ISLAMABAD: The private residence of Prime Minister Raja Pervaiz Ashraf may be furnished with a helipad at the government’s expense to save police securing the 14-mile road trip from the capital, officials said on Tuesday.
Police told AFP that helipads are customary additions to private residences as part of “VVIP” security arrangements in the country.
Critics, however, lashed out at the arrangements as “disappointing” after Ashraf said his first priority would be to resolve crippling power cuts that leave millions without electricity for up to 18 hours a day.
Ashraf, who took the office on Friday, has moved into the premier’s official residence but like previous incumbents is expected to spend weekends at his private home, a mansion in Gujar Khan, near Islamabad.
“Senior officials visited the site on Monday to review security arrangements. A site has already been selected for the helipad and its construction will commence very soon,” one police official told AFP.
He declined to speculate on the expense, but said the helipad would save police from “the hassle” of finding personnel to man a staggering 300 security points that would otherwise be needed between Islamabad and Gujar Khan.
But other officials said a helipad was just one of a number of proposals being considered for the premier’s security and that there was no final decision.
Critics said it would send the wrong message when millions live in poverty and the financial crisis could force Pakistan back to the IMF. “He is enjoying all the perks of his position while ignoring the country’s economic problems,” said a spokesman for the PML-N, Siddiq-ul Farooq.
Published in The Express Tribune, June 27th, 2012.