No end in sight for new Islamabad airport

Published: March 17, 2016
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Benazir Bhutto International Airport. PHOTO: APP/ FILE

Benazir Bhutto International Airport. PHOTO: APP/ FILE

Benazir Bhutto International Airport. PHOTO: APP/ FILE Khursheed Shah chairing the meeting of Public Accounts Committee. PHOTO: PID
ISLAMABAD: 

Even though billions of rupees have been spent over the project, the completion of work on the new Islamabad international airport appears nowhere in sight as the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) on Wednesday failed to give the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) a definitive deadline.

While giving a special briefing to the parliamentary panel on the project, CAA Director General (DG) Asim Suleiman said work on the airport would finish by mid-2017. However, PAC members raised eyebrows over Suleiman’s commitment and gave him one more chance to come up with a final date.

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“There are no roads, no water and no electricity [in the area where the airport site is located]… are you sure the project will be finished [by 2017]… I challenge you it will not,” said Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf’s Arif Alvi.

“We don’t want to just grill people at this forum,” said PAC Chairman Khursheed Shah. “[But] we do not like to be made fools of. It is unlikely this project will be completed in the next two to three years… [so] we want you to give us a deadline,” he added.

Shah warned Suleiman that they could always take the issue to parliament, opening a new ‘Pandora’s box’.

At that, the CAA head asked for a month’s time to complete his ‘homework’ and check the status of each of the project’s components.

Shah also contested the figures Suleiman gave during his briefing. The CAA DG claimed that 60% of work had been completed and Rs51.23 billion in payments had been made. “Don’t misguide the PAC… 85% of work has been completed,” the panel chairman countered.

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According to details, the airport project was approved in 2003-04, ground breaking was performed in April 2007 and the original PC-1 of Rs36.86 billion was approved in March 2008. However, the revised PC-1 pushed the cost to Rs81.17 billion. Seventeen different contractors are working on the airport and CAA has acquired 3,289 acres for Rs950 million for the project.

During his briefing, the CAA DG candidly admitted that the PC-1 was flawed and work was being done on an ad-hoc basis, with project directors being changed frequently.

“Who is responsible [for this mismanagement] and what action have you taken?” asked Arif Alvi.

“Unfortunately, no punitive action has been taken so far but we have launched an inquiry and those responsible will be taken to task,” Suleiman replied. The reply could not satisfy the committee.

Sheikh Rohail Asghar of Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz also pointed out that two runways of the airport had been completed without meeting international standards. “The people building the runways do not know the standard space kept between two runways. Because of this, the two runways cannot be used simultaneously. Who is responsible for this?” he asked.

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In response, the DG admitted that the space between two runways should have been one kilometer, which was not the case. “However, we will build a third runway according to the master plan,” he said.

“What was a taxiway in the PC-1 has been turned into a runway, and now you are going for a third,” remarked Shah.

Meanwhile, National Highway Authority Chairman Shahid Ashraf Tarar briefed the committee about the roads connecting to the new airport and said work will be completed by the end of this year.

Published in The Express Tribune, March 17th, 2016.

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Reader Comments (12)

  • Malik Saab
    Mar 17, 2016 - 12:45PM

    Islamabad International Airport is being constructed in Rawalpindi Punjab. So how come it is named after a federal capital?. It is not in the jurisdiction of the federal land.Recommend

  • Unknown
    Mar 17, 2016 - 1:59PM

    @Malik Saab:

    Since when did Fateh Jang became part of Rawalpindi? Have you seen the expansion of Islamabad, please try to look for things outside or your villageRecommend

  • NHA
    Mar 17, 2016 - 2:17PM

    Issue is not in name? The issue is in delay, escalating cost and quality. There have been reports of all sorts on quality , price and timelines. If PAC is unable in getting it done who will then prevail on contractors and CAA officials. Recommend

  • pakistani
    Mar 17, 2016 - 2:28PM

    @Malik Saab:
    it is now, so get over it.Recommend

  • Atif
    Mar 17, 2016 - 2:32PM

    This is so terrible. Even in 2016 the capital of Pakistan is using a pre-partition airbase for all passenger traffic.

    How can the space between two runways not be properly calculated in a project worth billions with huge number of individuals involved ??.

    Instead of renaming the capitals airport to some political leaders name, the government should do some real work. Pakistan badly needs institutional reforms..both military dictatorships and long ruling family-based political parties have failed to deliver.

    Complete overhaul of system is needed here.Recommend

  • Tayyab
    Mar 17, 2016 - 3:31PM

    Is this really surprising? Will it really be easy to build a new airport when the old airport has malik riaz’s bahria town closeby?Recommend

  • Jawad U Rahman
    Mar 17, 2016 - 3:45PM

    Meanwhile at the old airport they still use the coat-hanger like fake security scanning devices to protect us. Spotted these last week.Recommend

  • Usman
    Mar 17, 2016 - 4:37PM

    My parent’s house is being constructed with better efficiency than this airport. People need to unite to vote for PTI, and remove inefficiency from these govt. departments.Recommend

  • Amir
    Mar 17, 2016 - 6:15PM

    “Sheikh Rohail Asghar of Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz also pointed out that two runways of the airport had been completed without meeting international standards. “The people building the runways do not know the standard space kept between two runways. Because of this, the two runways cannot be used simultaneously. Who is responsible for this?” he asked.

    In response, the DG admitted that the space between two runways should have been one kilometer, which was not the case. “However, we will build a third runway according to the master plan,” he said.”

    Obviously ‘Build a third runway’ is the solution for the inadequate space between the first two runways and we all know from where the steel and cement will come for this!

    WELCOME TO PAKISTAN !!!Recommend

  • Woz ahmed
    Mar 18, 2016 - 12:08AM

    Surely someone must be responsible for planning the runways too close to each other, who are the airport planners ?

    Sheer incompetence.Recommend

  • Malik Saab
    Mar 18, 2016 - 3:13PM

    @Unknown: Fateh Jang is in Punjab. Also According to the constitution Islamabad cannot expand into Punjab in any manner. So Islamabad International Airport is being constructed in Punjab and Islamabad cannot be expanded into Punjab for your information.
    After the 18th amendment Punjab even has the full right to claim royalty on all the profits of this infrastructure.Recommend

  • Pakistani
    Mar 19, 2016 - 4:36AM

    @Malik Saab:
    Even the present Islamabad Airport (BBIA) is in Rawalpindi’s jurisdiction, and was named Islamabad airport for decades. So it does not matter. Try to move onRecommend

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