ISLAMABAD: A tall man wearing a jacket and sporting a smart beard walks off a plane and collects his luggage – a fairly common sight. But not when that man happens to be the interior minister of Pakistan.
On Thursday, scores of passengers were surprised to find that Ahsan Iqbal was on their Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) flight from Islamabad to Lahore, sans any protocol.
Iqbal disembarked from the plane and sat in the passenger van along with other passengers, entered the arrival without any staff from the FIA, ASF, Customs, Police and of course hangers-on receiving him. He walked into the lounge like any other passenger and hopped in a car and headed home.
Sources that have previously worked under the minister said that travelling without protocol is nothing new for Iqbal, giving examples of many occasions on which he shunned it, even when he was entitled to it. “He always gets in line, even in long passport queues,” said one source, adding, “just like the common man.”
An interior ministry source narrated an anecdote from immediately after Iqbal was appointed interior minister. He was making a surprise inspection of the airport and went without any protocol. “No one knew he is coming and he even got stopped at the gate by security. He had to show his ID card and prove that he was the interior minister,”
The interior ministry source also said that Iqbal’s academic background in economics is strongly evident in his decision-making and the way he conducts meetings. “He doesn’t just look at the security aspects. He also carefully considers the economic aspects of every decision,” the source said.
In a country where government officials strut with elaborate security protocols to show off their positions, Iqbal set welcome example for others, especially his cabinet colleagues, to emulate.