ISLAMABAD: After facing delays for many years and spending billions of rupees, Pakistan’s largest airport – the Islamabad International Airport – has been finally completed and inaugurated by Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi on Tuesday.
Originally scheduled to be completed during the era of the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) government at a cost of Rs32 billion, the airport has finally been completed at a cost of more than Rs105 billion with multiple completion deadlines being revised time and again.
In addition, reports suggesting mega foul play in the construction of the airport often made headlines in national media in the past.
Earlier this year, PM Abbasi had said that the Islamabad International Airport, located in Fateh Jhang, would be ready by March. On February 20, in a meeting chaired by Abbasi, it was decided that the airport would be inaugurated by the mid of April. Later, April 20 was finalised as the inauguration date.
However, a few days back, the PM revised the airport’s inauguration date from April 20 to May 1, apparently, on the grounds that sophisticated machines installed at the airport were on test mode.
Prior to these revised deadlines, the Islamabad International Airport was scheduled to be completed by December last year before its deadline was revised for March.
Before December 2017, the airport was scheduled to be completed by August and before that by June. The related deadlines kept being revised even before that on one pretext or the other citing massive construction work.
Both former PM Nawaz Sharif as well as the incumbent PM took pride in declaring that the airport would be “one of the most advanced and largest airports of the world”.
However, repeated delays in the airport’s completion and surfacing of reports of mega corruption in the past have put a question mark on the transparency of the entire process.
Formerly known as the New Islamabad International Airport, the airport was renamed Islamabad International Airport after PM Abbasi formed a cabinet committee under the chairmanship of Senator Hasil Khan Bizenjo which suggested the current name in February this year.
Speaking at the airport after its inauguration on Tuesday, PM Abbasi directed the Civil Aviation Authority to ensure that the issues that “might prop up in the early phases of the new project be dealt with on priority basis”.
The PM admitted that “all new projects have issues that need to be addressed in order to avoid inconvenience to the people”.
Abbasi regretted that a country with 207 million population only has less than 50 modern aircraft registered and said there should be at least a thousand airliners registered.
He said the aviation world was changing, adding that any country that supports the aviation industry has good airports and allows the airline industry to thrive.
He urged the CAA to adapt to new requirements and allow passengers to have a choice, and provide rational regulation, which allows the aviation to grow.
Abbasi said the current government was about starting projects, taking up new initiatives and completing them as well.
He said, “This year airports in Multan and Faisalabad have already been inaugurated, while the ones of Peshawar and Quetta are about to be completed soon, which will be followed by the Lahore airport.”
Abbasi said, “Gwadar’s airport is in the designing stage, while the Sialkot’s is one of the success stories of the private sector that not only developed it, but is also improving it.”
He said the country could not make any progress in the past as it deviated from the democratic system of governance.
He said, “No country has ever achieved any success in the past without democracy.”
He said the era of dictatorship had not given the country anything substantial.
“Pakistan can only progress if there is democracy, supremacy of Constitution, parliament is supreme and institutions work within their ambit. There is no other way forward for progress and development,” he added.
The ceremony coincided with the arrival and departure of Pakistan International Airlines’ flights PK-300 and PK-301 to and from Islamabad-Karachi.
A press release from the PM Office stated that the energy-efficient airport also has a 50-bed trauma centre, cinema, restaurants, several lounges and a duty-free shop, besides a huge parking lot for 2,200 cars and two runways.
It can cater to 12 million passengers annually which “can be expanded” to 25 million passengers annually.
The airport will have 15 boarding gates and is the only airport in the country to accommodate two Airbus A-380, the press release stated.
The new four-level airport building would house five conveyer belts for passengers baggage, cargo terminal, fuel farm, air traffic control complex besides a fully-functional modern fire-fighting station and rescue facilities, it added.
Punjab Governor Rafique Rijwana, Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa Governor Iqbal Zafar Jhagra, Minister for Interior Ahsan Iqbal, Adviser to the PM on Aviation Sardar Mehtab Ahmad Khan and other ministers accompanied the PM during the inauguration.