ISLAMABAD - The estimated cost of new Islamabad airport has crossed Rs 130 billion due to delay and revision of its design, while the authorities of Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) have told a meeting of Public Accounts Committee (PAC) that the site where the airport is under-construction was not suitable for this purpose.

Initial cost of the airport was Rs 38 billion which lacked water supply and road network to the airport in its master plane. However, the years long delay and changes in the design of the airport escalated the cost manifold. The expenditures increased manifold due to unsuitability of the site for airport construction. The CAA officials told this to the PAC on Monday.

The meeting of PAC headed by Syed Khursheed Shah was held at the parliament house. Shah wondered how the airport lacks basic amenities and even there was no proposal of water supply for the airport. In a lighter tone he said that it would be another ‘wonder of the world’.

The committee was informed that in addition to the water supply, there was no plan for constructing a highway from and to the airport. The CAA officials said that the proposed 19 kilometres highway would be completed with an estimated cost of Rs 17 billion. If the road construction had started with the commencement of construction of the airport, it would be completed with less than one-fourth of the said amount as at that time the cost of the land was Rs 100,000 per kanal in that area which is now Rs 20 million per kanal. The committee noted that new airport could be accessed by extending Kashmir Highway for another three kilometres. The committee also summoned a list of the owners of the land whose land has been acquired in Rs 17 billion.

The CAA told the committee that they are acquiring some additional land for commercial purpose.

Mohammad Ali Gardezi, chairman CAA, alleged that the consultant firm hired for the said project did not perform up to the mark and subsequently its contract was terminated. He, however, said that the said company obtained a stay order from the court against the termination of the contract.

He said that the expected date for completion of the airport is in 2016 but the Prime Minister Mian Nawaz Sharif has directed to complete it by the next year.

Officials of the National Highways Authority (NHA) told the committee that the Punjab government would acquire the land for the proposed highway and “we have been tasked to complete the project by 2015.”

The committee’s chairman expressed annoyance over the NHA official as he knew too little about the proposed highway.

The committee directed the CAA and other authorities concerned to complete the airport project as soon as possible and not to waste taxpayers’ money on unnecessary ventures.

The committee summoned the report prepared by Lt Gen Shahid Niaz on the irregularities in the affairs of the construction of the airport and also directed the CAA officials to appear before the committee on Tuesday with complete and up to date record.

Meanwhile, Public Accounts Committee (PAC) has directed the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) to close the operations of Shaheen International Airlines Pakistan if it fails to pay all outstanding dues to CAA.

During the meeting of the PAC, the officials of CAA informed the committee that there are more than Rs 1 billion outstanding dues against Shaheen International Airlines Pakistan. The committee showed displeasure on unnecessary delay in payment of dues and directed the secretary CAA and its director general to recover the remaining amount with interest and if the airline fails to pay outstanding amount then close their operations from all over the Pakistan.