Pakistan’s capital Islamabad is without a noteworthy international airport in spite of having one planned that is still to become operational. It is well known to the residents of Islamabad that the existing international airport is a facility that actually belongs to the Pakistan Air Force. This small facility has been in use as the capital’s international airport for decades. The residents of the capital have been longing to have an international airport befitting the stature of the beautiful capital of the country of which they are proud residents. This dream of theirs seemed to have started taking shape when the foundation of the new international airport, at Fateh Jang, was laid in the year 2004 by the then Prime Minister of Pakistan Mr. Shaukat Aziz.

It is said that the new Islamabad International Airport which remains inoperative, even after a lapse of over a decade, would have outstanding facilities of international standards. It would have 90 check-in counters and a parking facility for 2,000 vehicles and would cater to roughly nine million people every year. Everything sounds awfully good. The question that however continues to boggle the minds of the people is why has the project failed to take off even after a lapse of 10 years.

It would be of interest to the readers to know that the gargantuan new Islamabad International Airport project was to be completed at a cost of Rs. 37 billion. It is reported that the cost has now more than doubled. From Rs. 37 billion it has risen to Rs. 81 billion. The cost is expected to further increase due to further delays in making the project operational. This drastic increase in cost is incredibly shocking. Any extent of reasoning cannot justify this unwarranted escalation in cost. Undeniably, projects of this magnitude are bound to have a number of minor and major problems.

One major problem being cited as the main hurdle in making the project operational is paucity or non-availability of water. Regardless of their magnitude problems can be overcome with proper planning and timely intervention. This is what has not been done in the case of the new Islamabad Airport. It is now being said that 80% work on the project has been completed and the facility would become operational in the last quarter of 2016. After inordinate delay in completion of the project should one believe that this new target would be ultimately met? The Prime Minister of Pakistan should take immediate cognizance of this critical issue. He should set a deadline for completion of the project which is of immense national importance. If the new deadline set forth is the last quarter of 2016, the Prime Minister must ensure that it is met at all cost.

M. FAZAL ELAHI,

Islamabad, October 19.