ISLAMABAD - The federal government has removed yet another project director of new Islamabad airport, the fifth such removal of top executor of the under-construction airfield in 11 months, The Nation learnt on Saturday.

The removal of Project Director Brig (Retd) Mushtaq Ali comes at a time when Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has given March 23, 2015 as deadline for the completion of the airport; however, insiders said the accomplishment of the airport in stipulated time was feared to face further delay, besides escalation of the cost.

Though Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) argues the removal of the project director was in line with termination of his contract period, official sources involved in execution of the multibillion rupees project reveal the suspension was done because of slow pace of work.

The government has given additional charge of the project to Air Vice Marshal Riazul Haq and would float fresh advertisement for hiring permanent project director for the project.

CAA spokesman Abid Qaimkhani, when contacted, said the contract term of the outgoing project director had lapsed, adding advertisements will be floated in national media for appointment of new head of the airport.

Officials in CAA complain that the authority’s top officials had been engaged in construction of the airfield but the government had never given them a chance to work as project director of the project.

The first project director (Engr Musharraf Ali) was removed by the then Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhary. After a few months Riazul Haq was replaced with Engr Nadir Shafi Dar. But soon he was barred by Islamabad High Court from performing duty and the charge was again given to M Riazul Haq.

After a few weeks, Brig (Retd) Mushtaq was appointed as project director but his contract was not renewed by Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif on Friday.

A source said the construction of main access road to the airport has been closed for CAA on the orders of high court, adding most of the contractors were implicated in court cases, resulting in expiry of project management consultant agreement. The under-construction airport near Fateh Jang would be the country’s first green field airport sprawling over the area of 13 square kilometres having two runways and state-of-the-art facilities.

The project was announced in January 2005 after a 10-year delay due to political changes in the country and construction began in April 2007, when funding became available. The airfield will eventually replace the overloaded Islamabad International Airport at Chaklala also known as Benazir Bhutto International Airport.

The CAA had earlier predicted that the airfield would be opened for operation in 2014, however, delay in the project due to regime changes and escalating cost of the project further delayed the project until Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif during his recent visit to the site said the work should be completed by next year.

The new 3,600-acre (13km²) airport site is situated on the land acquired by the CAA in the 1980s at Pind Ranjah near Fateh Jang (an additional 400 acres of land have been acquired to build the two runways).

The airport will be 20-km away from the centre of Islamabad and 23-km away from Rawalpindi, being well served by an excellent highway infrastructure. The airport will be constructed in two phases. The phase one of the project, which included site preparation and other earth works, was completed in April 2008. About 20 per cent of airside infrastructure work has been completed.

Ground is being levelled for the terminal building and allied facilities. The controlling body Civil Aviation Authority has apportioned contracts worth Rs 14.224bn ($178.6m) for construction activities under the self-financed project. Of these, Rs 11.825bn were allocated for airside infrastructure work.

The phase two of the project is under way. It will see car parking for 2,000 vehicles, a covered plaza area for 200 cars, a control tower, maintenance hangar, a 15-gate terminal with 10 remote gates, 42 immigration counters, nine baggage claim carousels, 12 X-ray machines and also office and administration facilities.

There will also be a hotel, convention centre, duty-free shops, airside mall, business centre, food court, leisure facilities and banks at the new terminal. In March 2012, the first test flight to the airport was carried out to test the runways. The airport’s new terminal is expected to be operational by March 2015.