Rejecting three names proposed by Nawaz Sharif-constituted ministerial committee for Islamabad’s new airport, Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi has left the issue open for debate that may only add to the confusion rather than find a solution.
Sources in the government and ruling Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) told Dawn that during one of the recent meetings of the federal cabinet, the prime minister after listening to the arguments of his colleagues rejected all the three names that had been proposed by a four-member committee under Ports and Shipping Minister Hasil Bizenjo “without giving any specific justification”.
The sources said the cabinet members in the presence of the officials of the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) had a thorough debate on the issue of the name of the new airport which is set to become operational from May 3.
Ministerial committee under Hasil Bizenjo suggested the names
They said a majority of the members were of the view that they should name the new facility after some Pakistan Movement personality so that no one could dare change its name later on political grounds.
In pictures: Shiny new Islamabad International Airport gets final touches ahead of inauguration
The committee had suggested the names of Liaquat Ali Khan, Mohtarma Fatima Jinnah, and Gandhara, the name of the land and its associated civilisation that existed in the areas now situated in northern Pakistan and Potohar plateau.
A number of cabinet members, when contacted, confirmed that there was almost a consensus among them on the name of Liaquat Ali Khan because of his contribution to the Pakistan Movement.
Most of the ministers during the debate said they should not provide an opportunity to any political party, particularly the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP), to change the name at any later stage.
“There were very strong arguments in support of Liaquat Ali Khan’s name, but it seems that the prime minister had come with a prepared mind,” said a federal minister, while recalling the proceedings.
The sources said the officials of the CAA told the cabinet members that in their correspondence with national and international organisations, they had been using the name of the airport as Islamabad International Airport.
The PPP has been demanding that the new airport should be named after former party chairperson Benazir Bhutto since it is the name of the present airport in Islamabad.
During a cabinet meeting two weeks prior to his disqualification by the Supreme Court in Panama Papers case in July last year, then prime minister Nawaz Sharif had constituted a four-member committee to propose a name for the new Islamabad airport.
The committee had been formed under Ports and Shipping Mir Hasil Khan Bizenjo and it comprised Adviser on National History and Literary Heritage Irfan Siddiqui, Minister of State for Information Marriyum Aurangzeb and Special Assistant to the Prime Minister on Law Barrister Zafarullah.
When contacted, Irfan Siddiqui confirmed that his committee had presented three names to the cabinet, but the prime minister after a debate rejected all of them.