Aviation minister says state-run airline will utilize larger Boeing 777 ahead of Eidul Azha to facilitate the maximum number of passengers
The state-run Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) will repatriate 6,461 Pakistanis stranded in Gulf states starting on Monday (today), Aviation Minister Ghulam Sarwar Khan announced on Sunday.
Addressing media at a public secretariat, he said that two flights were due to arrive in Pakistan from Doha and Bahrain on Monday, carrying 155 and 145 passengers, respectively. To facilitate the mass repatriation ahead of Eidul Azha, he added, PIA was utilizing the larger Boeing 777 instead of the Airbus. In total, he said, PIA was expected to operate 18 flights from Dubai, Sharjah, Doha and Bahrain prior to Eid to ensure all citizens were repatriated.
According to a PIA spokesman, 10 PIA flights from the U.A.E. would travel to Pakistan between July 5 and July 18 carrying 3,394 passengers. Additionally, he added, six flights carrying around 2,916 passengers would travel from Qatar to Pakistan from July 6 to 18.
During the wide-ranging press interaction, the minister was questioned on the Ring Road project scandal that has already seen Special Assistant to the P.M. Zulfikar Bukhari resigning from his post until an investigation has been concluded. Sarwar said it was a provincial matter, and he hoped that work on it would start in September.
To another question, he claimed that rampant inflation of essential commodities was not a “major” concern of the public—seemingly echoing Defense Minister Pervaiz Khattak’s claims of there being no poverty in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa province—and the real issue was unemployment. He praised the PTI-led government for facilitating 1.6 million people in traveling abroad for employment during its tenure.
To a question on the ongoing Afghanistan peace process, Sarwar claimed that Islamabad expected around half a million refugees to enter Pakistan if conditions deteriorated despite the bulk of the shared border between the nations having been fenced off. Recalling the situation in the 1990s, he said around five million Afghan refugees had entered Pakistan at the time, of which two million had gotten Pakistani nationality. “In case they enter Pakistan [now], they will not be allowed to move to cities,” he said.
Sarwar also reiterated that the government had no plans to provide any military bases to the U.S., adding that nor would it be granted the use of airspace to launch drone attacks.
Referring to the recently held intelligence briefing that was attended by representatives of both the opposition and treasury benches, Sarwar claimed it was the first time that the country’s political leadership had gathered under one roof to discuss the national security situation emerging in Afghanistan after the withdrawal of foreign forces from there. “An invitation from military and intelligence leaders for another similar session with a parliamentary committee on security has been given,” he said, referring to reports of a follow-up session on the situation in Kashmir.