FAISALABAD: Lack of international flights at Faisalabad airport is increasing the financial burden on dozens of textile exporters who are doing billions of dollar business with foreign buyers of different countries including USA, UK, Australia, Germany and France.
The businessmen community has drawn the attention of the government a number of times with a suggestion that they will also contribute for its up-gradation but to no avail.
The airport had been in use for international flights, however, with the passage of time instead of improvement its condition has worsened and the international airliners had stopped their services.
Dwellers of Faisalabad known as textile capital of Pakistan have to go to Lahore; Karachi and Islamabad airports to travel abroad even in case of any meeting with their foreign buyers.
Pakistan Muslim League-N MNA Rana Afzal said, “Up gradation of Faisalabad Airport was imperative to facilitate the air travelers from this region to attract foreign buyers of different countries.”
Afzal further said he had taken up the issue with Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif who had asked Shujaat Azeem, Special Assistant to Prime Minister on Aviation to streamline the affairs of the Faisalabad Airport.
“On April 9 Shujaat Azeem visited the airport and directed its up gradation within 90 days so that international flights could be started from here. Azeem had inspected different potions of the airport including terminal building and runway. He also directed the officials concerned that arrival, departure VIP lounge, cargo and other sections would be upgraded in accordance to the international standards,” Rana Afzal added.
A jeweler of Rail Bazaar Mohammad Usman said, “A couple of months ago he had booked a link flight from Faisalabad to Madina, Saudi Arabia via Karachi. However, to my utter surprise the flight was cancelled and I had been asked to reach Multan within two-hours if wanted to go to Madina.” He said after a marathon debate the airline had given him the opportunity to reach Lahore.
“I had contacted various rent-a-car owners for a vehicle on urgent basis, however, they all were booked. With the help of my brother-in-law, I had managed to reach Lahore just few minutes before the flight time,” he added.
He said Faisalabad was being treated step-motherly although it was the third biggest city of Pakistan and second larger revenue generator.
“Why government has not focused when international flights were diminishing from Faisalabad airport. Now, the parliamentarians have again started to convince the public that international flights will be resumed soon,” Usman said.
President Faisalabad Chamber of Commerce and Industries (FCCI) Rizwan Ashraf said that Qatar Airways had expressed their willingness to start Faisalabad-Doha flights in July.
“Initially, three flights per week will be started and its numbers can be increased following demand of the district. Fly Dubai, Ittehad and Emirates Airlines are also making arrangements to start direct international flights from Faisalabad city,” FCCI President said.
He added that Civil Aviation was taking all stake-holders on board to take correct measures for expansion of runway and up-gradation of the airport lounge. He said that business community of Faisalabad would extend full cooperation for the expansion and up gradation of Faisalabad Airport.
A textile engineer Adnan Younus told News Lens Pakistan that Faisalabad had a number of important institutes like University of Agriculture, Government College University, National Textile University, Ayub Agriculture Research Institute where many foreigners used to come to deliver lectures or join seminars, workshops and different gatherings.
He said like dwellers of Faisalabad all foreigners also had to come here through Islamabad and Lahore that was creating bad image of Pakistan. “On one side terrorism is tarnishing the image of Pakistan restricting the foreigners to visit us, on the other ill-conceived policies of the governments are aggravating the situation,” Younus added.