July 19, 2008

Pakistan Senate Committee Concerned Over Situation on Western Borders

Text of report by official news agency Associated Press of Pakistan (APP)

Islamabad, 19 July: The Senate Standing Committee on Defence and Defence Production on Saturday [19 July] expressed concern over the situation on western borders and condemned threats from neighbouring country.

The Committee which met at Parliament House today under the Chairmanship of Senator Nisar Ahmed Memon, adopted a unanimous Resolution extending its unequivocal support to the government on its efforts to combat terror. It urged the government to redouble the efforts for improving the security environment in FATA [Federally Administered Tribal Areas] and NWFP [North-West Frontier Province] in general. Senator Kamil Ali Agha, Leader of the Opposition in the Senate and member of the Committee requested the chair that arrangements will be made for summoning a joint session of the Parliament in view of the prevailing security environment in the country and to take the people into confidence. Earlier, the Committee asked the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) to strive for providing better facilities to passengers at the airports so that they could travel in safety and comfort.

This observation was made by the Senate Committee while attending a presentation made by the CAA on the progress regarding the proposed new draft National Aviation Policy. The Senate body was critical of the poor quality services, which are far below the international standards, available at the airports that not only causing a great deal of inconvenience to passengers but also impeding promotion of tourism industry and investment. The Senate Committee expressed concern over the substandard passengers' buses, unhygienic conditions at airports lounges and toilets, lack/ shortage of parking space at the airports in addition to poor aircraft maintenance and cleanliness which leaves a lot to be desired. It said that the cumulative effect of all these factors is that people here are shying away from air travel and airline industry is not contributing substantially towards GDP growth.

The Members of the Senate Committee particularly highlighted the fact that whenever some flight is delayed or cancelled, there is nobody to take care of the passengers stranded by this cancellation. It asked the CAA to make it mandatory for the airlines not only to inform the passengers beforehand when the delay is unavoidable but also to make proper arrangements for their lodging.

They said it was observed that the air-hostesses are generally not trained to handle very young children. It was also mentioned that the staircase often lack a roof and the passengers are exposed to harsh weather condition/extreme heat at the airports.

DG, CAA, Farooq Rehmatullah briefed the Committee on the salient features of the new aviation policy. He said that the draft provides a framework that encourages competition an development of new and expended international air services to benefit travellers, shipping and tourism/business sectors. It gives an opportunity to Pakistani airlines to grow and compete successfully in a more liberalized global environment. It enables airports to market themselves, unhindered by the bilateral constraints to a great extent. It supports and facilitates the objectives of National Transport Master Plan and NTC. It claims to ensure safe, secure, efficient and economically healthy air transportation in Pakistan, he added.

He also informed that Gilgit airport is being upgraded/expanded by incorporating additional 1600 acres area of the park located nearby so that bigger aircraft could also land there. He said that night landing equipment would be made available for Quetta airport and snow clearing equipment is being procured for Chitral airport.

The meeting was attended among others by Senators Mushahid Hussain Sayed, Kamil Ali Agha, Syed Dilawar Abbas, Naeem Hussain Chattha, Ms.Saddia Abbasi, Mrs.Rukhsana Zuberi besides Minister for Defence, Ahmed Mukhtar, Secretary Defenceand DG CAA.

Originally published by Associated Press of Pakistan news agency, Islamabad, in English 1128 19 Jul 08.

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