Call for saving ‘national heritage’ ‘Don’t turn Walton Airport area into commercial zone’

* Airport’s GM (operations) says govt condemned attack on Ziarat Residency, but was destroying another national heritage with its own hands

LAHORE: Walton Airport General Manager (GM) for Operations Muhammad Usman Malik has urged the government not to convert the Walton Airport area into a commercial zone.
Usman, who looks after the operations of sports flying club along with other stakeholders, including Faisal Naveed Asif and Syed Khurram Mujahid, said in a statement on Wednesday that the Punjab government intends to take over the site of Walton Airport, where Quaid-i-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah had landed for the first time after independence in 1947, in order to build a commercial zone thereon.
Calling the proposed takeover illegal, Malik said that the government had criticised the terrorism attack on Ziarat Residency in Balochistan on the grounds that the building was part of the country’s national heritage. However, he said, the federal and the provincial governments were now destroying another “national heritage” – Walton Airport – with their own hands.
He said that the prime minister has directed officials concerned to facilitate the Punjab government in developing the commercial zone and a summary containing a proposal to utilise the land owned by the Punjab government at Old Walton Airport for this purpose has been moved for the approval of the chief minister.  
He said that with the permission of the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA), 20 different companies have spent huge money in building infrastructure and installing equipment to run the aerodrome and flying clubs at the site. He said that the airport also produces 60 percent of pilots trained every year in Pakistan.
He said that a private sector entity had gifted the airport land to Northern India Flying Club for aviation-related activities and that neither the federal nor the provincial government is authorised to change the purpose of the acquisition.
On April 24, 2008, he said, the CAA submitted an application to the Punjab government for renewal of the lease of the land measuring 165.72 acres for 99 years and also for retrieval of 6-kanal and 10-marlas of its acquired land erroneously transferred by the Board of Revenue (BoR) to Pakistan Navy. He said that the CAA sought the renewal of the lease on similar terms and conditions finalised between the BoR and Pakistan Air Force in the vicinity.

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Aaj Kal