Politics

Pakistan PM Imran Khan’s Helicopter Rides Cost Just Rs.55/km: Info Minister

Fawad Chaudhry Cost Of Helicopter Ride
aitoff / Pixabay

Pakistan’s newly-elected Prime Minister Imran Khan recently chose to travel from the Prime Minister House to his private Bani Gala residence in a helicopter. It sparked a major row on the social media considering the austerity measures introduced by Imran Khan’s government. Information minister Fawad Chaudhry tried to come to Khan’s rescue. But things took a hilariously dramatic turn when Chaudhry told local media that Khan’s helicopter rides cost just Rs. 50-55 ($0.4) per kilometer.

Fawad Chaudhry used Google to calculate the costs

Following Chaudhry’s startling revelation, the social media is flooded with memes and jokes mocking Chaudhry’s calculations. The information minister said he had “used Google to calculate” the cost of Imran Khan’s helicopter ride from the PM House to his Bani Gala residence. Chaudhry told a local TV channel that helicopter rides aren’t that expensive if someone owns it personally rather than hiring one on rent.

Imran Khan’s helicopter ride came into the limelight on Tuesday amid political mud-slinging over Punjab chief minister Usman Buzdar’s use of a private jet to travel with his family members to Islamabad. On Monday, Usman Buzdar had also used an official helicopter for a private tour to Mian Chunnu, according to Dawn News.

Justifying Imran Khan’s travel via helicopter, Fawad Chaudhry said four helicopters from previous regimes were already at PM House. Chaudhry not only said he used Google to come up with the Rs 50-55/km figure, but also asked journalists to check it for themselves using Google.

Chaudhry added that the Prime Minister’s helicopter trip from the PM House to his Bani Gala residence was not part of “VIP culture.” Khan chose to travel by helicopter to avoid a traffic jam on the roads of Islamabad, which would have caused trouble for ordinary citizens. Chaudhry pointed out that the helicopter ride – which was only a few minutes long – was also a better choice from the security perspective. “There is a difference between VIP culture and security protocol.”

Rejecting Chaudhry’s Google calculations, Khurshid Shah of Pakistan People’s Party said Khan “uses a helicopter to travel from his residence in Bani Gala to the PM House, and he makes two trips every day. The total cost of it is Rs 300,000.” If helicopter rides are really as cheap as Chaudhry suggests, every middle-class person would want to use helicopters for the daily commute. But the actual cost is much higher.

Major (retd) Mohammad Zaheer, an aviation expert, told Geo TV that PM Imran Khan uses the AW-139 helicopter, which costs Rs 370,900 per hour to fly. This cost is reached after taking into consideration the entire process from starting up to switching off the helicopter.

Imran Khan’s austerity measures go into hyperdrive

The Imran Khan government has introduced a variety of austerity measures in the last few days. According to Fawad Chaudhry, these measures have helped cut the government’s costs by Rs 550 million. The number of people working at the PM House has been reduced from 530 to just 10. Khan has also decided not to use any special airplane for foreign visits. He will travel business class on commercial flights, instead.

The government has also banned the discretionary use of the first-class air travel and state funds by leaders and officials including the prime minister, president, and judges. Chaudhry claimed that former PM Nawaz Sharif had used Rs 51 billion of discretionary funds in a year. The government has also banned the ‘VIP culture’ at airports to provide equal opportunities to all travelers without any discrimination.