ISLAMABAD: Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry on Tuesday announced various decisions taken with respect to the aviation industry by the federal cabinet, as well as the removal of restrictions on the construction of high-rise buildings in Islamabad.
While addressing a media briefing following a cabinet meeting on Tuesday, Chaudhry said the height condition for high rises in Islamabad has been removed, adding that the measure was approved following meetings of the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) and the Capital Development Authority (CDA).
The information minister said that since Prime Minister Imran Khan wishes to see cities grow vertically rather than horizontally, high rises can now be constructed in all commercial areas of the capital without requiring a ‘no-objection certificate’ (NOC) from the CDA or CAA.
“The hope with this is that, for the first time in Islamabad, [high rise projects] will benefit and foreign investment will be directed to the city,” the information minister explained.
Additionally, Chaudhry said that approval had been given for a new civil aviation policy, the purpose of which was to revive the aviation industry in Pakistan.
The information minister said that Prime Minister Imran Khan has placed a lot of emphasis on tourism and a policy to amend the visa regime had already been introduced. He noted that a pilot project has been kicked off, as a result of which visitors from five countries — the United Kingdom, United Arab Emirates, Turkey, China and Malaysia — are getting e-visa services. Under the new visa policy, visa-on-arrival will also be provided to Indian-origin British and American citizens holding United States or United Kingdom passports.
“After this month, 170 more countries will get e-visa facilities and 58 countries will be able to get visas on arrival at the airport,” the minister said.
The information minister also noted that the interior ministry had earlier in the day issued a notification stating that its NOC regime has been ended. As a result, if foreign tourists come to Pakistan and want to visit Gilgit-Baltistan, they will not require prior approval from the authorities.
Chaudhry said that, taking this initiative further, taxes and related levies have been reduced to zero for aviation services using a maximum of 40-seater airplanes, which includes helicopters, for the purpose of ferrying people to tourism resorts and other areas of tourist interest.
“This will mean that if you start aviation services [to and from areas] like Gilgit Baltistan, Swat and other areas that are earmarked [as tourist sites], the CAA will not levy any charges,” he said.
Additionally, he said that the maximum allowed lifespan of planes meant to be used as commercial transport has been increased from 12 years to 18; while for cargo planes, the maximum lifespan has been extended to 30 years.
“This means that now you can import up to a 30-year-old plane [for cargo purposes]. Previously, you could import only a 12-year-old plane. For passenger [aircraft], you can now import an 18-year-old plane,” he said.
Chaudhry also added that previous governments’ ‘open sky policy’ was being wrapped up as it had caused a lot of damage to Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) after important air routes were auctioned off.
He added that the CAA has decided that it will not charge any taxes on the meal costs of flight kitchens, which he said would hopefully increase the quality of food offered in flights.
Chaudhry also said Finance Minister Asad Umar has agreed to sit and devise a policy along the CAA’s recommendations so that taxes on domestic flights can be reduced in order to make domestic travel cheaper.
He added that TPT licenses had been extended to two years and that pilot license validity had been extended to five years.
“The fundamental purpose [of this move] is that the aviation industry benefits and tourist areas are facilitated,” he said.
“Tourism will not develop in these difficult areas if travel facilities provided are not up to par,” Chaudhry noted.
The minister also said a special initiative for women and girls who wanted to become pilots had been introduced, as a result of which the CAA will cover Rs0.4 million of the fees if a girl wants to train to become a pilot.