File photo of Shahid Khaqan Abbasi. Photograph:( ANI )
A ministerial committee proposed three names, including Gandhara - the name of the land and its associated civilisation - for Islamabad's new state-of-the-art airport, but all the names were rejected by Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi.
The four-member ministerial committee was constituted by the then prime minister Nawaz Sharif just two weeks prior to his disqualification by the Supreme Court in Panama Papers case in July last year.
During one of the recent meetings of the federal cabinet, Mr Abbasi after listening to the arguments of his colleagues rejected all the three names that had been proposed by the committee under Ports and Shipping Minister Hasil Bizenjo "without giving any specific justification", Dawn reported, citing sources in the government and ruling Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N).
The committee had suggested the names of Liaquat Ali Khan, the first prime minister of Pakistan, Fatima Jinnah, one of the leading founders of Pakistan and the younger sister of Muhammad Ali Jinnah, and Gandhara, the name of the land and its associated civilisation that existed in the areas now situated in northern Pakistan and Potohar plateau.
The sources said the cabinet members in the presence of the officials of the Civil Aviation Authority or CAA had a thorough debate on the issue of the name of the new airport which is set to become operational from May 3, the paper said.
They said a majority of the members were of the view that they should name the new facility after some Pakistan Movement personality so that no one could dare change its name later on political grounds, it said.
A number of cabinet members, when contacted, confirmed that there was almost a consensus among them on the name of Liaquat Ali Khan because of his contribution to the Pakistan Movement.
"There were very strong arguments in support of Liaquat Ali Khan's name, but it seems that the prime minister had come with a prepared mind," said a federal minister, while recalling the proceedings.
The sources said the officials of the CAA told the cabinet members that in their correspondence with national and international organisations, they had been using the name of the airport as Islamabad International Airport.
The Pakistan People's Party has been demanding that the new airport should be named after former party chairperson Benazir Bhutto since it is the name of the present airport in Islamabad.
The committee had been formed under Ports and Shipping Mir Hasil Khan Bizenjo and it comprised Adviser on National History and Literary Heritage Irfan Siddiqui, Minister of State for Information Marriyum Aurangzeb and Special Assistant to the Prime Minister on Law Barrister Zafarullah.
When contacted, Irfan Siddiqui confirmed that his committee had presented three names to the cabinet, but the prime minister rejected them.
The new airport is Pakistan's largest international airport, designed for up to 15 million passengers annually in the first phase, and up to 25 million in future.