Pakistan has banned the VIP culture at airports for “influential people” including politicians, judges and military officials as part of the new government’s austerity plan, media reports said today. The decision will be strictly implemented to provide equal opportunities to all travellers without any discrimination, Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry was quoted as saying by Dawn. The move, which came under effect from yesterday, comes days after the new government led by Prime Minister Imran Khan banned the discretionary use of state funds and first-class air travel by officials and leaders, including the president and the prime minister, as part of its austerity drive.
The interior ministry has directed the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) that no government official or other VIPs would be given protocol at airports. The VIP protocol was given by the FIA. Such decisions had also been taken by previous governments but they could not implement them in a letter and spirit, the report said. It had been observed that influential people were given VIP protocol at airports so that they could avoid standing in long queues and get cleared their luggage without any hustle, Chaudhry said. “We have seen that influential people used to seek assistance of FIA officials at airports who (officials) accompanied them to promptly clear their luggage,” he said.
The VIP protocol was usually given to politicians, legislators, senior bureaucrats, judges, military officials and journalists. In case any FIA official is caught giving protocol to a VIP, he would face strict action, the ministry warned in a letter sent to all zones of the agency. According to the interior ministry, immigration counters at airports would be monitored and if any VIP was seen being given special treatment, the immigration staff and official in charge of their shift would be immediately suspended, the report said. The ministry had also directed the FIA to not harass passengers leaving the country.
The investigation agency was also directed to facilitate passengers of international flights at the time of their arrival at the country’s airports. All previous governments had decided to eliminate the VIP culture at airports but there was a VIP lounge at Benazir Bhutto International Airport in Islamabad where VIPs sat before their luggage was cleared by officials of the FIA, Airport Security Staff or Civil Aviation Authority.