KARACHI/ISLAMABAD: Pakistan’s information minister laid out two scenarios to the media on Tuesday regarding one of the most happening debates in the country: Prime Minister Imran Khan’s use of helicopters.
“There are two options: either the roads are closed off, people are inconvenienced, and a multitude of cars pass through the city as part of Imran Khan’s convoy, or the prime minister uses a helicopter for the public’s convenience,” Fawad Chaudhry said in his defense.
PM Imran uses the services of Princely Jets, a private company that owns three small — but new — single-engine helicopters, which are offered at a per-hour rent of $4,000. This translates to $66.66 a minute.
Bear with us.
Doing some math
According to some aviation experts, a single-engine helicopter covers almost three kilometres per minute, which means the cost-per-kilometre of such an aircraft equals Rs2,670.
The distance from the Prime Minister House to Bani Gala, Khan’s private residence, is almost 15 kilometres, and so, a round trip means 30 kilometres in total. A one-way trip, therefore, costs around Rs80,100 — the expense incurred for a small single-engine, six-seater helicopter.
However, Khan uses a double-engine, 15-seater state helicopter — the AW139. Experts believe that this particular chopper’s per-kilometre cost is Rs6,666.
But Chaudhry says it is Rs55 per kilometre.
It is, regardless, noteworthy that it is PTI leader Jahangir Tareen who pays the rent whether Khan uses Princely Jets’ chartered airplanes or helicopters.
According to aviation sources, Tareen is an investor in Princely Jets and a shareholder in the company’s helicopter project.
Earlier, in his press conference, Chaudhry stressed: “Imran Khan is the prime minister; he is not just the chairman of PTI. He is the prime minister of Pakistan.”
He then asked, rhetorically, if people would like the premier to travel in taxis.
In what turned out to be a not-so-wise comment in hindsight, the minister explained that he had “used Google to calculate” the per-kilometre cost of Khan’s commute between his official accommodation and the private Bani Gala residence.
Chaudhry was responding to a journalist who had asked him for his comment on whether Khan’s use of a helicopter warranted being called a part of “the VIP culture”.
In an earlier appearance on a TV show, Chaudhry had gone on to defend the premier’s choice of commute by saying travelling via a helicopter cost Rs55 per kilometre. Needless to say, the statement drew massive derision on social media.