Selling off the land of Walton Airport is a perfect case of violation of rules

Selling off the land of Walton Airport is a perfect case of...

Lahore, Pakistan: Pakistan is infamous as a haven of the real estate mafia that lives in heaven as it can ruin and abuse laws when it has an eye on any piece of land from where it can make money.

Over 61% of arable land has been eaten out in the last 10 years only in Punjab for converting rise and wheat crop prime lands into housing societies. This mafia is unchecked and even can convert symbols of national history into plots and one of the glaring examples is the conversion of historic Walton Airport Lahore into flats. This saga shows how politicians and bureaucrats help the real estate mafia to convert state land into plots and apartments.

   

The Aircraft Owners & Operators Association (AOOA) has written a letter to the Federal Aviation Minister detailing the illegal sale of Walton Airport’s land worth Rs 350 billion in exchange for rural land and Rs 50 million and all was done by flouting rules in the last couple of years and during the tenure of PTI government in Punjab.

The letter written by Capt Wg Cdr (Rtd) Muhammad Nawaz Asim, General Secretary AOOA Pakistan claims that selling the land of Walton Airport, Lahore is a perfect case of violation of rules, and regulations and proceeds done through deception. The land of Walton airport is evaluated to be worth 350 Billion PKR or more which has been sold against the written rules and regulations/laws of Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) in exchange for a rural land at Mureedke and 50 billion PKR”.

Walton Airport corruption case

The letter further added that the worst thing is that out of Rs. 50 billion only one billion rupees is received in the account of PCAA (Pakistan Civil Aviation Authority) and nobody knows where has the rest of the money gone?, who is the beneficiary, and who has been used as a rubber stamp to facilitate such corruption?

AOOA also highlighted the historical value of the Walton Airport, terming it a national asset as the founder of Pakistan, Quaid-e-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah, landed at this airport in 1947.

“The national asset and valuable historical airport has been reportedly destroyed by land mafias colluding with the DG CAA and Government officials. The destruction of the national asset where Quaid-e-Azam landed in 1947 is a clear case of systematic collapse through the greed of a few,” read AOOA’s letter to Defence Minister Khawaja Asif.

“The Walton gate scandal is a symbol of mala fides on the part of the CAA officials and this is how the Aviation industry is being ruined as the Walton Airport was a hub of General Aviation in Pakistan, which requires Judicial intervention and NAB investigation,” the letter added.

It may be mentioned that the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) notified a permanent closure of the Walton airport in the year 2021.

Walton Airport has a long history. Situated at the dead end of the Yasir Shaheed Road, off Ferozepur Road near Gulab Devi Hospital Chowk, Lahore Flying Club (Walton Airport), Walton Airport continued to work since the 1930s but succumbed to the hands of authorities hand in glove with property developers having set their eyes on its prime land.

It was in the Shehbaz Sharif government in Punjab in 2013-14 when it was decided that one of the oldest airports of the country be closed and a business hub be launched in its place.

The Walton Airport (named after Sir Colonel Cusack Walton, who headed the flying club in 1935) was established over about 300 acres. In 1940, the British rulers acquired 1,000 acres from the forest department and local villagers before giving it to the Civil Aviation of India to establish a proper airport. The area included the land where now Main Boulevard of Gulberg, Mini Golf Course, and Children’s Hospital are situated beside the land that’s now in possession of the Pakistan Navy and Army. British Wing Commander W.W. Russell, in his book Forgotten Skies; The Story of Air Forces in India and Burma, mentions the Walton Airfield, which housed the Initial Training School during World War II where young Indians joining the Indian States Forces (ISF) as pilots were trained, showing that the facility has been a center of training for pilots in the pre-Partition era. The practice continued with Pakistan Air Force (PAF) pilots after the Partition.

The Walton Airport had served as the airport of Lahore until 1962 when Pakistan International Airlines included Boeing 720 in its fleet and the old airport could not accommodate the new fleet of aircraft.

The government announced the closure of the Walton Airport and Lahore Flying Club on April 28, 2021, a couple of months after promulgating the Lahore Central Business District Development Authority Ordinance 2021 to develop a business hub on the club land. The Federal Cabinet of PTI government in a meeting held in April 2021, discussed the case submitted by the Aviation Division titled “Shifting of Walton Airport Pursuance of the Directive of Prime Minister” selling of the land for business purposes.

The Aviation Division was directed to issue a notification regarding closing down the Walton Airport immediately. In compliance with the decision, a meeting was held on April 14, 2021, and thereafter a notification was issued stating “In pursuance of powers conferred by Section 6(1)(c) of the Civil Aviation Ordinance 1960, the federal government is pleased to direct the CAA to prohibit the use of Walton Aerodrome for aircraft flying and close it for availability as an aerodrome with immediate effect.”

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