Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif today inaugurated a new terminal at the airport in the disputed Himalayan region of Gilgit, built to serve domestic and international tourists.
The project, completed at a cost of Rs 148 million, comprises a new terminal building and has facilities like a separate lounge for women, conveyor belt, fire detection system and internet. Speaking on the occasion‚ Sharif said, "It is my dream that jets should land here and in Skardu. We are working on plans to rebuild the runway."
Hundreds of tourists visit Gilgit-Baltistan region, earlier known as the Northern Areas, every year for its picturesque mountains and sporting activities. The strategically located region, which borders Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa to the west and Afghanistan and China to the north, is part of the original state of Jammu and Kashmir and claimed by India.
In August 2009, the Pakistan government renamed the Northern Areas as Gilgit-Baltistan and a special administrative structure was put in place.
Sharif was informed by officials that the new terminal has a covered area of over 39,000 square feet and capacity for 180 passengers. The director of airport services said the old terminal could handle only 40 passengers. Gilgit received 16,813 domestic tourists and 2,279 foreign visitors and 140 trekking and 17 expedition parties this year.
Sharif also presided over the budget session of the Gilgit-Baltistan Council. Addressing the body, he said the federal government provided Rs 800 crore to the region last year and more funds will be given this year.
The Gilgit-Baltistan Council's annual budget of Rs 826 million for 2013-14, with a revenue target of Rs 543 million, was presented by authorities. Sharif stressed the need for transparency in expenditure and said corruption would not be allowed. "The money should not go into the wrong pockets. We will keep checking," he said.