LAHORE: After apparently losing interest in buying a new or second-hand jet plane for the chief minister, Punjab government is instead planning to get him a helicopter that can also be used for his province-wide tours aimed at mustering support for the forthcoming general elections.
Right now, the provincial government has no airplane or helicopter for the chief minister.
Its six-seat plane had developed a technical fault and was grounded last year as a result, while the 16-seater Russian MI17 helicopter had to crash land in Afghanistan’s Logar province on August 4 this year on its way to Moscow for an overhaul.
The helicopter was last overhauled in Russia in 2011-12. As it was insured, a claim had already been filed, said an official.
Both were purchased in 2004-05 by the Pervaiz Elahi-led provincial government.
According to official sources, the authorities concerned had started preparing for purchase of a second-hand or a new 12-seater jet aircraft for the chief minister early this year. The market price of a new aircraft was around Rs3 billion and of a used one approximately Rs2 billion.
The chief minister had reportedly asked his staff to “save money” by purchasing a second-hand plane for him.
The sources said the government had invited international technical bids for a second-hand aircraft. Three foreign companies — a Canadian, an American and a French — had responded. Their bids were opened and were being checked.
Assessment for buying a new jet also went on in the meantime with an idea to save money and time usually wasted in handling complications the second-hand machines might develop.
This process lingered on and it appeared that the top authorities had now lost interest in buying a plane, old or new. Instead, it had now been decided to have the grounded plane repaired, and buy a new helicopter as well. International bids had already been invited for the helicopter, the sources said.
But, they confided, the government would most probably opt for the heavy duty and time-tested MI17 that would cost around $16.8 million or Rs1.68 billion. This would again “save money” as the price of an American helicopter was much higher, an official said.
Sources close to the chief minister claimed that as per the latest assessments, the helicopter would serve him much more than the new jet during his expected across-the-province tours before the next poll.