May 7, 2017 / 5:49 AM / 3 months ago

New airport in Islamabad to open in August - PM Sharif

Security personnel stand guard as the helicopter carrying Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif lands at the newly built airport in Islamabad, Pakistan May 6, 2017.Caren Firouz

ISLAMABAD (Reuters) - Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif on Saturday said a new airport in Pakistan's capital will be operational by mid-August, replacing the cramped Benazir Bhutto International Airport that was the butt of jokes for many travellers.

Sharif's government is spending billions of dollars on upgrading Pakistan's transport infrastructure and ending energy blackouts, with freshly-paved motorways as well as dams and power plants popping up across the country.

Sharif touts big-ticket infrastructure as sign of economic progress in the country of nearly 200 million people, and many of the projects are due to be finished ahead of the elections, likely in the middle of 2018.

"We have focussed on this Islamabad airport project and we are completing it on a fast pace," Sharif told state-run PTV, during an inspection of the glass-clad airport.

"The speed of completion of projects should be good at countries that want to progress."

The Benazir Bhutto airport currently servicing Islamabad is actually located in the nearby city of Rawalpindi, and attached to a military base.

International travellers often complain about chaotic scenes at the airport and in 2014 it was voted the worst in the world by the "Guide to Sleeping in Airports" website, prompting widespread criticism of the airport in Pakistani media.

The new airport, which has been long delayed, will become operational on Aug. 14. Officials say 95 percent of the work is completed on the new facility.

Writing by Drazen Jorgic

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