Fact Check: Imran Khan's Austerity Drive 'Up in The Air'?

The 10th day of Imran Khan’s rule has dawned upon the nation, and almost like clockwork, the opposition is crawling out of the woodwork in a feisty nit-picking frenzy. After relentless online and broadcast media slander campaigns run by many of the country’s prominent personalities and media organizations, another one has now come to pass – his seemingly extravagant use of government-owned helicopters for commutes from his Bani Gala residence to the Pakistan secretariat in Islamabad, helicopters that have been expressly allocated to the office of the Prime Minister of Pakistan by the government of Pakistan for just this purpose, mind you.

These allegations come at a time when his austerity drive has shifted into high gear, with announcements pertaining to the conversion of prime minister residences into education centres and the reduction of the 524 servants and janitorial staff allocated to his office down to 2, among other measures that stand in stark contrast to his predecessors.

Regardless of these measures, policy vultures from the entire political stratosphere were quick to mock and criticize Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry when he came to Imran Khan’s defence by claiming that these helicopter excursions only cost 55PKR/km.

The critics and the opposition have the right idea, though. A political leader who vowed to bring corrupt politicians to justice must always be a cornerstone of the very ethics which he peddles as his own campaign slogan.

But who is right, and who is wrong? We have both sides of the story, but it all appears to be more conjecture than actual fact.

Well, where words fall short, math can surely help bridge the gap.

The Agustawestland AW139 has 2 Pratt & Whitney PT6C – 67C engines, with a total takeoff power of 2500kW and a maximum continuous power rating of 2300kW. With a total fuel capacity of about 551 gallons, or 2086 litres, it has a total range of 573 nautical miles. This equates to a fuel economy of 0.51 Kilometres per litre, or 0.275 Nautical Miles per litre. With the cost of 250PKR for Jet A1 fuel per gallon, or 66PKR per litre, this comes up to about 770 rupees for the 3.212 Nautical Mile, or 6 Kilometre, trip from Bani Gala to the secretariat. The same trip by a standard 5 SUV and 2 Mercedes road convoy would cost about 1200PKR, keeping in mind the average fuel economy of each car to be about 9km/l, at a fuel cost of 95.6PKR/litre of petrol.

Various routes from Bani Gala to Pak Secretariat
Various routes from Bani Gala to Pak Secretariat

Of course, the operational cost of a $12 million medium-sized twin-engine helicopter is higher, but one should keep in mind that the government of Pakistan has 7 of these, with 2 allocated to the PM of the country to use for exactly these purposes.

In conclusion, this needs to stop. This pestering, posturing, and pandering is exhausting, especially at a time when there is so much else to accomplish. This absolutely does not mean that we become the bystanders to blatant corruption and misappropriation of government allocated funds and resources like our electoral predecessors. This country deserves our omnipresent vigilance to stand a chance, but we must always perform our due diligence. Because, after all, our intelligence is what sets up apart from the animals we herd, and the people who re-elect criminals.