Imran Khan mocked for helicopter home-to-work commute

Imran Khan Image copyright Reuters

Online discussion in Pakistan this week is being dominated by the commuting habits of Imran Khan, recently elected as prime minister.

Mr Khan has been making the 9.3-mile (15km) journey - as the crow flies - from his private home to his official residence by helicopter. His choice of transport has come under criticism for being too lavish given his promises to make bureaucrats and politicians tighten their belts.

But it was the defence offered by Information Minister Fawad Chaudry which sparked widespread scorn on social media. Speaking at a press conference he claimed the helicopter was an inexpensive option costing as little 55 rupees ($0.45, £0.34) per km.

"I have seen this on Google," he added.

People were sceptical that travel by helicopter could be so cheap. #Helicopter became the top Twitter trend in Pakistan on Monday with over 16,000 tweets using the hashtag and many making jokes about the claim.

Mr Khan's cost of transport was compared to Careem, a ride-hailing smartphone app in Pakistan.

The Careem Twitter account also got in on the joke by mocking up a version of their app offering flights.

How much does it actually cost?

Was people's scepticism over the information minister's claim justified? The short answer is yes.

According to research by BBC Urdu, the fuel for the prime minister's helicopter, an Agusta Westland AW139, costs 1,600 Rupees ($13, £10) per km, higher than the 55 rupees Mr Chaudry claimed. This is also before other costs associated with running a helicopter are factored in.

Image copyright Government of Pakistan
Image caption An Agusta Westland AW139 can seat 15 people

Mr Khan's commute may be more expensive than his minster claimed but defenders of the prime minister have pointed out other reasons to use one.

This tweet arguing travel by helicopter was more secure for Mr Khan has been widely shared:

Mr Chaudry echoed these sentiments during his press conference: "We have two options for the travel of the prime minister — by a motorcade that can cause traffic blockades or by helicopter," he said. "There is a difference between VIP culture and security protocol,"