RAWALPINDI: In a survey conducted in the aftermath of the terrorist attack on the Karachi airport, local secret police found the cargo area of Islamabad airport lightly guarded and other weaknesses in the security there.
Dawn has learnt that the Special Branch of police immediately reported to Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif that the airport needed extra, and better-armed, guards, CCTV cameras and firefighting equipment to secure it against the very present terrorist threat.
A security official said they were considering lowering the alert level at the Islamabad airport but dropped the idea after the latest eruption on the fringe of the Karachi airport.
Earlier, the secret police had conducted a routine security inspection in March and suggested, among other measures, imposing a ban on the use of mobile phones by people visiting the airport to improve its security.
Security establishment drops idea to lower threat level to the airport
Their latest security inspection, conducted on Monday, shockingly revealed that 20 of the 90 CCTV cameras installed at the airport were dysfunctional when it needed 110 CCTV cameras for proper monitoring of the activities at different points of the airport.
Secret police inspectors found the situation in the cargo area even more alarming. Just 50 guards, armed with 12 bore shot guns or 30 bore pistols, are deployed there, whereas the police inspectors thought at least 20 more were needed.
Security of the rest of the airport is in the hands of the Airport Security Force, with two heavy and several sub machine guns to do that.
What worried the inspectors was that the guards enter through the cargo gate to take up their duties, not the main gate like all other security personnel. At the Karachi airport, the terrorists had stormed the cargo area and caused havoc.
They found the security at PIA cargo shed “miserable” as the cargo brought by private agencies and agents was being loaded on aircraft on the strength of a certificate, without actual security check and scanning. “At present, 1,050 ASF personnel, including female and non-operational staff, are deployed at the Benazir Bhutto International Airport,” a senior security officer told Dawn. Though not considered sufficient, 30 extra personnel are kept on call.
At any given time, 150 ASF personnel protect the airport building and another 122 the runways, doing eight-hour shift.
The Special Branch report noted that houses in the residential colonies like Lalial 1 and 2, Mohalla Hafiz and Khurram Colony butting the airport on three sides can be exploited by terrorists for mischief.
Since the localities are known for crime and suspected terrorists under watch live there, the report recommended that owners of the properties be asked to seal the windows opening on the airport and give undertaking that their property would not be used for any mischief.
It also suggested that the local police take strict action if the persons under watch move out without intimating the authorities. It suggested that vulnerable points in the restricted area should be well lit.Last year the Punjab police had suggested shifting of the aviation fuel depot away from the vulnerable location at the airport, but it still stands at the same place.
Published in Dawn, June 11th, 2014