KARACHI: Pakistan International Airlines staffers found over 15 kilograms of heroin in an aircraft during maintenance work at Karachi airport on Tuesday morning.

Sources said in about a year, it was for the fifth time that a sizeable quantity of drugs was recovered from the national flag carrier’s aircraft in Karachi and Lahore.

They said that the Boeing 777 was undergoing repairs/checks (‘C checks’ are conducted in a hangar after a specific amount of actual flight hours, and require that a large majority of the aircraft’s components be inspected) in the PIA’s engineering department at the airport when the PIA staffers working on the aircraft detected some suspicious packets concealed in the aircraft. They said that they immediately called the Anti-Narcotics Force, which after testing declared that the packets contained heroin.

The sources said that the aircraft had operated its last flight to Saudi Arabia and had returned on March 30 after which it was sent to the engineering department for regular maintenance.

PIA spokesperson Danyal Gilani told Dawn that the heroin was detected by the PIA staffers and a high-level inquiry — comprising officials of the ANF, Customs, Airport Security Force, etc — had been initiated.

Previously, on May 25, 2016 PIA maintenance staff had found 27kg of heroin from an aircraft when it was undergoing checks at the engineering department at Karachi airport. The heroin was concealed in lavatory panels, and was discovered while routine maintenance was being carried out at the PIA hangar at Karachi’s international airport.

The aircraft had arrived from Lahore on the evening of May 24, and was expected to fly onwards to Europe, but was instead sent to the hangar for routine maintenance. A few days later, a sizeable quantity of heroin was recovered again from the same aircraft, which was still parked in the engineering department for maintenance.

In July 2016, a PIA flight was to leave for Dubai from the Allama Iqbal International Airport, Lahore when the ANF received information that a huge quantity of heroin was being smuggled through the flight.

Published in Dawn, April 5th, 2017