RAWALPINDI: Prime Minister’s Adviser on Aviation Sardar Mehtab Abbasi has granted approval for the formation of a central operational committee (COC), headed by the Civil Aviation Authority director general, to unearth an “organised gang” involved in trafficking drugs via the national flag carrier and to ensure foolproof security at all airports across the country.
The high-powered committee will comprise experts from the Anti-Narcotics Force, Airport Security Force, Customs and Pakistan Intern–ational Airlines, said a press release issued by the Aviation Division.
The decision was taken at a high-level meeting held at the Aviation Division in Islamabad on Friday to discuss reports of recovery of narcotics from a PIA flight at Heathrow airport. The participants in the meeting decided to seek help from proficient legal experts to ensure efficient prosecution and counter cases of legal breach at airports.
During the session, the participants reviewed gaps in security at airports and shared their suggestions. “It is an organised gang that has been involved in drug trafficking. But it will not be able to operate after gaps in security are filled and a fresh strategy implemented,” said a senior official.
Decision comes after seizure of heroin from a PIA plane at Heathrow
Some of the security measures already being taken at four major airports include restricting movement of people in the aircraft parking apron, deploying security guards around parked airplanes, and installing surveillance cameras.
Mr Abbasi said that in the past such incidents had been brushed under the carpet, and this had allowed culprits to escape. The reports about recovery of narcotics from a PIA aircraft at Heathrow airport was a matter of the integrity and prestige of the country, he added. Such incidents could not be tolerated or ignored, he said, adding that those involved in smuggling drugs would be brought to justice.
He said the government was determined to restore lost glory to the airline. “We are focusing on the induction of the latest technology, being used by developed countries, at our airports.”
He also stressed the need for a strong mechanism to hold an impartial inquiry and to keep a proper record of suspects and their networks.
During the meeting, the adviser was told that no official intimation regarding the recovery of narcotics from a PIA plane in London had been received from the British authorities so far.
The participants suggested that unauthorised personnel be banned from the engineering section of all airports, while the activities of workers could be monitored through closed-circuit TV cameras, and a biometric system used for verification purposes.
They decided that once the maintenance of planes was completed in the engineering section, they would be checked thoroughly by officials of relevant departments.
Representatives of the Anti-Narcotics Force informed the adviser to the PM that they had developed a mechanism to check plane cargo in order to avoid such incidents in the future.
Customs officials said 9,000 employees of their department were performing duties at various airports in the country.
The participants of the meeting lauded the decision to create a COC which would ensure proper implementation of SOPs at all airports in the country. The COC will also appoint regional commanders at the major four airports.
PIA chairman and Aviation Division Secretary Irfan Elahi, Civil Aviation Authority Director General retired Air Marshal Asim Suleman, Anti-Narcotics Force Director General Major General Musarat Nawaz Malik, Airport Security Force Director General Major General Ali Abbas Haider, acting PIA Chief Executive Officer Nayyer Hayat, the Customs Chief Collector, and PIA Security Chief retired Brigadier Muhmmad Asif Khan were among those present at the meeting.
Published in Dawn, May 20th, 2017