At least 14 people involved in a drug smuggling gang, including Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) officials and former airport security officials, have been arrested, Director General (DG) Anti-Narcotics Force (ANF) Major General Mussarat Nawaz Malik said at a press conference on Friday.
The suspects, who were allegedly involved in the smuggling of narcotics via PIA flights at London's Heathrow Airport and Islamabad's Benazir Bhutto International Airport (BBIA), had been apprehended with the help of surveillance footage, the DG ANF disclosed at the Rawalpindi ANF headquarters.
Maj Gen Malik said that the arrest of a few more suspects would help establish the network's international links.
"The capture of two more suspects will concretely determine their connections to those in London who have been facilitating the operation," he said, adding that raids are being conducted to arrest international suspects.
The arrested suspects' remands have been obtained by the ANF, he said.
The ANF head said an investigation into the smuggling operation was expedited when heroin was seized from a flight at BBIA. He also noted that most of the suspects who had been arrested were PIA employees.
More than 100 PIA employees were put under surveillance following the smuggling incidents, as the ANF continue to investigate the matter, the DG ANF told reporters.
He also announced that the suspected ringleader Arif Badshah had been arrested in Karachi Thursday night.
Badshah had confessed to his crimes and stated that he was responsible for hiring people for the operation and for providing his accomplices with heroin to smuggle, the DG ANF said.
"The suspects would collaborate with notorious drug seller Shahida who has been arrested from Nepal," he said, adding that sanitation workers identified as Pervez Masih, Saleem Nataq, and a PIA driver known as Shahid were a part of the smuggling ring, Malik said.
"Pervez Alam from Karachi, who served as a traffic supervisor for PIA, would deliver the drugs to the plane himself after receiving them from the dealer."
"Shujaat Hussain and Muhammad Saqib ─ shuttle operators for the airline ─ would hide drugs in their lockers on the advice of another shuttle operator, Parozi Masih. They would then transfer the narcotics to the plane when the time was suitable," the DG ANF revealed.
"Temporarily hired staff member Imran Baig ─ an HTV operator ─ along with sanitation workers Iqbal Masih and Gopi Dharshan were also a part of the gang," he said.
"People's Unity Vice President Syed Ghulam Yazdani, PIA engineer Wasim Afridi, former low-level employee Saleem Khan and an IT department staffer at BBIA, Syed Anwar Shah, were also involved in the smuggling operation," Malik said.
The DG ANF said that the IT officer would inform his partners about the plane's arrival in the hangar so they could then hide drugs on board.
The head of the ANF also put the presence of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif's daughter, Maryam, and son-in-law Capt Safdar on a flight smuggling drugs to London down to a mere coincidence.
He asserted that there would be no "holy cows" in the investigation. "Whatever evidence we find against them will be used to prosecute them to the full extent of the law."