RAWALPINDI: The Anti-Narcotics Force (ANF) has arrested 14 employees of the Pakistan International Airlines on a charge of being involved in drug smuggling through PIA aircraft.

Of the 14, nine were arrested in Karachi and the five others in Rawalpindi and Lahore.

This was said by ANF Director General Maj Gen Musarrat Nawaz Malik at a press conference at the ANF headquarters here on Friday.

Those arrested included Syed Gulam Yazdani, vice president of the Peoples Unity of PIA Employees’ Karachi chapter and a senior technician, and Syed Anwar Shah, who worked at the PIA Information Technology department and is suspected of passing on information about flight schedule and planes’ parking in hanger.

The DG claimed that at least two former employees of the Airport Security Force (ASF) were also involved in drug smuggling but he did not give their names and any other detail.

He said more than 100 staff members were interrogated or interviewed over drug smuggling through PIA planes.

The DG said the latest arrest came on Friday with the arrest of Akbar alias Badshash, a former PIA employee who dealt with baggage. He alleged that Akbar was the chief coordinator of a drug trafficking network involved in drug smuggling through PIA flights. His responsibilities included recruitment of individuals at Karachi airport, handing them over drugs and disbursement of payments to the team members.

Giving details about other arrested suspects, the DG said in the past PIA cleaner Pervaiz Masih and driver Shahid worked for notorious drug smuggler Shahida, who was arrested in Nepal a few years ago.

Later, Akbar recruited Pervaiz as a key member of his team and then Pervaiz inducted other members in the network to transport drugs inside the airport and plant it in aircraft.

The DG alleged that Pervaiz Alam, a traffic supervisor at Karachi airport, received heroin packets from Akbar and took them to a predetermined location inside the airport.

He alleged that shuttle operators Shujaat Hussain and Muhammad Saqib picked up drug packages dropped by Pervaiz Alam and kept them in their lockers or at safe place. Later on suitable occasions they transferred drugs to a plane.

The DG said sanitary workers Iqbal Masih, Maqbool Masih and Gopi Darshan placed drug packages in the designated space of a plane.

Imran Baig was employed in the maintenance department on contract basis and washed the aircrafts, the official said. He received drugs from Saleem Natiq and Pervaiz Masih and moved these from outside to inside the airport.

The DG said Waseem Fareedi was an employee of the PIA engineering department. He was supplied drugs by Yazdani and transferred narcotics from outside to inside the Jinnah International Airport (JIAP) in Karachi.

Yazdani received drugs from Akbar and kept them at his residence in PIA Model Colony till an opportune moment.

The DG said Saleem Natiq, a PIA employee, had been arrested in Lahore. He was transferred from Karachi to Lahore in April after the first recovery of 15kg of heroin from a parked Boeing plane on April 3.

He said Saleem Khan, a former PIA employee from lower staff, was sacked in the wake of a drug case and later reinstated. He obtained information regarding schedule of aircrafts’ arrival at and departure from the JIAP from Syed Anwar Shah and passed it on to Akbar. He would also offer expert opinion on the weight and size of drug packets according to the cavity where drugs were to be hidden.

Saleem was arrested in Rawalpindi after having disappeared from Karachi. Two kilograms of heroin have reportedly been recovered from him.

The DG said Syed Anwar of the IT department had access to information about schedule of aircrafts, including their stay in maintenance hangers. He has been arrested in Rawalpindi.

The DG said 750 aircraft had been searched by the ANF during last two months.

Asked whether the United Kingdom was cooperating with Pakistani agencies regarding drug recovery from a PIA plane at Heathrow airport, he said, “They have not been sharing any information with us”.

He said six officials of the ANF had been arrested in connection with drug smuggling and were undergoing trial.

Published in Dawn, June 24th, 2017