ISLAMABAD: The Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) has acknowledged that its officials, in connivance with the employees of the Pakistan International Airlines (PIA), have been involved in a human smuggling ring that also worked in Europe.
The report forwarded by the FIA director general to the interior ministry and the Establishment Division on Wednesday highlights that human smuggling investigation was carried out on a complaint by the British High Commission in 2014.
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Sources in the interior ministry said that the report dated January 1, 2019, was received by the ministry on Wednesday and it clearly blamed the ‘Anti-Human Trafficking Cell’ of FIA for not taking any action over the complaint.
Twenty Afghan nationals caught at Heathrow airport were smuggled from Islamabad
According to the complaint, 20 Afghan nationals caught at Heathrow airport were smuggled from Benazir Bhutto International Airport Islamabad (BBIAP).
The report has blamed then FIA director Inam Ghani for ‘thrashing the inquiry’. “He being director of FIA Islamabad Zone removed legal barriers such as the checking of flights just to facilitate the human smuggling through BBIAP, without his connivance it was impossible for the PIA and FIA immigration staff at BBIAP to run the human smuggling network of Afghan nationals on fake Pakistani passports.”
The report added: “This matter was otherwise a national security threat in the prevailing circumstances of Afghan / Taliban playing havoc in the country.”
The report has said that the inquiry into the matter did not proceed further and the accused in the initial inquiry continued to be posted at the same airport and the investigation was diverted on the grounds that the Afghan nationals did not pass through the FIA immigration counter.
The investigation conducted by the FIA in 2014-15 showed that there was no data of Afghan nationals at the Integrated Border Management System (IBMS) maintained by the FIA immigration cell, and there was no CCTV footage of those persons crossing the FIA counter at the airport.
“It was stated in the investigation report that the Afghan nationals were smuggled out through the domestic departure longue bypassing the FIA immigration counter,” the report said and added that these claims were proven false in later inquiries.
However, the detailed report finalised by the FIA DG has highlighted that the CCTV footage of the FIA was corrupted deliberately whereas the CCTV footage of the Civil Aviation Authority proved that the Afghan nationals caught at Heathrow travelled through the FIA counter but their passports were not scanned at the IBMS. To match the numbers of passengers travelling on the PIA flight to London the FIA officials duplicated the data of genuine passengers so that their total number in FIA data was the same as the number of boarding pass issued by the airline.
The report unearthed that each group was accompanied with one carrier or facilitator who was responsible to take the smuggled persons out of airport in the UK. It has named deputy director Tahir Jan Durrani, inspector Afzal Niazi, assistant director Rana Abid Hussain and assistant director Adnan Khan Lahani who had financial / telephonic links with the human smuggling racket.
An interior ministry official said about 30 FIA officials, who had been suspected to be involved in the human smuggling, had been suspended.
“Human smugglers have become part of international crime rackets that is why they are able to book return tickets without even a genuine passport number,” he said.
Published in Dawn, January 3rd, 2019