Terror woes: A dark night for the aviation sector

Published: June 10, 2014

Only 19 foreign carriers come to Pakistan — other than the airlines originating from Gulf countries, the only notable carrier is Cathay Pacific. PHOTO: FILE

KARACHI: 

The brazen attack on Pakistan’s largest airport left more than just a foul stench. The attack claimed 19 lives – excluding the terrorists – and casted a darker shadow on Pakistan’s security situation.

It also dealt a severe blow to an already flagging aviation industry, which has seen leading international airlines stop flights in the last few years partly because of security concerns, officials said.

Leading airlines including British Airways, Singapore Airlines, Lufthansa and Malaysian Airlines have scaled back their operations since 2008 in part due to concerns related to security of their employees.

“This is as bad as it can get for us,” said a senior official of Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) responsible for encouraging foreign carriers to come use Pakistan as a stopover destination. “When it comes to poor law and order, all our efforts fail.”

The attack on Karachi airport on Sunday night was reminiscent of a similar attempt at the Peshawar airport two years back.

Even though no passenger was hurt in the attack in Karachi airport’s terminal, the Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) lost four of its employees including two senior aircraft engineers.

The national carrier also said that 20 of its flights were delayed or cancelled following the attack.

British Airways, one of the finest airlines that came to Pakistani cities, suspended operation following a deadly attack on Islamabad’s Marriott Hotel in 2008.

“There is a perception that British Airways wasn’t making money but that is not true. All of its flights were packed with passengers when it decided to leave,” said the CAA official.

Junaid Amin, former CAA director general, said security was raised a couple of years back.

“A fence was built around the airport as a nearby slum settlement had expanded over the years and that was worrying,” he said. “Lights were installed at intervals along the fence and a rapid response force was also deputed. But that was four years ago. I can’t say what the situation is these days.”

Only 19 foreign carriers come to Pakistan. Other than the airlines originating from Gulf countries, the only notable carrier is Cathay Pacific, officials say.

Irshad Ghani, an aviation consultant, recalled how even the Middle East carriers stopped flights after the attack on Peshawar airport in 2012.

“The problem was crew layover. Airlines don’t want to risk the lives of their cabin crew and pilots,” he said. “And that happened even when many of the pilots at Emirates and other airlines from Arab region are local.”

The aviation industry has also been hit by a stagnant growth in passenger traffic of around 16 million domestic and international travellers as deteriorating security has undermined all prospects of the allied tourism and hospitality industry.

Air Indus, the newest domestic airline that started operations last year, said four of its flights from Karachi were delayed after the Monday’s attack.

The airline’s Head of Airport Operations Javaid Akhter believes the incident won’t affect the aviation growth in the long run.

“Nothing like this attack has happened since the Pan Am Flight 73 in 1986. Many international carriers had stopped coming to Pakistan after that.”

But he insists that no one should have any doubts about the prospects of growth in the aviation business.

“We started our operation with flights carrying only 35 passengers but we maintained a timely schedule.”

Industry officials believe that the real potential of the Pakistani air passenger market has not been exploited properly. The growth in rural income on the back of rising commodity prices in the past six years makes it possible for thousands more to afford air fare.

The Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) said that 20 of its flights were delayed or cancelled following the attack.

Published in The Express Tribune, June 10th, 2014.

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Reader Comments (26)

  • Ch. Allah Daad
    Jun 10, 2014 - 2:35AM

    One or two more such attacks and all our aviation and PIA privatization problems would be solved.

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  • Rashid Sarwar
    Jun 10, 2014 - 2:44AM

    I was hoping to bring my family to visit our relatives but my daughter is so frightened and refuses come. With incidents like this it will be a long time till my family visit Pakistan.

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  • Fatima Kanish
    Jun 10, 2014 - 2:44AM

    “A dark day for the aviation industry?” or a darker day FOR PAKISTAN? where foreign airlines dare not to tread? Where a nation is frozen in fear and held captive by their weak leaders incapability to round up these thugs and impose a firing squadsinstead they allow these people killers a dialogue and Imran Khan is upset at at security measures, what security what measures and why are the citizens so timid and quite and not demanding more action?

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  • objective observer
    Jun 10, 2014 - 3:10AM

    welcome to Afghanistan. strategic assets have become a strategic blunder.

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  • Arindom
    Jun 10, 2014 - 3:19AM

    Soon aircrafts will vanish from the skies – country inexhorably sliding back in time. Thanks to the policies of the Establishment….

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  • Saleem
    Jun 10, 2014 - 4:13AM

    I wish after this recent attack people of Pakistan realize that terrorist are looking for every opportunity to destroy it. They live in Pakistan, enjoy every benefit from it but still hate it. They have no sympathy for innocent lives either. It will be pretty naive for Pakistani’s to still support materially or morally these terrorists, or their sympathizers and supporters.

    Pakistan is for Pakistanis and is not for any cause. Learn to Love it or Leave it.

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  • It's (still) Economy Stupid
    Jun 10, 2014 - 5:33AM

    State of the Union: No foreign airline, polio cases increasing, no visit by Cricket team, no foreign head of state or CEO of credible company visiting Pakistan, minorities getting eliminated and country is worried that Modi got elected.

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  • careful reader
    Jun 10, 2014 - 5:33AM

    this is an exact repeat of the 1986 Pan Am event. It is a national shame that it happened again. The airports in Pakistan MUST implement an iron-fist security plan much like the Israelis and their airline does. If anyone, whether local or foreign, has a problem with that, VIP or poor person, should immediately be kicked out of the airport. No VIP exemptions. No politicians exempted. Pakistan’s problem is that when Pakistan are in another country, they are law abiding shining citizens. When those same people are in Pakistan, they mock the law and ALWAYS want a personal exemption from obeying rules.

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  • careful reader
    Jun 10, 2014 - 7:05AM

    this is not the fault of the Establishment. This is the fault of corrupt politics of inheritance where competent people are always overshadowed by incompetent political appointees.

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  • Zack
    Jun 10, 2014 - 7:15AM

    This was total failure of our security agencies, and we congratulating our officers for successful operation. Actually we must congratulate Terrorist for their successful operation. Our security officer did not catch even a single terrorist and they killed our dozen of officers and injured dozens.

    Law and order situation is not the job of the political parties. its purely and solely responsibility of our intelligence/police/army and such department or organization. Intelligence agencies should go all out and wipe them and no need to look at political parties.

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  • Aik_Paki
    Jun 10, 2014 - 7:23AM

    @Fatima Kanish:
    Now you start on Imran Khan. You like to forget about the security lapse by Sindh police and FIA or other federal agencies. What are the measures NS Governmrnt has taken to improve the security of sensitive installations. NS and his family is trying to trade their own commodities with India and there is no concern about Pakistan security.

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  • Shafaq
    Jun 10, 2014 - 9:08AM

    CAA management should be dismissed immediately.

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  • Sadaf Mesiya
    Jun 10, 2014 - 9:42AM

    Every terrorist knows that there are major loop holes in our security system. Infact they dunt even need to articulate any plan before any attack. U can take example of robbery on one of the big banks of pakistan. There were no fire alarms, no security guards….nothing

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  • Shadaab Malik
    Jun 10, 2014 - 10:14AM

    More than terrorist attack we are scared of polio infection. We have decided not to visit Pakistan with small kids till they grow up. I would advise other families staying abroad to desist from visiting Pakistan to avoid this dangerous infection.

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  • Jun 10, 2014 - 11:14AM

    Only if Pakistan had woken up after Mumbai attacks in 2008 and jailed all culprits, taken down the Terrorist-churning Madressas, attacked North Waziristan and flushed out all the militants, perhaps this incident would not have occurred.

    A Mumbai style attack on a Pakistani Airport. When you have pet snakes in your back yard to bite your neighbours, they will eventually bite you.

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  • goldconsumer
    Jun 10, 2014 - 12:14PM

    @BruteForce:
    Pakistan should have woken up in the 1970′s when it became the ally of the USA in the war against USSR. it was USA that brought life in to the Jihadi menntality. Thanks to our power hungry general at that time, we are reaping the fruits of bad policies from 1970 onwards! We have lost more than 50,000 lives due to this. Ultimately flames burning in your neighbourhood do reach your house.
    Advice: Stop human right abuses in your country. Coupled with poverty in your country and the rising gap between the rich and the poor, a future catastrohic bloodshed can be avaoided. As far as we are concerned, dont worry. Liberal minded people are still in majaority and are elected in power too. We will eventually win this war. Attacks like these raise hatred agianst yhis specific mentality and it will be wioed off soner than later.

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  • Mega
    Jun 10, 2014 - 12:42PM

    @goldconsumer. People who stay in glass house shouldn’t throw stones at others.you have the worst human rights record with blasphemy, attacks, Baluchistan and against minorities. About our poor ,why are you worried about it? It’s our problem. Btw we have already made progress in last 20 years in that regard from 50 to 21% in that regard. In coming ten years it will be brought down further. All by our own efforts no aid from other countries like yours.

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  • hina
    Jun 10, 2014 - 1:54PM

    VIP people please stay at your homes ….. you dont need to visit and do photosessions please…. the whole karachi was suffering yesterday in traffic jams…Recommend

  • Moiz Omar
    Jun 10, 2014 - 2:58PM

    Pakistan is basically becoming now the second Afghanistan.

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  • Gratgy
    Jun 10, 2014 - 3:54PM

    @goldconsumer:

    Its amusing that you people call Pakistan Muslim League and PTI as liberals. Far more minorities have been killed under PML’s watch than under Modi. In fact it is now a daily affair minorities being killed in number with nary a whimper from the authorities and then you say they are liberal.

    PTI actively supports Taliban and is the closest to what one might call a front office for the Taliban. Yet you call them as liberal.

    If they are so liberal why do they not revoke the blasphemy laws or the Hudood Ordinance entirely?

    Recommend

  • Ali Tanoli
    Jun 10, 2014 - 5:28PM

    I am worried if Mid east air lines stoped serving pakistan then what gonna happend how we
    gonna flies…..

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  • Zaid Hamid Lal Topi Wala.
    Jun 10, 2014 - 7:05PM

    @goldconsumer:
    Does Taftan ring a bell?

    Recommend

  • Muhammad Rizwan Ali
    Jun 10, 2014 - 8:05PM

    Very good article by writer, need to think about for future planning , no body take responsibility, no body resign, they dont feel shy, only God may punish them only….

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  • Ashah
    Jun 10, 2014 - 11:00PM

    I was watching a program on TV on Ukraine, and saw the fighting in the streets in Kiev, a thought occurred to me that karachi is going have a simliar situation in a couple of years with all the ethnicities living in that City , when I left Pakistan 14 years ago, I some how knew things were going to get bad, but did not expect it to get as bad as they have gotten, the nation that I knew once upon a time does not exist anymore !

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  • observer
    Jun 11, 2014 - 3:50AM

    @It’s (still) Economy Stupid:

    “State of the Union: No foreign airline, polio cases increasing, no visit by Cricket team, no foreign head of state or CEO of credible company visiting Pakistan, minorities getting eliminated and country is worried that Modi got elected.”

    So what? We’ve got the nukes. Remember “we will eat grass to get the Islamic bomb” goal?

    Recommend

  • Naveed aziez
    Jun 11, 2014 - 8:38AM

    Look I think we really need to congratulate our security agencies ASF who identifies the infiltrators early at first check point contained them and lost lives in doing so and finally the back system in place teinated them.
    You can’t stop these attacks completely but this was excellent response and all praise to the brave men of ASF for such successful defense of their installation

    Recommend

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