One cannot take Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan to task for everything that happens in the interior ministry. Or, for that matter, the FIA, which falls under his purview.
But I clearly recall the confidence he displayed a year back when he said that he had never condoned anything wrong in any entity under him and he was 100 per cent accountable for this.
Now is the time to act against the corrupt and incompetent leadership of the FIA immigration wing, which continues to be an embarrassment for the nation.
This month, two female passengers were brutally thrashed by women officials of the FIA after an argument over the absence of toilet paper. This is not the first time that FIA or ASF officials have abused or harassed passengers. It is a routine affair.
A recent survey conducted of airports around the world rated Islamabad Airport as one of the worst. The FIA, ASF, Customs and the CAA are equally responsible for this state of affairs: the level of incompetence and corruption is unprecedented.
Despite the presence of all types of government agencies, FIA and customs officials openly demand bribes and when such clips are shown on social media, no action is taken against them.
Possibly it is also because the VIPs have their own facility. The VIP lounge at this airport is as large as the departure lounge - where freeloaders of all sorts and sizes wolf down refreshments and partake all sorts of services. Trashing and abuse is reserved for the public who have to pay for everything while travelling through the departure lounge.
One can understand the corruption in the customs, which falls under the finance ministry given the plazas that have been built with that money in Dubai. But Chaudhry Nisar has a clean reputation so one wonders.
Coming back to these women, nowhere in the world are passengers beaten for protesting poor service. There is a way to deal with abusive passengers and it is not to beat them up. Maybe FIA takes its cue from United Airlines.
Agreed that the maintenance of toilets is the CAA’s responsibility. At which they do a terrible job. But the level of shamelessness of the FIA can be gauged from the fact that no one intervened during this thrashing.
On the FIA’s insistence without even inquiring, the police registered a case against the passengers. DSP Civil Line Circle Farhan Aslam must be asked why he did this.
When a hue and cry was raised thanks to social media, FIA’s initial inquiry stated that no such thrashing incident occurred. Then, after social media went abuzz with the video, a sham inquiry was launched.
Inquiry officer Additional Director Immigration Pervaiz Khan Umrani in his report blamed the passengers. Without any hint of apology, Umrani recommended a case against them. The report was sent to Director FIA Islamabad Zone Mazhar Kakakhel who sent it to the ministry.
Things changed only when Chief Justice Mian Saqib Nasir also took notice of the incident and sought a report from the interior secretary and DG FIA in three days. After that, Chaudhry Nisar suspended the FIA officials involved.
As things stand, the FIA is now pressuring the family to settle the case. This is the level of fear they have for their minister. For its part, the family wants to leave Pakistan, and understandably so.
If Chaudhry Nisar wants to set an example and salvage bits of Pakistan’s reputation, he should start by dismissing the entire shift that was on duty that day. A case should be registered against the women officials who attacked the passengers in addition to their immediate dismissal from service.
Also Umrani and Kakakhel should be suspended and possibly never given any supervisory position in FIA again. A formal apology should also go to the family of the women who were attacked. And an inquiry held against DSP Aslam for his negligence.
The FIA immigration needs to clean up its act. Chaos is seen every day in Karachi where hundreds of passengers wait for hours while a severely depleted team processes their passports. The SMS hotline is a sham. No one responds. We talk about Pakistan’s honour and reputation all the time but seem to let those who tarnish it off the hook with such ease. Time to set things right.
Published in The Express Tribune, April 24th, 2017.
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