KARACHI: Two Airblue staff members have told the Missing Persons Commission that one Saleem Shahzad was handed over to the Airport Security Force (ASF) and Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) officers after he was off loaded from one of their flights to Lahore.
The commission headed by Justice (retired) Kamal Mansoor held the hearing in Karachi on Sunday. Shahzad’s family told the judges that Shahzad went to board an Airblue flight to Lahore at the Karachi airport. He was destined for Kathmandu from there on. The family said they dropped him off and saw him go inside. His brother then received a phone call from him, saying that some people had come to get him and that he was going to Nepal and that the family should not worry. His brother found it strange that he mentioned Nepal, as the family already knew he was going there.
ASF director operations Yousaf Abdul Wadud told the panel that Shahzad had not disappeared from the airport and that no such incident had taken place. DIG Niaz Khoso told the commission that the ASF had not provided them footage and was not being cooperative otherwise. Then two Airblue executives – manager operations Abdul Ahad and manager sales Jaleel Haider – appeared. They deposed that Shahzad had boarded the flight and had been assigned seat No. 44H. Some men turned up with ASF officials and ISI sleuths deputed at the airport. They told the Airblue staff they wanted Shahzad.
The Airblue staffers said that the procedure required them to fill an ‘offload’ card but none was filled in this case. Two crew members escorted Shahzad from his seat to the ASF counter, located outside the main doors of the airport. When the commission asked if the airline staff knew the men they had handed Shahzad over to, they replied that they had asked for identification. They said they knew the ASF officials and the ISI airport staff. The other men accompanying them were asked to show their identification, which they did. They were carrying ISI cards. The commission told the Airblue staff to write all of these details down and sign an affidavit. The staff said they would speak to their lawyer for which they requested one day’s time.
Justice Nasira Iqbal and the crisis management cell’s Fareed Khan told the ASF staffers present that they wanted to see the footage showing Shahzad being offloaded and handed over to the ASF. Incidentally, Justice Nasira’s flight was also set to leave around the same time. She said that they could show her the footage as she was headed to the airport anyway. At the airport, according to a member from Shahzad’s family, who accompanied her along with Khoso, the SHO airport and Fareed Khan, the judge was shown the footage. It showed one ASF official in uniform and two men in plainclothes taking Shahzad from the plane to the ASF counter.
Justice Nasira told them to give a copy of the footage on a CD to the commission. She then left. Shahzad dealt in the handicrafts business. He is the youngest of five siblings and has one sister who has two sons. His father’s name is Mohmmad Tehseen and they live in Gulistan-i-Jauhar. Many family members attended Sunday’s proceedings. Each person was questioned separately by the panel and not in the presence of other people. DIG Niaz Khoso told the tribunal, “We have seen the footage and asked the ASF to provide us with a copy of the footage as well as the list of officers who were on duty at that time.” He added that the ASF “should have provided it today but they have sought more time to get the requisite permission from their superiors.”
Published in the Express Tribune, May 25th, 2010.