KARACHI: This refers to a report in your newspaper titled “No respect for rules: Ali Musa Gilani’s brawl with flight crew” (May 18).
The passenger, who happens to be a member of parliament and the prime minister’s son, was on PIA flight PK-305 from Lahore to Karachi. He insisted that his guard, who had an economy class ticket, be seated next to him in business class. When the crew did not agree to this request, a brawl took place.
The matter was resolved when the captain of the flight came to intervene and told Mr Gilani that what he was asking was against the rules and that if he (Mr Gilani) continued with his demand, he (the captain) would turn the flight back to Lahore.
The question that needs to be asked is: who is responsible for dealing with violent passengers onboard a commercial airliner? The cabin or cockpit crew members can only advise and stop passengers if they are violating any rules of the airline but legally, they cannot enforce the law physically if the situation turns ugly and a scuffle breaks out. Had a scuffle actually ensued between the MNA and members of the cabin crew, the only people who would have been able to control it would have been air guards (or sky marshals as they are called in some countries).
This raises a related question which is, given the region where Pakistan is situated and given our participation in the war on terror, shouldn’t airlines be deploying air guards?
The details of passengers and air crew who died in the Airblue and Bhoja Air plane crashes in July 2010 and last month, respectively, did not mention the names of air guards. Airlines that operate in Pakistan should seriously consider this option because hijacking a plane is a time-tested tactic used by terrorist organisations all over the world.
I would advise the federal government to immediately depute guards from the Airport Security Force as sky marshals on all flights of airlines operating in Pakistan.
Sqn-Ldr (retd) S Ausaf Husain
Published in The Express Tribune, May 23rd, 2012.