Benazir Bhutto International Airport is not under army control, the airport’s Duty Terminal Manager Khalid Malik told The Express Tribune, quashing claims that the military had taken over the airport on Saturday due to terrorist threats.
Malik said the Airport Security Force (ASF) is managing the airport and is being assisted by a team of Rangers. He said the deployment of Rangers is nothing new and teams have been stationed at the airport for some time now.
He did confirm, however, that a security search was conducted at the airport in the early hours of Saturday as a precautionary measure.
According to a previous The Express Tribune report, intelligence agencies had warned law enforcement and airport authorities that TTP was planning to carry out attacks on the Islamabad airport and the PAF Chaklala air base.
ASF officer Hidayatullah said the force was only allowing ticket-holders to enter the airport between 11pm to 6am every day, as part of a “fool-proof” security plan. One lane of Airport Road adjacent to the airport is also closed for traffic during these hours, he had stated.
Since visitors are not allowed to drop off passengers inside the airport, people have been parking cars outside and have complained that they have to carry their luggage a long distance to the departure gates, especially for domestic flights.
Islamabad airport’s chief security officer was not available for comment as he had the weekend off, whereas ASF’s Company Commander Majid Cheema refused to comment on the airport security situation and referred all queries to the ASF headquarters in Karachi, where nobody was available for comment.
Malik said that there has been a security threat at the airport for a few days but maintained that the army and Rangers were only there to assist the regular security contingent.
Published in The Express Tribune, August 4th, 2013.