The Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) conceded on Monday that it received a letter from the ministry of interior warning of an impending attack ahead of the assault on Karachi airport on June 8, but authorities turned a deaf ear to the ministry’s advice.
Speaking before a Senate Standing Committee on Cabinet Secretariat, DG CAA Muhammad Yousuf said the authorities ‘showed negligence to follow up’ on the ministry’s letter. The DG denied reports that seven people trapped inside a cold storage facility had contacted family members, saying they died ‘within minutes’ as the building came under heavy fire.
Following the attack, Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan said the ministry had sent the CAA a warning, based on an intelligence report, and authorities were asked to increase security at the airport’s old terminal.
“It is necessary to learn about the deficiencies of security after the attack on a sensitive point like the airport,” said committee chairperson Senator Kalsum Parveen.
She added, “Pakistan is in a state of war and there is a need to beef up security at all small and large airports of the country as the attacks at Karachi and Peshawar airports sent the world a message that Pakistan is not safe.”
The Pakistan Peoples Party’s Senator Rubina Khalid remarked that residential areas in the vicinity of airports remained a cause for concern.
During the session, the DG briefed the committee about the attack and contradicted media reports regarding the fire at a cold storage facility in which seven people died. “The terrorists hit the cargo building and the cold storage first using bombs and both buildings came under heavy fire,” he said, adding that the seven people in the cold storage facility died immediately after the building came under fire. He referred to autopsy reports filed by Aga Khan Hospital, saying, “Those people died within minutes of the fire.” He denied claims from family members that they had been contacted via phone calls from relatives trapped in the storage facility.
Secretary CAA Muhammad Ali Gardezi told the committee that security arrangements have been beefed up at all airports of the country. Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif had approved and released Rs6 billion and 500 personnel for this purpose, he added. Gardezi added, “We have learned lessons from the attack, particularly with regards to the shortage of armed personnel carriers in the Airport Security Force (ASF).” He said CCTV footage showed that ten terrorists entered the terminal from two entry points before engaging in a 26-hour battle with the ASF and security forces.
State Minister Sheikh Aftab Ahmed said he had submitted a detailed report to the prime minister after visiting Karachi airport. “It is now not possible for anyone to break into or carry out a terrorist attack at any airport here,” reiterated the DG.
Meanwhile, Senator Talha Mehmood from the JUI-F raised the issue of a limited number of flights from Islamabad to Gilgit. He said this is a profitable route and the number of flights to Gilgit should be increased.
Published in The Express Tribune, July 1st, 2014.
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