Drug trafficking at Islamabad airport due to security loopholes

ISLAMABAD: The airport in the federal capital is a security nightmare, with several loopholes that facilitate drug trafficking and has several critical hazards, security officials confided to Geo News.

On May 22, 20 kilograms of heroin was recovered from a London-bound PIA flight. A week earlier, heroin was recovered from a PIA aircraft at London’s Heathrow airport.

Since August 2016, heroin has been recovered thrice from PIA flights.

Being one of the busiest airports in the country, it lacks “proper detection gadgets�. Counter narcotic efforts depend on sniffer dogs which have a limited ability to detect and foil drug smuggling efforts.

The airport’s perimeter wall is also “easy to scale and intrude�.

It is quite difficult to curb drug smuggling, said officials.

In Pakistan, Sialkot airport is the most susceptible to drug smuggling efforts, with Islamabad, Lahore and Karachi airports close behind. Top destinations for smuggling are the UK and Canada, added officials.

Around a dozen ground handlers, employed by several airlines, are under watch for being involved in drug smuggling efforts. Police officials investigating the case believe that the drugs are concealed in the aircraft by engineering, cleaning and catering staff hired by private contractors.

“They are the most critical linkage of the highly organised international cartels operating from drug havens in Afghanistan, Pakistan and destinations in Europe.�

Handlers are paid roughly between Rs1.2 to Rs1.5 million for concealing the drugs on the aircraft.

Officials say the contractual staff are hired through a “deeply flawed� hiring process.

“They are hired without security vetting.�

To further complicate the situation, Customs and Anti-Narcotics Force (ANF) has limited personnel strength to search for contraband. Most searches are mostly cursory or are limited to checking of documents.