ISLAMABAD/KARACHI - In the wake of incessant militant attacks at airports across the country this month, Pakistan’s army and paramilitary Rangers have been given charge of security at major airports in Lahore, Karachi, Islamabad and Peshawar.
Special Assistant to Prime Minister, Shujaat Azeem, announced this while talking to the media persons on Saturday at Islamabad airport. He said army and Rangers would assist Airport Security Force (ASF) to effectively secure the airports.
“A joint security plan has been devised in consultation with corps commanders of the Pakistan Army under which security of the funnel area of major airports as well as installations has been given to the army,” Azeem disclosed.
Meanwhile, the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) has placed a restriction on more than one person seeing off or receiving travellers at airports across the country as part of security arrangements. A spokesman for the CAA said the restriction will be applicable from July 6.
The security has been on red alert at airports across the country after attack on Karachi and Peshawar airports. The PM’s aide said that military along with Rangers would be clearing and securing adjoining areas of major airports because such areas could come under security threat.
Under normal circumstances, ASF looks after the security of airports in the country. These airports are located inside or very close to densely populated areas and therefore had been classified as vulnerable to threats. Azeem said the army and Rangers will be providing security at landing areas and main installations of these airports.
Security agencies have already reported that major airports could come under attack from militants. After the recent attacks and in the wake of the military operation in the militant’s bastions in North Waziristan, security is being enhanced in the country’s airports.
On June 8, militants launched a brazen attack on Jinnah International Airport in Karachi leaving at least 29 dead. Two weeks later, a PIA passenger plane came under fire while landing at the Bacha Khan International Airport in Peshawar. A female passenger aboard the aircraft was killed and two crew members were injured prompting major international airlines to suspended their operations in Peshawar.
Shujaat Azeem said the PIA aircraft which was attacked by gunmen at Peshawar airport has been repaired and is back to flight operations. He said that those airlines which have suspended their operations for Peshawar would resume flights soon in the day instead of night. He said he had talked to the CEOs of Emirates, Saudi and Qatar airlines to resume their services for Peshawar. “We have requested them to resume their service in the day time” he said.
National flag carrier PIA has added A-320, a narrow body aircraft in its fleet, Azeem said and added two other similar planes will be inducted within two to three months. PIA is replacing its old fleet with newer crafts on a dry lease, and it plans to induct a few more ATRs for domestic routes.
Azeem believes that among other reasons, one main reason of PIA’s losses was its use of the wrong aircraft for short distance routes and an aged fleet that consumed lot of fuel. He hoped that by replacing the Boeing 777s with smaller and narrow body planes on domestic routes and medium range international routes will help the airline. The 777s will now be used for longer intercontinental routes, he added.
Pakistan’s civil aviation authority had said that although flights were suspended after the Peshawar incident, domestic flights resumed Wednesday.
Pakistan’s security agencies tightened the security in and around the airport and arrested hundreds of suspects after the incident. A Pakistan International Airline official was quoted as saying the gunmen had aimed specifically at the fuel tank because they wanted to blow up the aircraft. “It would have been a disaster had they been successful,” he said.