LAHORE - An employee was caught red-handed while mixing poison in the food of a canteen at Allama Iqbal International Airport, but Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) hushed up the issue instead of taking action against the contractor, well-placed sources at the airport confided to The Nation yesterday.

“Had the poison not been detected well in time, several casualties would have happened at the airport since more than 200 employees of different departments take food daily there,” said an officer of CAA, seeking anonymity.

It merits mentioning here that the contractor of the canteen, Nabeel Ahmad Malik, caught his employee red-handed through a CCTV camera when he was mixing poison in the food. Interestingly, the accused was working at the canteen after submitting fake computerised national identity card (CNIC) to the CAA management. The contractor of the CAA canteen did not bother to get his documents verified from police or other departments concerned.

Though the CNIC provided to the canteen contractor by Nasir Ali showed he was a resident of Nawab Shah, he hailed from Faisalabad.

The contractor handed over the accused to Sarwar Road police who registered a case against him under sections 420, 468 and 471 of PPC.

An officer of the police post of the Lahore airport said adulteration of food did not fall under the ambit of police as it was responsibility of the food department or CAA vigilance section to check the quality of food.

An airport is a highly sensitive area and bio-data of every employee is keenly checked and verified, but in this case the contractor showed criminal negligence.

The reason behind the incident was that the former contractor of the canteen had hired the accused to mix poison in food to malign the current contractor and get the contract back.

The matter was hushed up and the CAA gave a clean chit to the contractor. When this reporter contacted Human Resource Officer Farhan and asked him about any action taken against the contractor, he said police were investigating the issue. But when he was told that the police were investigating only one part of the case i.e. fake CNIC card, he replied the matter was with the CAA vigilance section and vigilance section head Nawaz Gill could be contacted for further details. When Nawaz Gill was contacted, he said, “It is not my business as the canteen falls under the jurisdiction of the HR department.”

A CAA officer said the canteen contractor was an influential man and HR Officer Farhan and the station manager of a private airline, Yasir, were not only backing him but also had helped him get the contract of the canteen. He added food quality was not satisfactory at the canteen while the rates were high.