Recently, Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) started an inquiry into the alleged embezzlement of airport taxes worth Rs 5.6 million at Allama Iqbal International Airport (AIIAP). This issue only came to light when PIA’s security manager at the airport drew attention about potential tax evasion in an email message. As per directive, by the Pakistan Civil Aviation Authority (CAA), every ticket issued prior to August 1, would be liable to pay newly-imposed airport tax on check-in counter. However, what was observed was that tax collection on the check-ins of various flights was only equivalent to approximately 30 percent of the total tax that was supposed to be given.

This Rs 1,500 tax, per passenger, was in lieu of security and infrastructure development charges and was supposed to be collected by PIA staff from passengers at the time of travel, to be later deposited in the CAA account. How was this really allowed to happen? The PIA Lahore Station Manager has denied the allegations of fraud, where other than the tax amount being quoted wrong, this outbreak is because the passengers had refused to pay. He said the tax was announced ‘all of a sudden’ and PIA staff was asked to collect the same at the time of travel, rather than through travel agent at the time of ticket issuance. He also added that on first day of the imposition of said tax, passengers in bulk refused to pay tax at the time of boarding.

These statements are not good enough reasons for letting such a mishap happen. The way the tax was announced is unprofessional and amounts to fleecing unaware passengers. And there is a difference between embezzlement and non-payment is there not? This is yet again another ill-formulated story by the authorities. Who knows what is the real truth? Or is this only to hide the actual crime?

The Station manager has issued warning letters to the officers concerned; to deposit the tax on their own, otherwise deductions would be made from their salaries to recover the amount. So did the officers keep the money? Did they not collect it? This is not the way to make sure this kind of incident never happens again. There is no transparency or accountability, and the Station Manager seems to be as baffled as the rest of us about what has been going on under his charge.