LAHORE - After lapse of nine months, the FIA has started an inquiry against the PIA officials allegedly involved in illegal movement of Indian passengers at the Lahore airport, said sources in the Ministry Interior on Monday.

It is worth mentioning here that seeking report from the FIA on the same subject last year, the Interior Ministry had termed the illegal movement of Indian transit passengers a security risk for the country as well as for the airline, but no inquiry had been initiated.

Now an inquiry has been initiated on an intelligence report which revealed that the PIA staff transported 134 Indian passengers illegally from the transit lounge to a hotel to earn money in sheer violation of immigration rules.

The passengers who arrived at Allama Iqbal International Airport (AIIAP), Lahore, were supposed to stay in the transit lounge to travel to their next destinations. The FIA Immigration officers took their passports and asked them to wait in the transit lounge, but some PIA staffers, reportedly directed by office bearers of Air League, transported them to the hotel only to earn money. An FIA officer said there was a list of 10 negative countries whose passengers could not be allowed to go out of the airport and India was on the top of that list.

But at the Lahore airport it was a common practice in the past that the PIA officials, backed by Air League, used to send passengers to the Sprout Court Hotel in Lahore. The matter was then probed and it was reported that the hotel was owned by PIA Management Information Service (MIS) staff. The hotel was then being run in partnership with CBA representatives, Hamid (brother of Air League President Ahmed Butt, Yasir and Haris. It is learnt that they have taken the said hotel on contract at the rate of Rs 200,000 per month. Transit Passengers’ Cell staff at the Lahore airport has standing instructions from the CBA office bearers that all the passengers should be sent to Sprout Court Hotel.

It merits mentioning here that several Indian transit passengers were accommodated at certain other hotels by the office bearers of Air League. The sources claimed that a letter in this regard was written by the Ministry of Interior to the Aviation Division, seeking a report from the division. The letter says, “It has been brought into the notice of the ministry that on October 29 and November 1, 2014, PIA staff at the Lahore airport accommodated transit Indian passengers in Sprout Hotel Court, Heaven Hotel and Hotel Continental Inn without intimation to the authorities concerned and the immigration escort.” Moreover, the PIA transit passengers’ assistance staff is also involved in filing fake hotel vouchers in respect of the passengers who had not even stayed in hotels. Involvement of the PIA staff in movement of Indian passengers to provide monetary benefits to their own people is a great security risk. If any passenger wilfully manages to slip during the shifting process from the airport to a hotel, it may create an embarrassing situation for the country and the airline as well.

After receiving the letter, the Aviation Division forwarded it to the PIA MD to investigate the matter and report urgently. During the departmental inquiry, it was revealed that the airlines staff was not only involved in illegal movement of Indian passengers but also was submitting fake hotel vouchers. The inquiry was assigned to Manager (Legal) Mian Nasir.

When contacted, Mian Nasir said since the matter was sensitive, the PIA management had asked him to close the inquiry, saying a three-member inquiry team would be constituted to look into the issue.When asked why the inquiry was initiated so late, FIA Corporate Crime Circle Additional Director Syed Javed Shah said, “We started the probe as soon as we received the compliant.”