LAHORE- Whole crew of a PIA plane coming from London was detained at Lahore airport by Customs officials on charges of carrying unpermitted amount of foreign currency and expansive cell phones.

Aamir Hashmi, pilot of the flight PK-758, and his crew were later released on the intervention of Adviser to Prime Minister on Aviation Shujaat Azeem, practically the highest government authority on aviation and airport matters.

Customs authorities at the Allama Iqbal International Airport (AIIAP) said they seized from the cabin crew of cell phones worth millions of rupees and large amount of foreign currency. But Hashmi, who is also president of Pakistan Airlines Pilot Association (PALPA), denied the charges.

Mr Hashmi told The Nation, “Me and 16 of my crew members remained in illegal detention of a deputy collector of Customs for 12 hours and finally on the intervention of Adviser to PM on Aviation Shujaat Azeem, we were allowed to go home.”

He said they landed at 5am (local time) and were released at 5pm. He said Customs authorities had received a tip off that crew of said flight was carrying cell phones and foreign currency. So, the deputy collector raided the said flight and detained all crew members, but nothing was recovered from them. He said DC Customs was behaving like ‘Gullu Butt’ and he was not even honouring the phone calls of Shujaat Azeem.

The Custom officials however said that 5,000 pounds were recovered from Amir Hashmi. But Hashmi insisted the amount recovered from him and his colleagues was legal and within authorised limits.

When this scribe contacted another PIA pilot, he while seeking anonymity said that as per ‘Crew Declaration Form’ a pilot or crew member is allowed to carry Rs100 on an international flight. But after devaluation of Pakistani currency, with the mutual understanding of PIA and Customs Officials, the said amount limit had been increased from Rs100 to $120 a day.

Amir Hashmi said that Crew Declaration Form was introduced in 1947 and asked how a pilot can manage his expense within Rs100. When asked if the crew was paid their travelling allowance in cash, he said earlier it was paid in cash then as traveller cheque and now it is being paid through ATM cards.

Hashmi said its being a Sunday the PALPA could not record its protest anywhere but on Monday (today) they will chalk out their plan to bring the matter into notice of aviation authorities. If no action is taken against the DC then PALPA will announce a protest program, Hashmi said. Customs Additional Collector Mubashir could not be reached for his comment on this episode.