ISLAMABAD - Two Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) officials have been arrested and formally charged by the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) for their involvement in the illegal trafficking of three Afghan women, who were caught using fake boarding passes to board a UK-bound flight from Islamabad's Benazir Bhutto International Airport.

An FIA-lead initial investigation into activities of the the arrested five subsequently unearthed a sizable human trafficking network, sources from the FIA revealed. A man named Dr Altaf has been identified as the ring leader.

During the investigation, the arrested Afghan women divulged that they had paid $20,000 in Kabul as a fee for being trafficked to London.

Malik Naeem, a PIA official who issued the fake boarding pass to the Afghan women, claimed he had done so on the orders of Israr, a member of the PIA's task force.

FIA sources further revealed that three British passports were used to issue the fake boarding passes. A case has been registered against the accused, who will be presented in court tomorrow for their physical remand to be processed.

Pakistan is a key route for global human trafficking networks. The Prevention and Control of Human Trafficking Ordinance (PCHTO) was promulgated in October 2002, before which there was no adequate law to tackle with the menace of human trafficking.

Currently, there are roughly 90 "wanted" human traffickers on the FIA's watch list. For PIA, the past few weeks have been particularly unpleasant. On May 22, 20 kilogrammes of heroin were recovered from one of its UK-bound flight at Islamabad Airport, DawnNews had reported.