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Wednesday February 28, 2024

ASF, Customs row disrupts operations at Karachi airport

Apart from Saudi Airlines Hajj flight SV3701, affected flights included Qatar Airlines flight QR611 to Doha and Air Arabia flight G9543 to Sharjah

June 20, 2023
An undated image of people standing at the Jinnah International Airport in Karachi to receive passengers. — AFP/File
An undated image of people standing at the Jinnah International Airport in Karachi to receive passengers. — AFP/File

Three international flights took off from the Karachi airport without going through customs procedures, as a result of an ongoing dispute between Customs and the Airport Security Force (ASF). Saudi Airlines Hajj flight SV3701 was among the flights that departed without customs clearance.

According to airport sources, ASF personnel stopped a passenger bound for Dubai yesterday, who was found carrying seafood, including fish and prawns. This led to a discussion between the passenger and ASF personnel.

Meanwhile, ASF personnel allegedly subjected the passenger to physical abuse and detained him in handcuffs. The passenger, identified as Sohail Danish, was handed over to customs officials, who permitted him to board his flight to Dubai.

However, due to the delay caused by the events, Danish's flight had already departed by the time he was cleared by customs officials. Customs sources reported that the concerned customs officer verified that Danish did not possess any prohibited items.

Later, when the customs officer who filed the report arrived for duty the next morning, ASF personnel prevented his entry into the airport premises and informed him that his airport entry pass had been revoked.

In protest against this action by ASF, other customs officials ceased their work and gathered outside the international lounge area.

As a result of the protest, the customs counter at the Jinnah Terminal International Launch remained closed for a period of two hours, from 8am to 10am. Consequently, hundreds of passengers on three international flights departed without undergoing customs clearance.

In addition to Saudi Airlines Hajj flight SV3701, the affected flights included Qatar Airlines flight QR611 to Doha and Air Arabia flight G9543 to Sharjah.

Following discussions between high-ranking officials from customs and ASF, customs personnel resumed their duties.

Meanwhile, an ASF spokesperson has said that the luggage belonging to passenger Sohail Danish was stopped for being suspected in accordance with the standing operating procedure.

Passengers are typically permitted to travel only after a manual search of suspicious baggage has been conducted. The spokesperson stressed that Danish refused to cooperate with the manual search, leading to his eventual handover to customs officials, along with the suspicious luggage.

Meanwhile, Danish has filed a complaint with the airport police station, alleging that ASF officials subjected him to physical abuse in front of fellow passengers. He further claimed that the prolonged uncertainty caused him to miss his flight.