Pakistani airports mistreat foreigners

May 18, 2014 - 9:12:52 am

ISLAMABAD: Not amused with the “usual courtesies” extended at airports to non-resident Pakistanis, the Supreme Court has summoned Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) Chairman Ali Gardezi, at the risk of contempt charges for not honouring earlier directions given by the court, sources said yesterday.

The notice was issued by a three-judge bench headed by Justice Jawad Khawaja.

The move follows earlier directions given to the CAA for improving ground operations and adopting cordial behaviour with passengers, especially overseas Pakistanis who were returning to their homeland.

The case was initiated in September 2011 on a suomotu by Khawaja, who witnessed first-hand the plight of the Pakistani expatriates at Benazir Bhutto International Airport in Islamabad.

Khawaja was in the baggage collection area of the airport in June 2011 when he saw the luggage of Pakistani nationals arriving from Canada falling off the conveyer belt.

But CAA staff took no notice and turned a deaf ear to passengers’ complaints.

The court had asked for a detailed report on the policy regarding award of licence to ground handling agencies at airports, copies of the licence agreements between the Civil Aviation Authority and the ground handling agency as well as the steps taken to ensure the smooth handling of luggage and cordial behaviour with passengers.

In previous hearings, CAA Director General Obaidur Rehman had submitted a report to the apex court suggesting that improvements had been made at all airports.

Signs were prominently displayed at arrival and departure lounges, special desks for expatriates and the elderly set up and announcements were made in both Urdu and English.

International airlines have also been requested to introduce Urdu announcements, the report had stated.

The report went on to list the provision of free bottled water for passengers and the setting up of a separate complaint cell at all airports with Internet connectivity to monitor complaints, as examples of improvements in the system.

CAA Commercial Director Asif Bashir also told the court that immigration forms were being translated into Urdu for the convenience of passengers, adding that the national carrier was bound to follow different international flight agreements.

However, the court observed that rather than improving facilities for passengers, the CAA was trying to satisfy it by furnishing “fabricated” reports.

Khawaja said overseas Pakistanis buoyed the country’s economy by sending in over $15bn in remittances, but they still had to face humiliation upon reaching their motherland.

“Had I not undertaken visits to Turkey, the UAE and Lahore myself, I would still be in the dark about the on-ground realities and would have been satisfied with these reports,” he observed.