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Govt swings into action after video of airport scuffle surfaces

Govt swings into action after video of airport scuffle surfaces

RAWALPINDI: A video clip that surfaced on Wednesday cast new light on the matter of Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) staff manhandling two passengers at the Benazir Bhutto International Airport, prompting the interior ministry to suspend the accused official.

On April 15, two Norwegian nationals – mother and daughter Haseena and Fauzia Khalid – were severely maltreated by an FIA lady constable.

After the incident was first reported, the interior ministry issued a statement saying that according to preliminary report compiled by FIA, it could not be established that their staff had misbehaved with the two women and instead, accused the victims of being abusive towards immigration staff.

However, after the video surfaced, which clearly shows a woman official brutally assaulting the two women in plain view of onlookers and a host of other security officials, the interior ministry issued a fresh statement seeking an explanation from FIA

The statement said that the interior minister had ordered the suspension of the concerned officials in light of new evidence.

According to the statement, a fresh inquiry into the incident has been initiated and the inquiry team has been directed to submit its report within three days.

Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan also expressed concern over the delay in taking notice of the incident and asked FIA why departmental action was delayed.

Subsequently, the FIA issued an office order, notifying the suspension of Ghazala Shaheen, an immigration official, and directed her to report to the FIA Zonal Office in Islamabad.

“In the light of [the] inquiry report on the incident dated April 15, 2017, LC Ghazala Shaheen is hereby placed under suspension… with immediate effect until further orders,” the order from the additional director (immigration) read.

The video, which captures the maltreatment of Haseena and Fauzia in graphic detail, shows the mother frantically screaming for help in the middle of the crowded immigration lounge.

“Khalid, Khalid, look, they are beating my daughter. Khalid, they will kill my daughter,” Haseena calls out in the video.

But nobody from among the onlookers, which included scores of immigration officials, security staff, porters and passengers, intervened as a burly immigration official emerged from behind a darkened room, dragging both mother and daughter by their hair and punching them repeatedly.

Another clip shows both mother and daughter screaming in pain, lying outside the lounge. Here too, no one from among several onlookers came to the assistance of the two wretched women.

“Fauzia was so traumatized while she was lying on the floor outside the departure lounge, she would begin to scream as soon as she saw anyone in uniform,” a security official told Dawn.

After the incident came to light, FIA immigration shift in-charge Nadeem Akhtar lodged a complaint against the two women and airport police promptly registered a criminal case against both, though they were not arrested.

On April 15, Fauzia’s father Khalid Umer – who Haseena can be heard calling out to in the video – had submitted an application, seeking the registration of a case against the FIA official who assaulted his family

But on Wednesday, after the video surfaced, he told investigators he did not want to initiate a case against the FIA. Separately, a statement issued by the Civil Aviation Authority on Wednesday deplored the incident, terming it “an unfortunate happening and should have been avoided”.

Taking a notice of the altercation, the CAA director general has ordered an inquiry into the incident, it said.

Another outrage?

A day before the mother-daughter duo was physically assaulted, FIA immigration staff allegedly maltreated a UK-bound family, who lodged a complaint with the Ministry of Overseas Pakistanis upon their arrival in Britain.

In a letter to the FIA director general, the ministry has asked for an inquiry into the complaint of Masood Ahmed, who claimed that his family was tortured by FIA officials at BBIA.

He claimed his family was beaten by immigration staff on April 14. The ministry asked the FIA DG to inquire into the case and take strict action against the immigration staff on duty on Friday.

However, this family was allowed to travel following the intervention of airline staff. In an interview to SAMAA TV, Mr Ahmed’s wife claimed that her family was waiting in line at the immigration desk when one of the immigration staff shouted something at her daughter and asked her “Shut up!”.

When her son interceded, she said, the immigration official punched and slapped him and also beat Mr Ahmed. When the women tried to rescue their family members, she said, they were pushed away.

Published in Dawn, April 20th, 2017

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