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Inspection of cargo planes flying over Pakistan ‘not allowed’


Aircraft flying through Pakistani airspace, or using Pakistani airports to refuel, are not being subjected to proper checks by the Civil Aviation Authority, whose upper echelons have advised the officials concerned to overlook their duties, it emerged on Tuesday.
An official of the CAA, which regulates the aviation industry in the country, said he had been “told” not to check, pursue or carry out checking of aircraft.
Given the conflict in Afghanistan, in which both international forces and private security contractors were engaged, a highly placed source said the situation was particularly serious.
“Cargo aircraft from the Gulf states fly through Pakistani airspace to reach Bagram and Kandahar airbases in Afghanistan, both of which are primarily used for military operations.”
Under the CAA’s rules on surveillance and inspections, officials are fully empowered to carry out inspections of aircraft that are passing through Pakistani airspace, regardless of whether or not they plan to touch down in the country.
The CAA Flight Standards Directorate has been designated as the relevant authority, and is supposed to carry out regular inspections of all domestic and international aircraft operators as well as charter cargo services.
However, the sources said, the CAA had not been carrying out regular inspections of any aircraft and had particularly been overlooking those belonging to foreign airlines.
It was only after five major air crashes/accidents in the country (three of them on flights originating at Karachi airport) and the subsequent hue and cry regarding air safety that the CAA began carrying out inspections, the sources said.
On the very first checking, officials found that many cargo planes flying from Afghanistan to a Gulf state that stopped in Karachi for fuel did not have proper documentation.
Another cargo plane bound for Afghanistan from a Gulf state was directed by the CAA to land at Karachi airport for an inspection. Rather than complying, the aircraft turned back towards its originating airport despite having covered more than half its journey when the request was made. This fuelled the suspicions of officials that there were security concerns regarding some of the cargo that was flown through Pakistani airspace.
Sources in the CAA said that all countries were empowered under international aviation laws to request, and even force if necessary, aircraft using their airspace to land and undergo cargo inspections.
The sources said allowing aircraft to use Pakistani airspace and airports without being subjected to inspections was a major security threat and that checks must be carried out in order to ensure that national security was not compromised.
They said that a similar issue had cropped up as the security agencies had expressed concerns even over the aerial survey in relation with the proposed Iran-Pakistan gas pipeline through Balochistan, while most of these cargo aircraft flew over Balochistan to enter Afghanistan.

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