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ISLAMABAD: The Senate Standing Committee on Aviation has said that matters relating to currency declaration by passengers are not the job of the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) but the Customs and Immigration departments as per the requirement of the FATF for both the arrival and departure lounges of all international airports.

The committee met with Senator Hidayat Ullah in the chair at the Parliament Lodges on Wednesday.

The committee discussed the implementation of the requirement of the FATF regarding the submission of Customs Declaration (currency declaration) by inbound and outbound international passengers to stop money laundering.

The committee also discussed the issue raised by Senator Muhammad Azam Khan Swati about the negligence and inhuman behaviour of the PIA personnel towards passengers of flight PK-212 on 4th August, 2022, as the flight was 18-30 hours late.

The chief executive officer of the CAA told the committee that it is not the job of his department but the government has directed them. He said that a letter about the declaration of currency at the airport have been issued.

According to the letter, “Pakistan Customs vide letter No SI/MISC-02/2015-JIAP dated 24th August 2022 requested for placement of Currency Declaration Counters in both international arrival and departure lounges at all the international airports along with pre-recorded announcement in Urdu and English with regard to declaration of currency by in-bound and out-bound passengers considering the country’s commitment to comply with FATF regulations and their upcoming visit of Pakistan.”

“Accordingly, CAA has provided counters for currency declaration in both arrival and departure lounges of international airports.”

Senator Saleem Mandviwala said that there is no role of the CAA in this regard. “the submission of custom declaration is being mishandled and the government is involving the CAA without any reason. It is job of custom and immigration.”

He said that the passengers were made to wander from pillar to post at the airports for submission of currency declarations.

Senator Mandviwalla said that the letter should be withdrawn, the CAA has nothing to do with this and opposed the requirement of the FATF.

Mandiwalla also raised the issue of the CIP lounge. The ministry briefed that it is the instruction from the cabinet that no tender would be given for more than six months.

Senator Mandiwalla said under which circumstances these instructions have been issued and it is better to close the CIP lounge if such services are to be provided. The ministry requested for an in–camera meeting to speak on the matter.

The Committee on Aviation also directed the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) to issue notices to the booking agents countrywide that no encashment will be allowed on any return ticket after the exit of the passenger till its return back to their home country, while travelling on a visit visa.

These measures are taken to curtail the misuse of return tickets for illicit settlement/work purpose aboard. The officials FIA/Immigration HQs, apprised the committee that the issue of cancellation of return ticket by the agent back in the home county, after the passenger has flown out has been flagged earlier. The official informed that after the check by the immigration, the traveller is deported and the airlines also have to pay a heavy fine. The committee commented that it is a serious offence and the FIA is not properly exercising its powers to curtail it. The committee stressed that this is not only causing great defamation to the country but also comes under the domain of national offence and strict notice should be taken on it.

The chairman committee sought a list of all such similar cases by the FIA and directed the FIA to take proper steps and devise an action plan on the same.

The committee also took serious notice of the delay in flights of the PIA international from inside and outside of Pakistan during the last two months. The committee noted that the number of FIA counters is not enough to entertain the passengers, which also causes a delay in flight. The committee was also informed by the FIA officials that the delay in flights in the UK especially at the Heathrow airport is because of lagging of staff after the layoffs during the Covid-19. He said that the main causes of the delay in flights were mainly weather conditions, issues pertaining to the CAA, and marketing-related requirements.

The FIA officials said that the delay is also caused because of completion of immigration/customs documentation as per the country's immigration rules and requirements. He said that to pass through immigration a return ticket, show money and letter of residence or hotel booking is required. No person is detained on clearance of these documents.

About the issues raised by Senator Azam Khan Swati, the officials informed the committee that the aircraft was declared AOG. The committee was briefed that PK-212 developed a technical issue before the pushback; therefore, all passengers were dissembled from the aircraft. In order to accommodate passengers, the PIA staff on duty contacted different hotels to arrange rooms for the passenger layover but in vain, he said.

The Ministry of Aviation briefed that as per Dubai Immigration and Dubai Civil Aviation policy single entry visit holders cancelled or expired resident visa holders are not allowed to re-enter the country after the exit stamp from Immigration.

As a result, such passengers had to stay in the departure lounge.

It was further informed that two dead bodies were booked on the same flight.

The PIA staff coordinated with the ground handling agent and sent back both the dead bodies to the dedicated cold storage in the cargo section.

The PIA officials said that the matter has been taken up and is under consideration for further investigation and if the handlers have showed negligence and bad behaviour, will be taken to task.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2022

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