SC bothered by handling of expatriates at airports

Expressing severe dismay over the poor handling of expatriates at airports, a two-member Supreme Court bench on Wednesday rejected a report by the Overseas Pakistanis Foundation (OPF) and Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) on the matter.
The bench of Justice Jawwad S Khawaja and Justice Khilji Arif Hussain directed the CAA and OPF to submit a comprehensive report by November 1 over the process of checking expatriates and other passengers and the facilities extended to them at the country’s airports Justice Jawwad S Khawaja noted that the attitude of airport staff with the expatriates was unsatisfactory. He said overseas Pakistanis were the ambassadors of the country, who last year had buoyed the country’s economy by sending home $11 billion, which was many times higher than the aid the nation got through under the Kerry Lugar law.
Appearing on notice, OPF representative Muhammad Sajid and Islamabad Airport Manager Asghar Fahim Khattak assured the court that all possible measures were being taken to ensure smooth and safe handling of passengers, especially overseas Pakistanis, along with their luggage at all the airports in the country.
To a court query, they said the ground-handling agencies at airports were given licences after thorough scrutiny. “Have you ever provided (expatriates) prompt transportation facility or any other kind of hospitality,” Justice Khawaja asked the OPF and CAA representatives and directed them to submit a comprehensive report over the facilities being offered to the expatriates.
He noted that the government departments did not extend even normal courtesies and services to the expatriates upon arrival. He said that the insensitivity of public servants towards their duties had crossed all limits.
The court had taken a suo motu notice of the plight of expatriates which was witnessed by Justice Jawwad S Khawaja at the Islamabad airport. The judge was in the baggage collection area of the airport when he saw the luggage of Pakistani expatriates arriving from Canada falling off the conveyer belt and the CAA staff taking no notice of the plight and complaints of the passengers.
After taking suo motu notice, the court summoned a detailed report on the policy regarding the award of licence to ground-handling agencies at airports, copies of agreement between the CAA and the agency and steps taken for facilitating the passengers.
In the earlier furnished report, the court was assured that the CAA would improve the existing arrangements to prevent such incidents in future. Soon after the incident, the report had stated that the CAA conducted an inquiry and called the ground-handling agency, supposed to take care of the passengers and their luggage, and issued warning on June 29, 2011 to Qatar Airline and Royal Airport Services responsible for the incident.

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