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Enhanced Security of Pakistani Passengers Start at JFK
February 26, 2010
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Despite assurances by a key member of the Obama administration, Pakistani passengers flying in or out of U.S. will be subjected to enhanced screening, including full-body pat-downs, a physical inspection of personal property, or screening by one of the 40 advanced-imaging machines located in 19 U.S. airports, Pakistan International Airlines confirmed today.

PIA issued a statement today confirming: “TSA has notified PIA of enhanced screening of Pakistani passport holders traveling from USA. The baggage of such passengers would go through CTX Machines besides selected search of passengers.”

“If a Pakistani passport is produced, the passenger, irrespective of age and gender will have to undergo selected screening,” TSA has informed Pakistan International Airlines.

US Special envoy for Pakistan and Afghanistan Richard Holbrooke last month told President of Pakistan Asif Zardari that the Obama administration was reviewing enhanced screening for Pakistanis traveling to the United States.

Spokesperson for President Zardari had said that Ambassador Holbrooke had discussed screening of Pakistani citizens at US Airports and assured him that it was under-review.

After meeting Pakistani President last month in Lahore Ambassador Holbrooke had told local media: “I have talked to the head of the US Homeland Security and she has assured me that she is personally reviewing this process.”

Addressing a joint press conference with Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi in Islamabad last month, Richard Holbrooke had said the Homeland Security’s enhanced security screening at the US airports did not discriminate “ against Pakistanis. Pakistan is not being singled out.”

However, the notification sent to PIA from the offices of Transport Security Administration (TSA) at JFK Airport, New York sounds like Pakistanis are being profiled.

Statement issued by PIA says: “passengers are required to show a US federal or State issued photo ID that contains name, date of birth, gender, expiration date of ID and a tamper resistant feature in order to be allowed to go through the check point and onto their flight. If a Pakistani passport is produced, the passenger, irrespective of age and gender will have to undergo selected screening.”

Due to the enhanced screening Pakistani passengers are being asked to arrive at the airport at least five hours prior to departure time.

Last month Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani had told his country’s partliament that the new security measures introduced by the US government for screening Pakistani nationals was “discriminatory,” and had asked the US administration to reverse it’s policy.

However, now that the enhanced security measures are in place, rhetoric of Pakistani leadership seems to have dried-up.

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Ibrahim Sajid Malick

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