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Pak withdraws concession to US officials at international airport

October 14, 2009 21:31 IST

The Pakistani government has withdrawn a special concession whereby US officials and diplomats were allowed to travel without their baggage being checked at the international airport in Islamabad in the wake of several incidents of American personnel being detained with unlicensed weapons.

Former President Pervez Musharraf had made the concession for US officials and diplomats after the 9/11 terror attacks.

The civil aviation authority has issued orders for withdrawing the facility at the Benazir Bhutto International Airport from October 15.

Under the concession, US officials and their vehicles "enjoyed unchecked arrivals and departures" and their luggage was not scrutinised at the airport, 'The News' daily reported.

The decision to withdraw the concession was made by the defence ministry, which controls the CAA.

Earlier, US and United Nations officials were allowed to enter and leave the airport through a gate earmarked for food catering services without passing through immigration and customs checks.

The newspaper quoted its sources as saying that the facility was "massively misused" and there were reports of "unauthorised and undeclared import of sensitive material and equipment, including weapons." This caused alarm among Pakistani authorities and forced them to withdraw the facility, the sources said.

Sources said US vehicles and the luggage they carry are "not properly searched or checked" by the airport security force.

Over the past few weeks, there have been several instances of US personnel armed with sophisticated weapons being detained in Islamabad by Pakistani security agencies. There have also been altercations between armed US security personnel and the Pakistani police officials.

US embassy spokesman Richard Snelsire said he did not know about any "extraordinary concessions" offered to US officials and diplomats at the airport. He said even senior US officials went through normal immigration and customs checks.
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