ISLAMABAD: Sheikh Rashid Ahmed, President of Awami Muslim League Pakistan (APML) was offloaded from a Toronto-bound PIA flight at the Benazir Bhutto International Airport on Friday as United States Department of Homeland Security’s online security system didn’t give clearance for him to fly.
Rashid, who is a seasoned federal legislator, when contacted by Daily Times said he would move court against the incident and also file a privilege motion in the National Assembly.
Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) however denied the allegations leveled by Sheikh Rashid. “The factual position is that at the time of check-in at PIA counter, the APIS (Advance Passenger Information System) an online system of Transportation Security Administration U.S Department of Home Land Security did not give clearance for passenger, Mr. Shaikh Rasheed, booked on said flight,” PIA spokesman, Mashhood Tajwar, said in a statement .
“This system clearance is a pre-requisite for all passengers for Toronto bound flights overflying US airspace and after clearance the system generates boarding cards. The system does not give any reason for non-clearance to the airline. The system check is followed not only by PIA but all other airlines,” he added.
Meanwhile, Sheikh Rashid, said on February 24 he received multiple visa of Canada on his official passport to participate in the Pakistan Day Celebration on March 23rd, but when he went to the airport to fly he was off loaded from a Tornto (Canada) bound PIA flight number PK-781.
Rashid informed that when he asked the officials why he cannot fly to Canada, they responded that “you need clearance first before flying abroad.” Sheikh further said that his name was not placed on the Exit Control List (ECL).
Chairman Pakistan Tahreek-e-Insaf (PTI) Imran Khan, meanwhile, expressed concern over PIA off-loading a senior political leader Shaikh Rasheed from its a flight to. Shaikh Rasheed had a valid Canadian visa, so Khan wondered, why PIA asserted that the Canadian and USA authorities had not given security clearance to a national political leader from Pakistan when visas had been issued to him already.
Imran said it was shameful how Pakistan”s mainstream political leaders were treated in such a way by countries like Canada and the USA, and it was time to show reciprocity and mete out similar treatment to US and Canadian legislators and officials seeking to visit Pakistan. Reciprocity principle governs interstate relations and diplomacy and the government of Pakistan must take up this case in which a national political leader has been deliberately insulted.
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