FBI sets up Pakistan post

Karachi: America’s Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) has set up a post at Karachi International Airport to monitor passengers going out of the country. The monitoring program has been planned for some time but became more urgent following the 11 September attacks on America.

The FBI, with the cooperation of the immigration wing of Pakistan’s Federal Investigating Agency, is planning to install computers in all of Pakistan’s international airports to monitor departing passengers. Reports from Karachi indicate the post there will be operational by 11 December. Particular attention will be paid to people traveling with forged documents. It is believed that experts from the US are already training Pakistani officials to use the new software.

In the United States itself, the authorities are increasing checks on baggage on international flights. The checks affect airlines that are not supplying US customs with advanced lists of passengers for checking.

Earlier this month, US Customs Commissioner Robert Bonner wrote to a number of airlines insisting they provide advance lists, the Associated Press news agency reported. Customs spokesman Denis Murphy said Pakistan International Airlines was one of 16 carriers that had subsequently contacted the US about supplying the lists.

The Interior Ministry also confirmed that US equipment was being installed at all 18 exit and entry points in the country to maintain a record of passengers coming into and going out of the country. According to a spokesman of Ministry of Interior here Friday, the equipment was being installed at Quaid-i-Azam International Airport, Karachi, as first step of a scheme to modernize the maintenance of record of passengers coming into and leaving Pakistan.

FBI launched a training program Friday to help Pakistani immigration officers detect suspected terrorists from Afghanistan at the country’s busiest airport, Pakistani officials and trainees said. Beginning Dec. 11, the immigration papers of all passengers flying out of Karachi will be processed under a new computerized system, trainee Pervez Jadoon said. At least 29 computers will be installed at the airport and linked to the FBI system, he said. The training is aimed at preventing suspected terrorists and those who protect them, including members of Osama bin Laden’s al-Quaida organization and Afghanistan’s Taliban leaders, from leaving Pakistan after crossing the porous border from Afghanistan, officers said.

Ali Uddin, director general of Pakistan’s Civil Aviation Authority, said the US-funded program will later be expanded to all international airports in Pakistan.

Pakistani and US authorities fear that after the collapse of the Taliban regime in Afghanistan, many foreign Islamic militants could try to use Pakistani airports to flee the region. Subsequently, similar facilities are expected to be set up at Lahore and Islamabad airports and ultimately, all 18 entry and exit points of the country would be covered.

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