ISLAMABAD, PAKISTAN —
Immigration authorities in Pakistan have arrested three Afghan women before they boarded a flight to London using fake British passports.
Officials told VOA two employees of the state-run Pakistan International Airline have also been arrested for assisting the Afghan nationals at the Islamabad airport to fraudulently undertake the journey. The men, they said, are suspected of having links to a “major human trafficking network.”
The women have told investigators they had paid “$20,000 per person to human smugglers in Kabul” and arrived in Islamabad on a PIA flight a day before airport immigration officials intercepted and stopped them late Sunday, officials said.
The detainees are said to have revealed a British national and a Pakistani citizen, both at large, played a key role in helping them obtain British passports.
Human smugglers are operating in Pakistan allegedly with the help of influential political figures. They are involved in trafficking Pakistanis in search of better job opportunities and Afghans who want to flee years of conflict in their country, to European destinations.
Pakistan’s beleaguered national carrier is already under investigation after heroin was found on two of its London-bound passenger aircraft earlier this month.
British Border Force officials impounded a PIA flight from Islamabad on May 15, apparently on a tip-off from Pakistani counterparts and found narcotics hidden in parts of the plane. A week later, counter-narcotics authorities at the Islamabad airport seized more than 20 kilograms of heroin from another Heathrow-bound PIA flight.