Pakistani airports vs international airports: Which is worse?

Published: November 1, 2010

If you think having a green passport abroad is bad, you should think about being an ordinary Pakistani at Jinnah Terminal.

I’ve been sniffed by dogs, asked to remove my shoes, been randomly radio tested for explosives, questioned by immigration officers and the list goes on.

After travelling  to 26 countries, I have realised that being a Pakistani is not easy when it comes to airport immigration and security clearance.

I imagined that at least in a Pakistani airport, I would have some respite. But I was so wrong.

My worst airport experience was at Karachi’s own Quaid-e-Azam International airport a few weeks ago. I reached the airport at 9pm to catch an 11pm flight and felt dismayed that I would be bored at the airport lounge waiting for my flight. Little did I know that I would end up running to catch my flight to avoid missing it.

First after what seemed like pointless questions and an unprofessional scuffle through my baggage, I finally cleared baggage security. Meanwhile, as  most of us went through the usual ordeal, I saw some passengers bypassing the queues and security formalities assisted by ‘airport officials.’ They managed to go though security as if they were celebrities at a movie premieres.

Next, I came towards my airline counter and waited to be checked in. There was quite a long line and I patiently waited for my turn. While I had once thought that only civil servants abused their power, here I saw airline officials helping their relatives and acquaintances check in without even making them join the line. They were asked to sit while officials took their documents and issued them boarding cards and baggage tags. The best part was that their bags weren’t even weighed, while other ordinary passengers were harassed if their bag was even a kilogram over the limit. I learned that individuals in both the public and the private sector abuse their power, but the worst was still to come.

At the passport immigration line, I witnessed an attitude I had never seen before. I could hear the announcement asking passengers for my flight to board the aircraft and I was still in line! I frantically excused myself and apologised, waving my boarding card and cut the queue to get to the counter. Five minutes before my flight took off, I cleared immigration and rushed to inner security.  It had taken me two hours to clear regular security.

I rushed towards the last security checkpoint before boarding the aircraft and after going through the normal procedure, I was surprised by a security officer, who asked me to switch on my laptop. I pleaded with him to let me go, as my flight was making its final boarding call, but he wouldn’t listen. I switched it on and as soon as the operating system loaded, he simply said “Okay, thank you,” and that was that!

I finally entered the aircraft several minutes late. To my shock, half the plane was empty. I had completely ignored the possibility that other passengers were also stuck with me in airport clearance formalities. The flight took off after a forty minute delay.

Now, I am happy to follow whatever I am told at any airport in the rest of the  world; be it in the US, Australia, UK or Singapore. At least everyone waits their turn in line, no one is given the unfair advantage to jump queues and pass security and the system is much faster, even at bigger airports where there are more passengers. Being a Pakistani, I feel deprived at my own country’s airport-how can I complain about other countries?


Faiq Najeeb

A teaching assistant and PhD Student in Finance at the University of Nottingham in Malaysia.

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.