Senate to grill Ariana chief over ‘masked passengers’
KABUL (Pajhwok): The Meshrano Jirga, or Senate, on Sunday decided to summon the Ariana Afghan Airlines chief over allegations that one of the national carrier’s planes rented by an Iranian company flew masked passengers from Iran to Iraq and Syria.
Qais Hassan, who heads the Wolesi Jirga transport and aviation commission, claimed last month at a press conference in Kabul that the Ariana plane was used to carry masked passengers from Iran to Iraq.
The Afghan plane had been given to the Mahan Air, a private airline based in Tehran, against $10,000 per flight. Hassan had said the pilots noticed masked passengers boarding a flight in Mashhad to Iraq and that the pilots were not allowed to examine passengers or luggage.
The Ariana plane, which flew from Kabul to Mashhad in Iran and then to Baghdad and Najaf cities in Iraq, had been seen carrying masked passengers, he said.
The lawmaker had also said the Ariana Airlines director, Nasir Ahmad Hakimi, who signed the contract with the Tehran-based airline, had moved to the United States with his family.
At today’s session, a number of senators expressed their concern over the issue. Senator Nisar Haris said the Wolesi Jirga once raised the matter, but did not follow it.
He said the Ariana Afghan Airlines had rented the plane to the Iranian company at a time when the national carrier itself obtained planes from other companies against rent.
The lawmaker claimed his own information showed the Afghan plane had been used to carry terrorists to Iraq and Syria.
Senator Mohammad Faisal Sami claimed the Ariana Afghan Airlines had received a hefty amount in rent for the plane, but he did not go into details. The two senators urged the house to investigate the issue.
First deputy chairman, Mohammad Alam Ezedyar, who presided over the session, directed the house interior security and transport and aviation commissions to summon the Ariana Afghan Airlines chief to explain his position.
Transport and Aviation Minister Mohammadullah Batash and Arianna Airlines administration director Omaid Mastoor had been present at the press conference addressed by Qais Hassan on June 7.
Batash and Mastoor called the agreement with the Iranian company as illegal. Batash had said the Ariana flight normally took two hours and 40 minutes to reach Mashhad from Kabul, but it took eight hours to return to Kabul.
Mastoor also confirmed flights to Iraq and called the deal as illegal, but he avoided to share further details about the agreement.
Mohammad Daud Sharifi, who took over as the Ariana chief a week ago, on Sunday said no one could carry suspicious persons through airports where international laws were enforced.
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