Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif on Tuesday announced that Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) employees working during the strike will be given special rewards for their service, while those who participated in the strike will be punished and can be sent to jail for one year.
The prime minister accused PIA workers of politicising the national flag carrier's privatisation issue by resorting to strikes, which he said were costing the airline a loss of Rs100 million per day. In a move to stall the strike, Nawaz had already enforced the Essential Services (Maintenance) Act 1952 for six months, barring protesting members of the PIA from participating in any union activity.
"Any person found guilty of an offence under this Act shall be punishable with imprisonment for a term which may extend to one year and shall also be liable to a fine," the legislation reads. Earlier in the day, two protesters died after sustaining bullet wounds when law enforcers tried to disperse protesting PIA employees at Karachi Airport's Jinnah Terminal. As news of the deaths of two PIA employees spread, the national flag carrier's flight operations across the country began shutting down in solidarity with the protesters, officials said.
Yesterday, Information Minister Pervaiz Rashid had also made clear that strict action will be taken against protesting employees.
"Let me make clear that those who continue the strike will be treated as enemies of PIA and Pakistan and they will end up losing their jobs," he had stressed. Employees of the national carrier had threatened to go on strike from Tuesday because of what they called the government's refusal to accept their main demand of calling off the organisation's privatisation plan.