PIA flights across country wind down, two employees killed
As news of the deaths of two Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) employees spread on Tuesday evening, the national flag carrier's flight operations across the country began shutting down in solidarity with the protesters, officials said.
While flight operations remained on schedule Tuesday morning despite the PIA union's call for a complete strike against privatisation of the airline, the situation changed drastically after employees protesting outside the Karachi Airport clashed with law enforcement personnel, resulting in the deaths of two PIA employees.
PIA flight operations were suspended around 4pm at Lahore's Allama Iqbal International Airport, Islamabad's Benazir Bhutto International Airport, Peshawar's Bacha Khan International Airport and the Quetta Airport, officials confirmed. The status of PIA flights at Karachi was already uncertain due to the violent protests. PIA Lahore spokesman Athar Awan said flight operations had been halted after two PIA employees were killed in clashes with forces. PIA's employees later gathered outside the Lahore Airport to register their protest, DawnNews reported.
Employees also gathered outside the Islamabad Airport Tuesday afternoon, vowing to continue their protest till their demands are accepted by the government. Police and Rangers personnel have been deployed in the area. A Civil Aviation Authority official in Quetta told media that flights to and from Quetta had been delayed indefinitely following the protest outside Karachi Airport.
Civil Aviation officials told media that flight operations at JIA, Islamabad's Benazir Bhutto International Airport and Lahore's Allama Iqbal International Airport were expected to continue as scheduled. But as PIA employees in Karachi clashed with law enforcement personnel, the status of a number of flights at Karachi's Jinnah International Airport remains unclear. Passengers are advised to call the airport ahead of time to confirm the status of their flights.
PIA reservation counters at the Peshawar Airport were shut down at 11am, an airport official told Dawn.com Protests by PIA employees have also erupted in Multan and Peshawar in solidarity with the treatment meted out to their colleagues in Karachi. The National Assembly on January 21 witnessed the passage of six bills, including one to convert the national flag carrier into a public limited company.
Under the bill, Pakistan International Airlines Corporation (PIAC) is to be converted into a public limited company as Pakistan International Airlines Company Limited (PIACL). The government plans to split the ailing national flag carrier PIA into two companies and sell the control of its core business to a global airline, but the opposition to the sell-off has been intense. But representatives of PIA employees announced on Sunday their opposition to the government's privatisation plan, saying they would continue their strike and bring flight operations to a halt from Tuesday if their demands are not met.
In a bid to disperse protesting Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) employees at Jinnah Terminal, security personnel resorted to batoncharging and using rubber bullets, water cannons and tear gas shells on Tuesday, as Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif called for implementation of the Essential Services Act. Pakistan Airlines Cabin Crew Association President and JAC spokesman Nasrullah Khan earlier told Dawn.com that the strike would proceed as the government had not accepted the body's four-point agenda. A heavy contingent of Rangers and police personnel were deployed at the site to prevent protesters from entering the cargo gate and moving onto Jinnah Avenue, DawnNews reported.