PIA flights across coun­try wind down, two em­ploy­ees killed

The Pak Banker - - NATIONAL -

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.

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