PIA flight op­er­a­tions sus­pended in­def­i­nitely

The Pak Banker - - FRONT PAGE - Staff Reporter

All do­mes­tic and in­ter­na­tional flights of Pak­istan In­ter­na­tional Air­lines (PIA) were can­celled on Wed­nes­day, air­port of­fi­cials said, as the strike re­sult­ing from em­ploy­ees' protest against the na­tional car­rier's pro­posed pri­vati­sa­tion en­tered its se­cond day. PIA em­ploy­ees re­sumed their protest out­side ma­jor air­ports across the coun­try, which came as the fed­eral govern­ment in­voked the Es­sen­tial Ser­vices (Main­te­nance) Act, 1952, in the PIA for six months. PIA rep­re­sen­ta­tives at Karachi's Jin­nah In­ter­na­tional Air­port, Is­lam­abad's Be­nazir Bhutto In­ter­na­tional Air­port, La­hore's Al­lama Iqbal In­ter­na­tional Air­port and Pe­shawar's Bacha Khan In­ter­na­tional Air­port con­firmed that all do­mes­tic and in­ter­na­tional flights sched­uled for to­day have been can­celled.

"All PIA flights have been sus­pended in­def­i­nitely," said a PIA in­quiry rep­re­sen­ta­tive at La­hore air­port. He said two PIA flights from Lon­don and Mi­lan landed at La­hore air­port on Wed­nes­day morn­ing, al­though ser­vices of "em­ploy­ees of a pri­vate com­pany" were used to han­dle the ar­riv­ing flights. Civil Avi­a­tion Au­thor­ity (CAA) spokesman Pervez Ge­orge told that the au­thor­ity has re­quested pri­vate car­rier Air­blue to sched­ule ad­di­tional flights be­tween ma­jor cities to ac­com­mo­date pas­sen­gers af­ter can­cel­la­tion of PIA flights.

Mean­while, PIA Joint Ac­tion Com­mit­tee (JAC) spokesman Nas­rul­lah Khan said em­ploy­ees had re­sumed protest out­side all ma­jor air­ports in the coun­try and there has been no change in their de­mands.

PIA em­ploy­ees' four-point agenda says govern­ment should im­me­di­ately take back the bill passed on Jan­uary 21 con­vert­ing the na­tional flag car­rier into a pub­lic lim­ited com­pany.

PIA's em­ploy­ees be pro­vided a chance to re­form the air­line. If the em­ploy­ees fail to do so, the govern­ment will have the free­dom to do what­ever it finds suit­able. Pri­vati­sa­tion, in any form, whether it is in form of a strate­gic part­ner or sell­ing of 36 per cent or 1pc of the or­gan­i­sa­tion's shares, is not ac­cept­able to the em­ploy­ees. Govern­ment should im­me­di­ately re­view the avi­a­tion pol­icy and form a com­mit­tee for this pur­pose com­pris­ing mem­bers from PIA em­ploy­ees' JAC along with PIA ex­perts Khur­sheed An­war, Kam­ran Hasan and Salahud­din.

As news of the deaths of two protest­ing PIA em­ploy­ees in a clash with se­cu­rity forces spread on Tues­day evening, the na­tional flag car­rier's flight op­er­a­tions across the coun­try be­gan shut­ting down in sol­i­dar­ity with the pro­test­ers, of­fi­cials said. PIA flight op­er­a­tions were sus­pended around 4pm at La­hore, Is­lam­abad, Quetta and Pe­shawar air­ports. The sta­tus of PIA flights at Karachi was al­ready un­cer­tain due to the vi­o­lent protests.

As the demon­stra­tion turned bloody, Prime Min­is­ter Nawaz Sharif warned that protest­ing em­ploy­ees of PIA will be fired from ser­vice and can be sent to jail for a year. Later in the night, PIA Chair­man Nasser Jaf­fer an­nounced that he has re­signed from his post fol­low­ing the death of two em­ploy­ees.

JAC spokesman Nas­rul­lah Khan claimed on Wed­nes­day that four PIA em­ploy­ees "went miss­ing" last night. Among the four are Deputy Con­vener JAC and Pres­i­dent of Peo­ple's Unity union Hi­day­at­ul­lah Khan and se­nior vice pres­i­dent of Peo­ple's Unity Zameer Chan­dio, Nas­rul­lah said and PIA em­ploy­ees Sai­ful­lah and Man­soor. The com­mit­tee will ap­proach po­lice to reg­is­ter First In­for­ma­tion Re­ports against their dis­ap­pear­ance, he said.

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.

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