All domestic, international PIA flights cancelled as strike enters second day

Published: February 3, 2016
Email
PHOTO: REUTERS

PHOTO: REUTERS

All domestic and international flights of Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) were cancelled on Wednesday as the national airline’s employees’ strike against privatization entered a second day.

“All PIA flights have been suspended indefinitely,” an airport official told The Express Tribune. 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 were cancelled.

PIA in disarray after bloody showdown

PIA employees resumed their protest, which came as the federal government invoked the Essential Services (Maintenance) Act, 1952, in the PIA for six months, outside major airports across the country.

A standoff between the government and the national airline’s employees turned deadly on Tuesday after three protesters were killed by ‘mysterious’ gunshots during a violent protest at Karachi airport, bringing air traffic across the country to near standstill.

A chain of events saw PIA Chairman Nasser Jaffer resigning from his post, taking full responsibility for the brute use of force against the protesters in Karachi. Sensing the predicament of air travellers, the Civil Aviation Authority has requested a private airline company, Air Blue, to commence special flights from Lahore, Karachi and Islamabad.

Two killed, several injured as security forces open fire on protesting PIA workers

At a standstill

As the news of the protest spread on Tuesday, the Pakistan Airlines Pilots Association (Palpa) told its members not to proceed to any airport in the country. More than 35 domestic and international flights had been cancelled by the evening.

Pilots, cabin crew and flight dispatchers, who had earlier reported to work, started walking away. Officials fear the Engineering Department, which besides aircraft overhauls is responsible for checking planes before every flight, can technically bring the airline to its knees.

Govt bans union activity to prevent PIA strike 

Unlike previous showdowns, the government tried to act smart this time and invoked the Essential Services (Maintenance) Act to outlaw union activity.

The strategy worked as hardly any flight was cancelled until 11am when around 1,000 PIA employees started the march playing on a truck-mounted megaphone a provocative song, “Tere Baap Ki Nahi Hai PIA”.

PM warns protesting PIA workers

Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif believes that some political parties are backing the national airline’s strike, causing losses of Rs100 million per day.

The premier told the media on Tuesday that the Essential Services (Maintenance) Act was extended to the Pakistan International Airlines to improve the performance of the national flag carrier.

However, politicking is underway in the PIA, he added. “And it is going on with the backing of some political parties. Should we not check it and improve the situation?”

PM sees political parties behind PIA strike

PM Nawaz said passengers face hardships due to the airline’s poor service and the poor condition of its fleet. “Should we ignore it?” he asked, and then responded himself: “It will not happen at all!”

He said the protesting employees would face action, and warned them of termination from service and a year in prison under the essential services act. “Any concession to such elements would be unfair to the country.”

PM approves Essential Services Maintenance Act for PIA

The premier, however, added that the PIA employees who were not part of the protest campaign would be rewarded.

Asked law enforcers not to baton-charge the protesters: Sindh chief minister

Sindh Chief Minister Qaim Ali Shah has said he had asked the law enforcers to refrain from baton-charging the protesting employees of PIA.

“I asked them to halt the baton charge so that I could speak to the protesting workers,” Shah said while speaking at the Sindh Assembly on Wednesday.

Calling the deceased workers martyrs, Shah said the government would give Rs2 million to the family of the workers killed during the protests.

Refuting any blame on the PPP government for the tragic death of PIA workers, the chief minister said his party was for poor and labourers.

“PPP’s programme is for the poor masses. Asif Zardari rehired 60,000 workers laid off in 2008. Credit for all pro-labour reforms goes to the PPP and Zulfikar Ali Bhutto.”

PIA arranges four Boeing 747 to bring back stranded Umrah pilgrims

The national airline has arranged four Boeing 747 jumbo aircraft to bring back 2,000 stranded Umrah pilgrims from Jeddah, Saudia Arabia.

According to the PIA spokesperson, arrangements with Saudi Airlines have been finalised in this regard, and the planes would fly on February 5 to bring the stranded passengers back to Karachi.

The planes would also carry pilgrims to Saudi Arabia on its way back due to the ongoing strike.

Stranded passengers had confirmed PIA tickets, and were provided hotel accommodation by the airline at Jeddah and other cities.

For its back-up plan in prevalent situation, PIA is also in final stages of negotiations with Etihad Airways and Turkish Airlines to facilitate passengers going to and coming from Europe, America and Canada, the spokesperson added.

Muhammad Zubair invites protesting PIA workers for negotiations

Minister of State for Privatisation Muhammad Zubair has invited the protesting employees of the national flag carrier to hold negotiations for finding means to revive PIA, Radio Pakistan reported.

Addressing a news conference in Islamabad, Zubair said the prime minister had assured no employee would lose his job, adding the process of privatisation would be completely transparent.

PML-N leader Talal Chaudhry said the opposition parties were putting the blame of workers’ killings on the federal government.

The incident occurred on the road for which the Sindh government was responsible, he added.

Facebook Conversations

Reader Comments (29)

  • Raghu
    Feb 3, 2016 - 10:49AM

    All i can say is a big shame on the Government. Recommend

  • Imran
    Feb 3, 2016 - 11:13AM

    I think the politicized employees are trying to hijack a national asset. What a disgusting bunch! They have already caused huge losses to the taxpayers and are adamant on continuing. They should be fired immediately and the disruptive protests should be dealt with iron hand.Recommend

  • Ahmed Sh.
    Feb 3, 2016 - 11:18AM

    PML-N lead government should first apologise for protesting the PPP governments code (route) sharing agreement with Turkish Airlines if they think that any level of privatisation is wrong. It is amazing how they have taken a complete u-turn on practically every policy when they were in opposition. National debt has sky rocketed, gas and electricity load shedding still very much prevalent when it was termed a fake crisis by them and privatisation of PIA a priority when even partial route sharing was against national interest.Recommend

  • Hameed
    Feb 3, 2016 - 11:29AM

    Where are all those who were celebrating these murders yesterday?Recommend

  • Sharath Chandra
    Feb 3, 2016 - 11:47AM

    Pakistan harps about human rights violations of all other countries, except their own.Recommend

  • Haji Atiya
    Feb 3, 2016 - 12:26PM

    Wonder if PAF pilots can fly some of those civilian aircraft and whether their engineers are in a position to upkeep the idle planes….?Recommend

  • Parvez
    Feb 3, 2016 - 1:14PM

    The PIA Chairman cuts a sorry figure, jumping ship when its in trouble. If he were a man of conscience he would have put his foot down with the government an not allowed PIA to slide into the massive debt it has accumulated BY DESIGN in order to justify it being sold, so the buyer benefits and the nation picks up the debt. Recommend

  • TN
    Feb 3, 2016 - 1:37PM

    JUST SHUT PIA.
    Why we all should bear billions to keep it going?
    Pan Am is gone, what happened — nothing.
    Poor country like Pakistan cannot have status symbols alive!
    SAD FOR THE DEATHS! Recommend

  • ZAK
    Feb 3, 2016 - 1:48PM

    Chairman should not has resigned and must be able to deal the scenario.
    Government should go ahead with its decision and promulgate the act in true spirit.
    Mean while any international air line can be asked to look after Pakistan local flights as well.

    This is not the way to challenge the writ of government.
    Every one from a common man to high ups are challenging writ of government. Corrupt mafia must be dealt sternly.Recommend

  • ishtiaq
    Feb 3, 2016 - 1:59PM

    PIA employees are used to overtimes, free tickets and all other perks that a sick airline cannot afford. They do not want to let go their petty benefits, Never mind what happens to the airline; they will continue to live off taxpayers money.Recommend

  • Guldar Ali Khan
    Feb 3, 2016 - 2:40PM

    What a serious loss to the country’s economy following cancellation of PIA flights across the country and abroad! It seems that the existing democratic set-up led by PM Nawaz Sharif does know how to handle the situation peacefully and without violence. It was Mr. Pervez Rashid, the sergeant of the state council (cabinet), who vitiated the scenario by declaring all PIA employees as enemies of Pakistan. Had he made a serious offer to the PIA union for dialogue, situation could not go to such an extreme. He crossed the Rubicon to silence the protest in a brutal manner and he did so. Now see how much loss is incurred to the national economy daily by the suspension of air operation. May be, Mr. Rashid has any alternative. Recommend

  • Rambo Bambo
    Feb 3, 2016 - 3:27PM

    If any body did not notice. PIA has diverted the passenger traffic to Air Blue. Now can anyone guess why AirBlue? Who is the owner of Airblue, Any guess?Recommend

  • Awan
    Feb 3, 2016 - 3:33PM

    @Guldar Ali Khan:
    Many people like you are just here to settle political differences with Nawaz. I am pretty sure that if someday Nawaz will say that the earth is round, then the people like you will bring the argument that the earth is flat . Come out of this mentality.
    Secondly stop calling a National liability as an Asset. PIA is a liability not as asset.Recommend

  • Timorlane
    Feb 3, 2016 - 3:36PM

    Apparently Sindhi Wadera Corruption Party is behind the murders in order

    to divert attention from Uzair Baloch and his revelations

    of crimes.Recommend

  • Khalid Jahangir
    Feb 3, 2016 - 3:47PM

    One more sad episode in Pakistan politics, when will learn or will we ever learn or will we never learn. Recommend

  • Dr.M.M. Khan
    Feb 3, 2016 - 4:00PM

    To protest or go on strike is a human right but it should not lead to killing and maiming in a civilised society. We all know that PIA has had had problems over years. It is a bleeding wound on the nations economy. It is one of the most overstaffed airlines in the world and neptisim is rife. The planes are dirty, the staff is rude and one feel unwanted. It was one time one of the best airlines in Asia but alas no more. But still it is a national airline and the problems have to be tackled and the status restored to “GREAT PEOPLE TO FLY WITH”. I understand the problem but have no solution—neither has the Govt. It dithers all the time. Why not appoint a independent non political body( if such can be found in Pakistan) and accept their findings as binding. If we cannot manage a small industrial dispute without bullets God help us.Recommend

  • roadkashehzada
    Feb 3, 2016 - 5:10PM

    @Rambo Bambo:
    We have Shaheen air with 4 aircrafts (with pathetic safety record), Sindh air with 1 aircraft, bhoj in coffin. And guess what, emirates, Etihad, Turkish r not interested in running domestic flight in Pakistan. Airblue (if you have ever travelled on it) has a bandwidth by acquiring aircrafts on wet lease from Ukrainian airline.
    Plz don’t criticise for the sake of criticism.Recommend

  • Hameed
    Feb 3, 2016 - 7:15PM

    @ishtiaq:

    PIA employees are used to overtimes, free tickets and all other perks that a sick airline cannot afford.

    What about the perks of the government officials and the security officials? What about huge subsidy being given to metro? Can the sick country afford these? These are much larger than what is being paid to PIA. What is the difference between subsidy to metro and subsidy to PIA? Whys is one OK and commendable and other is not while PIA goes places where metro cannot.Recommend

  • omar
    Feb 3, 2016 - 7:18PM

    PIA, pakistan steel, railways, just a few examples of bleeding wounds this country cannot afford, they must be privatized. Recommend

  • Aamer Hussain
    Feb 3, 2016 - 10:23PM

    The biggest burden on Pakistan is Shareef family. PIA is in loss because politicians take whole planes to foreign tours for free. There is no doubt over staffing but that is due to politicians. Everyone tries to get a job and it is not wrong. If politicians hire extra staff only to take bribe or adjust their supporters then that is not fault of employees. If PIA employees are burden then show me who in the govt is not a burden. Many people apart from politicians are also burden. One example is that doctors are a burden because govt spends millions of rupees on their education and they do not want to hear the name of poor patients unless they are paid thousands of rupees. Tell me any occupation in the country that is willing to work not for huge profit. Can a trader sell cheap on special events like Eid?

    If politicians are willing not to interfere in institutions then these institutions will become profitable. Energy crisis is also due to politicians because they do not allow to build dams that produce cheap electricity. Recommend

  • Jibran
    Feb 3, 2016 - 10:37PM

    Why does the entire world mark the labour day on May 1st?Recommend

  • Jibran
    Feb 3, 2016 - 10:42PM

    @ishtiaq:
    PIA employees are used to overtimes, free tickets and all other perks that a sick airline cannot afford.

    Such a blatant distortion facts. Ordinary and poor employees of PIA don’t get the perks. It is the civil, military, and judicial heavyweights and their family members who travel on the airline, never pay the bills, and force upgrade their seats. Not to mention the perks being enjoyed by the brothers of Senator Mushahidullah, and their fat cronies.Recommend

  • Abbas Siddiqui
    Feb 3, 2016 - 10:46PM

    Privatize PIA asap!

    These employees are used to their free meals and tickets while doing nothing. Why should my tax money go to these people? If they’re really honest about their jobs, they shouldn’t be worried whether PIA is privatized or stays govt owned.

    The dishonest ones know they will actually have to work if the company gets privatized. No employer likes slackers and they know it.Recommend

  • Rex Minor
    Feb 4, 2016 - 1:30AM

    Unlike previous showdowns, the government tried to act smart this time and invoked the Essential Services (Maintenance) Act to outlaw union activity.

    If PIA airlines is part of the essential services, then it can not be privatised! The sharifs are the looters of the Nations wealth and must step down before they lease karachi sea port to the Russans?

    Rex MinorRecommend

  • Hameed
    Feb 4, 2016 - 1:53AM

    @omar:

    PIA, pakistan steel, railways, just a few examples of bleeding wounds this country cannot afford,

    Actually metro subsidy, security budget and perks of government officials are a bigger burden.Recommend

  • Naeem Khan
    Feb 4, 2016 - 3:19AM

    ;This is plan blacking mailing the government and the country by the PIA union. PPP has installed their good for nothing party hacks in the air line which is draining the treasury. Fire all those who are part of this protest and hire the competent people to run the air line like it should be. The government should go to the court and ask to levy heavy fines on the PIA union because they are already violating the law. It is time for the government to stand up to these thugs who are bleeding the air lines. Recommend

  • irfan
    Feb 4, 2016 - 7:00AM

    @Jibran:
    Not to mention 50% discounts “offered” to uniformed (non-civil) armed forces employeesRecommend

  • Qureshi
    Feb 4, 2016 - 8:52AM

    I think over employment can be tackled with golden shake hand policy and if top management is competent PIA can be profitable organization, just eliminate corruption why privatization all the time i can’t understand..Recommend

  • stevenson
    Feb 5, 2016 - 1:09AM

    @Hameed: Metrobus subsidy has been only around a few years and all public transportation in the world are subsidized for civilians. PIA and its lazy workers have been looting the country for decades so it’s time to fire them all and privatize PIA.Recommend

More in Pakistan