Thousands of passengers were stranded at Allama Iqbal International Airport on Wednesday as the strike by Pakistan International Airlines workers to protest the proposed privatisation of the national flag carrier entered its second day.
All PIA flights were grounded due to the strike. Scores of PIA workers gathered outside the airport and chanted slogans against the government. They later staged a sit-in, demanding an impartial probe into Tuesday’s violence which led to the death of two PIA workers. They also called for a halt to the privatisation of the airline.
“I have to reach Saudi Arabia before February 5 to join work but all flights have been cancelled,” a passenger told The Express Tribune.
“No one knows what is going to happen. The airline has not given any assurance regarding the next flight. I live in Lahore and it is easy for me to wait but I feel bad for those who came from other cities.”
Civil Aviation Authority spokesman Pervez George told The Express Tribune that efforts were being made to ensure timely departure of flights by other airlines. “We are also in discussion with the Competition Commission of Pakistan to check fares being charged by private airlines in the wake of the strike.”
The Joint Action Committee of the PIA employees called for a complete strike against the government’s plan to privatise the airline. The strike was partial till Tuesday noon but the deaths of workers in Karachi caused the tensions to escalate, leaving flight operations suspended countrywide.
Several political parties came out in support for the protesting PIA workers.
“PIA is a national institution. The government must not sell it off,” said Liaqat Baloch, senior member of Jamat-i—Islami.
He was addressing protesters outside the Lahore Airport. Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf’s leader Chaudhry Muhammad Sarwar and Mian Mehmood Rasheed were also present. PTI leaders also offered funeral prayers in absentia for the slain PIA employees.
Talking to newsmen, Sarwar called for a judicial inquiry of the incident. He accused the government of destroying national institutions by political interference.
Ejaz Chaudhry urged party workers to demonstrate at Charing Cross on February 6.
Dozens of Awami Workers’ Party supporters also held a demonstration at Charing Cross to condemn the use of force against the protesters in Karachi.
Speaking at the demonstration, AWP leaders condemned the imposition of the Essential Services Act and urged the government to revoke the law.
The PIA office at Egerton Road remained closed for the second day. A large contingent of police, Pakistan Rangers and the Airport Security Force was deployed in front of the airport all day but no unpleasant incident was reported.
In Multan, scores of lawyers staged a protest demonstration to condemn killings of PIA workers.
The lawyers gathered at Kutchery Chowk and chanted slogans against law enforcement agencies for attacking unarmed protesters.
In Dera Ghazi Khan, an effigy of the prime minister was burnt during a protest in front of a PIA office.
Published in The Express Tribune, February 4th, 2016.