KARACHI: Two Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) employees were suspended on Tuesday after videos of former interior minister Rehman Malik and a Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) lawmaker being offloaded by fuming passengers went viral on social media.
In the videos recorded via mobile phones, the lawmakers appeared to be the reason of delay for the Islamabad-bound flight. PIA shift manager Nadeem and terminal manager Shehzad were suspended, Express News reported, quoting Adviser to Prime Minister on Aviation Captain (retd) Shujaat Azeem.
He said in a statement the flight was delayed for 90 minutes due to technical reasons, and it was delayed for another 25 minutes because Malik was late.
Angry that their flight PK-370 had been delayed for over two hours, eight to 10 passengers waited near the exit door of the aircraft while PIA crew waited for the VIP guests. While the crew did not initially reveal the identity of the VIP passenger, claiming that technical issues were the cause of the delay, some members of the crew later revealed that they were waiting for Senator Rehman Malik.
PK-370 was due to depart at around 7pm and scheduled to land in Islamabad around 9pm.
Malik wasn’t the only lawmaker dealing with hostile PIA passengers. PML-N MNA Dr Vankwani’s arrival at the aircraft door just minutes before Malik drew the ire of the passengers.
The video shows Vankwani walk into the plane with his carry-on, greeted not just by the usual sight of crew and smiling air hostesses, but by a group of angry passengers.
“I was just sitting outside. They are waiting for someone else,” Vankwani pleads as he is bombarded with questions about his late arrival and whether he is the cause of the delay.
Vankwani tries to disassociate himself from the PPP senator and claims that he had been sitting in the lounge for two hours himself. When asked who he is, Vankwani tells the charged passengers his name and that he is a doctor, but initially hides the fact that he is a parliamentarian. Only upon being repeatedly questioned, does he reveal that he is an MNA.
This draws loud chants of “shame” from the angry passengers who then ask him to leave.
The MNA, who was seated in first class, was surrounded by visibly and audibly livid passengers and forced to leave despite his protestations. A few minutes after Vankwani was forced off, Malik was greeted with chants of ‘go back’ before he could even enter the plane.
Malik’s path was blocked by passengers who briefly stepped out of the plane, forcing him to turn back towards the gate.
The former interior minister pleaded that the plane was not delayed because of him, but given the vociferous chants by the passengers asking him to turn back, he retreated towards the lobby.
Later, as the video began to go viral, Malik on his verified twitter account explained himself. Insisting that the flight was not delayed because of him and that he too had to suffer, the senator said he was told in the evening that the flight had been delayed and would depart at 8:30pm.
Maintaining that he was not the reason of the delay, Malik demanded that an inquiry should be carried.
PIA spokesperson Mashood Tajwar, while speaking to Express News, said the flight was delayed due to technical reasons and not because of any VIP.
“The plane had not arrived from Islamabad on time and hence could not take off as scheduled earlier,” he said, adding that the passengers were informed about the delay through SMS.
He said the airline will investigate why the two passengers were not allowed to board the plane even though the delay was not their fault.