KARACHI: The flight operations of Pakistan’s state-owned airline, PIA, effectively came to a halt today after clashes between law-enforcement personnel and airline staff protesting its planned privatization left three employees dead.
The websites of Karachi, Lahore and Islamabad airports listed in their arrivals and departures sections all the PIA flights that had been delayed or cancelled. By the evening, all of the airline’s flights had the tag ‘Indefinite’ on them, which meant that they had been delayed indefinitely.
The situation is unlikely to become any better any time soon, with the Pakistan Airline Pilots Association (PALPA) also joining the strike following today’s violence.
Earlier in the day, in clashes with law-enforcement personnel PIA employees protesting against the airline’s looming privatization, three airline staffers died, ARY News reported.
Hospital sources confirmed that Assistant manager Inayat Raza of PIA and Saleem Akbar lost their lives during the protest, while at least five others were also injured.
The bodies of the deceased are being brought to the airport by the protesters.
Rangers spokesperson immediately issued a statement, stating the no Rangers personnel opened fire on the protesters.
The police initially resorted to water cannons and baton charge to disperse the protesters, who in turn, offered strong resistance, thus turning the protest into a serious clash.
Who gave the option to fire at PIA employees?
According to senior anchorperson Arshad Sharif, Secretary Aviation Irfan Elahi asked the authorities to use ‘armed attack’ option to disperse the protesting PIA employees.
And the protest spot was washed through water cannons shortly after the firing on PIA workers.
Elahi is the same man who was DCO Rawalpindi when former prime minister Benazir Bhutto was assassinated in 2007. Our correspondent reported that the crime site after BB’s killing was hosed down on the DCO orders.
Delay of flights
DIG West said it would transpire after investigation that who killed the protester.
Sindh Home Minister Sohail Anwar Sial has taken notice of the incident, ordered inquiry and sought its report.
Amid the protest, PIA employees shut the international and domestic counters at Karachi and Peshawar airports, making the situation more aggravating.
Rangers men fired straight shots, claims JAC head
PIA Joint Action Commitee head Capt. Sohail Baloch claimed that three of their employees were killed during the protest.
He said they had to reach Jinnah Terminal in a ‘peaceful’ rally. He said no PIA employee raised any slogan or misbehaved with anyone.
Speaking to media here, he said Rangers men donned mask and fired straight shots at our protesters. He said law enforcers used water cannons and rubber bullets to disperse the demonstrators.
“Our three people have been arrested by the Rangers and we request the government to release them.”
He said Shujaat Azeem, Mushahidullah Hussain and Ishaq Dar have held hostage the aviation industry through their privatization move.
Bilawal condemns death of protester
PPP co-chairperson Bilawal Bhutto Zardari has strongly condemned the death of a protester in Karachi.
He said Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif must not take measures that may provoke violent public reaction. “We will also oppose sell of national assets for just peanuts,” he added.
Speaking to media personnel, DIG Kamran Fazal said at the moment no protest was going on. He said directives were issued to stop protesters from reaching the Jinnah terminal. He also said Rangers and police personnel were issued instructions not to opt for strict measures.
When asked about the assault on media persons, he said the issue would be investigated. DIG Kamran also said only after examining the bullet shell can it be determined as to who fired the bullet.
Police was stationed outside the roads leading to Jinnah Terminal. ARY’s two cameramen Danish and Hanif were injured during the protests.
It was also reported that six persons had been injured in the protests as a result of firing. Tear gas shelling caused 3 women who were part of the protest, to faint. Reports indicated that a cameramen belonging to a private television channel was also injured in the firing.
According to details, law enforcement agencies used water cannons and tear gas shelling to disperse protesters near the Cargo Terminal gate. Several protesters became unconscious due to the the tear gas shelling. Protesters were marching towards the airport when they were baton charged in a bid to stop them from reaching the Cargo Terminal.
Journalists staged a protest walkout outside the Sindh Assembly, for the assault on media personnel near the airport.
A couple of media personnel were also caught up in the chaos and also suffered from the use of tear gas shelling and water cannons.
The Joint Action Committee refused to negotiate with anyone but Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif. Several members of the Joint Action Committee including Chief Secretary Zakir Farooq were arrested.
Earlier, the federal government on Monday enforced the Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) Essential Services Act 1952 for six months as employees continue to protest against alleged privatization of the national flag carrier.
Maltreatment of PIA workers condemned on social media
strongly condemn brutal action by LEAs against workers.Let’s unite to fight ‘killer privatisation’
— Shamshad Qureshi (@chairmanpwucba) February 2, 2016
It can be rightly said that we have civil dictatorship in the country #IsupportPIAprotestors
— M. ZubairKhattak (@zubairsam2012) February 2, 2016
Name the country where protest is crime and you get killed straight away by police on the orders of government.
— Muddassir #TeamIK (@acaac4525eb441c) February 2, 2016
— Shazia Ahmed (@shaziaahmed198) February 2, 2016
— Shazia Ahmed (@shaziaahmed198) February 2, 2016
They shouldn’t have used bullets on protesters. ..responsible are accountable. ..#IsupportPIAprotestors
— Pakistani! (@maria_fatah) February 2, 2016
Why was there need2deploy Rangers2stop protestors.Police should have handled initially,making Rangers controversial. #IsupportPIAprotestors
— Faraz (@Faraz_Hasan) February 2, 2016