Two killed, many injured as PIA employees, LEAs clash at Karachi’s Jinnah Terminal

PIA employees, LEAs clash in Karachi

KARACHI, Feb 02 (INP): At least two employees of Pakistan International Airline (PIA) died and several others were injured when security personnel resorted to baton-charge, rubber bullets, water cannons and tear gas shells on them on Tuesday to disperse protesting PIA employees here at Jinnah Terminal.

The Joint Action Committee had decided to proceed with the strike as the government had not accepted the body’s four-point agenda.

A heavy contingent of Rangers and police personnel were deployed at the site to prevent protesters from entering the cargo gate. Television footage showed security personnel firing tear gas shells and water cannons at the protesters.

Inayat Raza of PIA Engineering Department and another employee of the national airline Saleem Akbar who were hit by bullets during the protest expired while 12 others injured in firing were under treatment at hospital where condition of some more wounded people was stated to be serious.

According to Deputy Inspector General East Kamran Fazal, the bullets were not fired by policemen. There were reports that protesters possessed weapons, he added.

Rangers Public Relations Officer also in a statement claimed that no Rangers personnel had fired to control the protesters.

At least 12 persons, including a TV cameraman and journalists were among those injured during the protest. The security officials also dispersed journalists and media personnel covering the incident.

The police detained Collective Bargaining Agent’s (CBA) President among five the five JAC members.

The Joint Action Committee (JAC) of PIA’s employees union had four-point charter of demand:
1. The government should immediately take back the bill passed on January 21 converting the national flag carrier into a public limited company.

2. 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.

3. Privatization, in any form, whether it is in form of a strategic partner or selling of 36 per cent or 1pc of the organization’s shares, is not acceptable to the employees.

4. The 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.

According to PIA spokesperson Daniyal Gilani, the management had asked protesting employees to come to the negotiating table but the union did not pay heed. He said the government was taking action in accordance with the law to deal with the situation, and that flight operations had not been affected.

Protests by PIA employees also erupted in Multan and Peshawar in solidarity with the treatment meted out to their colleagues in Karachi.

However, according to Civil Aviation officials, operations were continuing “as scheduled”, but passengers are advised to call the airport ahead of time and confirm the status of their flights.

Meanwhile Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif on Tuesday chaired a high-level meeting in Islamabad and instructed implementation of the Essential Services (Maintenance) Act 1952 which he invoked on Monday for six months, barring PIA employees from participating in any union activity.

He said national institutions would not be used for political motives and advised the interior ministry to deal with major strikes regarding the issue.

The meeting was attended by Federal Information Minister Pervez Rashid, Defence Minister Khawaja Asif and Special Assistant to the Prime Minister on Aviation Shujaat Azim

Meanwhile, journalists staged a protest outside the Sindh Assembly against torturing their colleagues.

Former president Asif Ali Zardari and Pakistan People’s Party Chairman Bilawal Bhutto Zardari on Tuesday condemned ‘firing’ on protesting Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) workers in Karachi.

In separate statements, Asif Ali Zardari and Bilawal demanded judicial investigation into the incident. They condemned the use of force against the protesting PIA employees and asked the government to desist from adopting dictatorial tactics to silence democratic rights of protesters. The PPP Chairman expressed sympathies with the employees of national flag carrier and assured them that the PPP was against the privatization of national assets for peanuts and stood with the labour class for their just cause.

Leader of the Opposition and Pakistan People’s Party leader Syed Khursheed Shah said that the PPP stood by the protesters and endorsed their stance over privatization.

A Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) spokesperson said that the party stood by the protesting PIA employees as the ruling party had adopted dictatorial attitude by what he called torturing the protestors.

Muttahida Qaumi Movement MPA Faisal Sabzwari also said that his party endorsed protesters’ point of view.

Hwever, Pakistan Muslim League-e-Nawaz (PML-N) leader Talal Chaudhry said that the opposition parties were using the PIA’s employees strike for political gains.

Meanwhile, the government has appointed a German citizen as the Chief Operating Officer of PIA at a salary package of Rs 5 million per month.

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