KARACHI: A large number of PIA’s employees held a demonstration here on Monday in protest against the government’s plan to privatise the national flag carrier.

The demonstration and a sit-in was organised by a joint action committee of PIA’s employees at the airline’s head office, which left most of its functions suspended throughout the day.

Addressing a press conference during the demonstration, action committee’s chairman Sohail Baloch urged the government to withdraw a recently promulgated presidential ordinance for changing the status of Pakistan International Airlines from the corporation to a company.

He called for the setting up of a judicial commission to investigate wrongdoings in the PIA’s affairs.

He said that the prime minister at a meeting held with PIA employees a few days ago had assured them that the airline would not be privatised. But, a communication issued by the aviation division the next day tried to portray as if the employees had agreed to PIA’s privatisation. “The employees have not and will never agree to the PIA’s privatisation,” he added.

He said the first board meeting of the newly formed PIA company was scheduled for Monday at the head office, but it could not be held because of the employees’ protest. Now this meeting had been rescheduled for Tuesday, but the employees would continue their protest so that it could not be held, he added.

He said all PIA employees were united and would not allow the government to privatise the airline. He warned that if the government did not withdraw its decision the employees would launch a movement as they had done a couple of years back when the PIA was entering an agreement with a foreign airline.

Sohail Baloch said the employees were now registering their protest peacefully. But, if the government ignored their demands they would consider `other options’ that might disrupt the flight operation.

The protesters included pilots, engineers, cabin crew, ground staff and members of various trade unions. Prominent among them were Safdar Anjum, Hidayatullah, Ubaidullah and Latif Qadri.

Published in Dawn, December 22nd, 2015

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