KARACHI: Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) Chairman Nasser Jaffer announced on Tuesday evening that he has resigned from his post following the death of two PIA employees during a clash with security personnel in Karachi earlier in the day.

He announced this while talking to Dunya TV. “I have resigned from the post,” said the PIA chairman while in tears.

He expressed grief over the deaths of the PIA employees and lamented at the events which lead to their deaths. "My conscience doesn't allow me to head the organisation anymore," he said.

Jaffer said he was abandoning ship because the people were not willing to accept his advice anymore. The PIA chairman said that he has sent his resignation to the prime minister.

"Fearing the backlash of the protests I had repeatedly requested Joint Action Committee chief Sohail Baloch to resolve the matter through dialogue, but in vain," Jaffer said.

He urged the protesting employees to hold dialogue with the government, "they will listen to your demands".

Protesting employees will be fired, warns PM Nawaz

Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif said protesting employees of PIA will be fired from service and can be sent to jail for an year, DawnNews reported.

Talking to reporters during his visit to a coal power plant in Sahiwal, the premier went on to say that airline employees working during the strike will be given special rewards for their service.

Nawaz accused PIA workers of politicising the privatisation issue by resorting to strikes, adding that such acts were costing PIA Rs100 million per day.

In a move to stall the strike, Nawaz had already enforced the Essential Services (Maintenance) Act 1952 for six months, barring protesting members of the PIA from participating in any union activity.

"Any person found guilty of an offence under this Act shall be punishable with imprisonment for a term which may extend to one year and shall also be liable to a fine," the legislation reads.

Earlier in the day, two protesters died after sustaining bullet wounds when law enforcing agencies tried to disperse protesting PIA employees at Karachi Airport's Jinnah Terminal.

As news of the deaths of two PIA employees spread, the national flag carrier's flight operations across the country began shutting down in solidarity with protesters, officials said.

Yesterday, Information Minister Pervaiz Rashid had also made clear that strict action will be taken against protesting employees.

“Let me make clear that those who continue the strike will be treated as enemies of PIA and Pakistan and they will end up losing their jobs,” he stressed.

Employees of the national carrier had threatened to go on a strike from Tuesday because of what they called the government’s refusal to accept their main demand of calling off the organisation’s privatisation plan.

Criticising security forces is unacceptable, says Nisar

Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan, while expressing views on the situation in Karachi, said “criticising security forces without evidence is unacceptable as they risk their lives while saving people and maintaining peace”.

The interior minister expressed grief over the loss of lives while maintaining that the responsibility of securing public property does not only fall upon security agencies but upon the general public too.

"Those protesting must explain that under what law they created difficulties for the common people by suspending flight operations and damaging public property," he said.

Earlier, Deputy Inspector General East Kamran Fazal said bullet casings were collected to ascertain who opened fire on the protesters. He claimed the bullets were not fired by policemen.

"We instructed our personnel not to handle the protesters violently. We are trying to find out who initiated the clash," he said.

"No Rangers personnel has fired to control the protest at Jinnah Terminal today," Rangers Public Relations Officer said in an official statement.

Television footage showed security personnel fire tear gas shells and water cannons at protesters as they attempted to force their way into the cargo gate.

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