KARACHI: PIA’s employees protesting for about a week against the proposed privatisation of the airline announced on Sunday that they would march from the PIA head office at the Old Terminal to the Jinnah Terminal to press their demand for the recovery of their four missing colleagues, including Joint Action Committee (JAC) leader Hidayatullah Khan.
About partial resumption of the flight operations claimed by the airline’s management, the employees said that some aircraft had been flown by disregarding air safety rules and for that reasons Saudi Arabia had imposed a fine.
But the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) said safety was supreme and all rules and regulations were followed.
A spokesperson for PIA said the amount being mentioned was not fine, but fees for extra time slot obtained for the flights at Jeddah.
Talking to Dawn, JAC’s chief Captain Sohail Baloch said flight safety had been compromised while operating the Islamabad-Jeddah flight because there was no cabin crew in the flight and it was operated only with cockpit crew — pilots Tahir Rehan and Asif Gilani. He said the cabin crew, along with the passengers, had boarded the flight at Jeddah.
JAC chief says CAA should stop giving waivers on air safety rules
He said that one right-hand gate of Boeing 777 aircraft — Reg No: AP BHX — was faulty because of which, according to aviation safety rules, it had to fly with 62 passengers less than the capacity. But the aircraft brought over 325 passengers which was a serious safety lapse owing to which the Saudi authorities imposed the fine.
He said the CAA should stop giving waivers and start implementing rules relating to air safety.
Mr Baloch claimed that the ground handling service at the Islamabad airport had been provided by Royal Aviation Services which had links with Shujaat Azeem, who had been removed by the Supreme Court as prime minister’s adviser on aviation but was still taking all decisions and giving verbal orders.
He said the protesting workers understood the problems being faced by passengers and were ready to hold negotiations with the government provided it called off its proposed privatisation plan. If the government could hold talks with Taliban and with India, but not with PIA employees who were trying to protect a national asset.
He said the government was probably shying away from the negotiations because PIA’s revival plan prepared by its workers was so good that it could turn around the airline and it would be difficult for the government to dispute or contest it.
Mr Baloch said the government might manage to operate a few more flights by harassing workers, but the employees were united and would continue their strike till the government abolished its plan to privatise the airline.
Talking to Dawn, Society of Aircraft Engineer Pakistan (SAEP) president Zakir Farooq said the aircraft flown had been non-operational for a few days and needed to undergo certain checks before resuming flights. But, he alleged, these checks had not been carried out and the management obtained waivers from the CAA and also harassed engineers to sign the documents.
He said the passengers’ lives were put in danger by the PIA management as well as the CAA. He called for an inquiry into the matter.
On the other hand, CAA’s joint director Aftab Gilani said the authority always gave prime importance to air safety and strictly observed and implemented safety rules.
RAWALPINDI: The PIA crew members who decided to take flights to Jeddah were brought to the Benazir Bhutto International Airport (BBIA) amid tight security, while the protesting employees who had been holding a sit-in outside the airport sneaked away before the sunset fearing they might be picked up by police.
A People’s Unity leader alleged that police had raided his house in Islamabad on Saturday night and took away his brother. He also expressed the fear that the government might use police to arrest the employees who had been protesting outside the airport.
According to security sources, a meeting of senior police and security officials had been called to chalk out a plan to cope with the situation if law-enforcement agencies were directed to remove the sit-in camp. The meeting will be attended by the city police officer, SSP operations, district coordination officer, DG vigilance and chief security officer of the airport.
After the two flights of PIA for Jeddah took off from the BBIA, the sit-in camp set up at the main entrance gate was removed by police, but the employees were allowed to hold a sit-in at the passenger’s drop lane.
The protesting employees called their colleagues who operated the flights as ‘black sheep’ and ‘traitors’.
On the sixth day of sit-in, the number of protesters was less than seen in the early days. However, heavy presence of police and Airport Security Force personnel was seen around the sit-in camp to maintain peaceful arrival and departure of passengers.
Mohammad Asghar from Rawalpindi contributed to the report
Published in Dawn, February 8th, 2016