KARACHI: The management of the Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) has lodged an FIR against its own employees for organising a protest at the airline’s head office against the proposed privatisation of the national flag carrier, it emerged on Sunday.

The employees’ associations, however, announced that they would hold country-wide protests on Monday (today) for fulfilment of their demands.

The FIR against several known and unknown employees was lodged on the complaint of deputy general manager-security Arshad Butt at the Airport police station under Sections 147 (rioting), 149 (Every member of unlawful assembly guilty of offence committed in prosecution of common object), 341 (Punishment for wrongful restraint) 504 (Intent­ional insult with intent to provoke breach of the peace), 506 (Statements conducing to public mischief) and 34 (common intention) of the Pakistan Penal Code.

The Airport police said that no arrest was made so far.

Workers’ associations announce countrywide protests for pay raise today

The complainant told the police that for the past two weeks around 150 serving and retired employees of the PIA as well as “outsiders” had been protesting against PIA privatisation and in favour of their demand for a pay raise outside the PIA head office.

He stated that on Aug 25 a mob led by Hidayatullah Khan along with Aqeel Siddiqi, Safdar Anjum, Rafiq, Mohammed Iqbal, Israr Mashwani, Shahnawaz Khatian, Ajmal Malik, Amjad, and Shoaib and around 200-250 other employees stormed into the head office.

He alleged that the protesters broke doors, manhandled guards, used smear words and threatened the officials and senior management present there.

The complainant stated that the mob also locked the offices of departments’ chiefs, general managers and other officials of the head office, asked them to stop working and staged a sit-in there and delivered provocative speeches.

He said that the operational and administrative work of the PIA was stopped due to the protesters, who “risked the safety of aircraft and put lives of hundreds of passengers in danger”.

Action Committee reaction

The convener of the PIA Action Committee, Hidayatullah Khan, said that the registration of an FIR against peaceful protesters showed that the PIA management had gone berserk.

“They [the management] cannot deter us from our struggle for pay raise,” he said.

Safdar Anjum, the general secretary of the airline’s Senior Staff Association (SASA), said that a “non-professional and incompetent” management had lodged a ‘fake’ case against protesting employees.

“We will not allow any conspiracy to succeed against the PIA,” he declared.

PIA version

PIA spokesperson Abdullah Hafeez Khan told Dawn that the management was cognizant of the financial difficulties being faced by the staff due to the hyperinflation.

However, he added that the PIA was itself facing a “severe liquidity crunch and under a lot of pressure to service its foreign and domestic liabilities”.

“Salaries will be revised but immediately at this critical juncture, it would be tantamount to grounding of planes and limiting our network, which in essence would put us in further economical jeopardy,” he opined.

Published in Dawn, August 28th, 2023

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