In recent days, there has been a lot of talk in the media and at every corner meeting about the Pakistan International Airline. Once the pride of the nation, the airliner today is in a complete pit. Annually PIA is responsible for Rs. 600 billion losses that are met with the tax payers money. The imposed Essential Services Act of 1952 could not even end the strike of the PIA employees as unions have taken over the role of gangsters to oppose the privatisation plan.
The strikes that have been going on for over a week incurring a loss of nearly Rs. 3 billion. Moreover, the complete shutdown of the operations for several days have not only seen the death of two workers but have also sent several employees to the hospital as they were critically injured due to Rangers’ baton charge and aerial firing on unarmed and peaceful protestors. Unfortunately, several PIA fiasco stories have not made it to the media and the general public for which the employees are extremely frustrated.
The general overview from outside the PIA is that the employees do not want to work and strictly oppose the privatisation agenda. However, this is not true as most workers want to continue their services and only demand that the government take the most appropriate measures to deal with the situation. The workers are forcefully stopped and asked to protest by the unions as they are highly politicised.
The union is being controlled by Pakistan People’s Party members and supporters making it impossible for the employees to perform their duties. The hurdle created by PPP comes in light of the PML-N crack down on PPP loyalist and criminal elements existing in Sindh. The majority of the workforce in PIA is non-political but are being harassed by armed unions, corruption and incompetent government policies.
The PPP and PML-N are the two parties that have most of its members and supporters working for the airline. Whenever the two parties have come into power, they have given jobs without merit to increase their vote bank. Since the PML-N came into power in May 2013, there have been over 1,000 employees added to the PIA’s already long list of workforce. Once the party against privatisation is now actively shutting those currently in protest. Also, According to an employee of the airline, Faryal Talpur on many occasions has forced her own people in the airline regardless of the job advertised. PPP gave at least 22 percent of the jobs to people from rural Sindh that can hardly read or write Urdu and English.
Today if the government is concerned about the airline and want it to be privatised it is not because of the hefty losses the airline is incurring but because Mr. Ishaq Dar has promised the IMF that the government will privatise two of its institution as part of the loan agreement.
Furthermore, 26 percent shares of PIA have already been sold to Qatar Airways. This news is not circulating in the media and has been hushed down for obvious reasons. To confirm this fact, it has been verified by the PIA staff that went on training to Doha few months ago.
Also, eyewitness from the day of the protest when two PIA employees were shot dead by Rangers stated that they saw one of the personnel shooting right at Mr. Inayat Raza, who died later due to a gunshot wound at Jinnah Hospital. Also, it has been learnt that several peaceful female protestors suffered injuries in their legs, arms and back due to due to the baton charge.
The Nawaz led government has been true to their past and have always made matters complicated with threat and unfair means. PIA that is a victim of the previous and current government’s mishandling, mismanagement and corruption are again in the middle of yet another controversy if we may call it.