LAHORE: An anti-privatisation protest by staff of the Pakistan International Airlines has dragged on at the Allama Iqbal International Airport, disrupting domestic and international flights the whole day. The protesting staff chanted slogans against the government’s cavalier attitude following the bloody clash on February 2 between security forces and protesters at the Karachi Airport that claimed at least two lives. The deaths came as officers responded with tear gas, water cannon and batons. At least three other people were injured.
Police have denied having opened fire on protesters, who broke through the cargo gate. The two who died were workers of the company. The violence came as hundreds of airline employees held the latest in a series of protests against the proposals to complete a partial sale of the airliner by July. At night, the protesters postponed their protest for today (Thursday).
Former Punjab-based Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf organiser Punjab Chaudhary Mohammad Sarwar speaking with the media at the Allama Iqbal International Airport on Wednesday made it clear that all opposition parties were united against the privatisation plan. After praying for the dead at the airport which also saw the presence of the opposition leader in the Punjab Assembly, Mian Mehmood Ur Rasheed, he told them about his party’s backing for the airliner staff and also demanded that the government launch a judicial inquiry by setting up a committee of Supreme Court judges. The former organiser said, “The rulers are silencing voices of all who demand their rights by the use of bullets that will result in dire results. The incumbents are making decisions based on emotions rather than using their minds.”
He also fired a warning shot at the government, saying their actions could have serious implications. “Instead of listening to demands of the protesters, the rulers are threatening them with dire results and trying to silence their voices with guns. And instead of revamping national institutions, such as the airliner, they’re hell bent on privatising them.”
Jamaat-e-Islami Secretary General Liaqat Baloch has come out urging the government to abandon the privatisation plan and instead work for rehabilitation. Speaking with the media at Mansura on Wednesday after leading a Ghaibana Namaz-e-Janaza for the dead, he too blamed the rulers.
“The country is facing numerous challenges at present. Instead of curbing crimes, the government is patronising criminals. Gangs of criminals never crop up on their own but are run by the influential,” he added. He also announced that his party would launch a nation-wide campaign against corruption in March and urged the public, especially the youth, to join it.