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Raza Rabbani, trade unions reject PIA plane crash inquiry commission

Karachi

May 27, 2020

Senator Mian Raza Rabbani, a former chairman of the Senate and central leader of the Pakistan Peoples Party and labour leader Karamat Ali along with other members of the trade union movement have challenged and rejected the composition of the commission constituted by the federal government to investigate the PIA plane crash in Karachi.

In a joint statement issued here on Tuesday, Senator Rabbani, Karamat Ali, secretary of the National Labour Council and executive director of the Pakistan Institute of Labour Education and Research (Piler), Nasir Mansoor, secretary general of the National Trade Union Federation (NTUF), Habibuddin Junaidi, president of the Peoples Labour Bureau Sindh, Liaquat Sahi from the Democratic Wokrers Union of the State Bank of Pakistan, Zehra Khan of the Home-based Women Workers Federation, Farhat Parveen of the NOW Communities and others also demanded that representatives of the PIA trade unions be also heard during the inquiry.

They pointed out that the history of air crash inquiry commissions in Pakistan was quite sordid, and reports had been doctored, tampered with and even not released so as to protect the vested interest in terms of the management.

They remarked that the inquiry commission constituted by the federal government is soaked in conflict of interest in as much as: a) it is an inquiry by one's own peers i.e. Air Force officers; b) the inquiring officers are juniors in rank to the officer whose organisation is being investigated; c) the commission comprises only Air Force officers, and no person conversant with commercial flying and procedures has been included; d) the commission is devoid of any rated pilot or one having flown the Airbus; and e) the Civil Aviation and air traffic control will be under scrutiny while the CAA is represented on the commission.

The air crash can be viewed in isolation but a holistic view of the management, procedures, job security and the relationship between the management and the unions/associations will need to be taken to ascertain whether the employees of the PIAC were functioning under duress and strain, they said.

Since the injection of a serving officer as the CEO of the PIAC, there has been a clampdown in the airline, and the final nail in the coffin was the imposition of the Essential Services Act, the statement said, adding that as a consequence all trade unions and associations have been banned and all agreements between the management and all categories of employees have been made void, plunging the employees into uncertainty about job security and career planning.

The decision to impose the essential service law on the PIAC and banning trade unions was an ultra-constitutional act and tantamount to violating fundamental rights granted by the constitution and committed under the UN declarations, they said, adding that while the top management enjoyed the perks, the cabin crew and other staff were denied their allowances.

They urged the federal government to reconstitute the commission in the light of the abovementioned objections and add representatives of PALPA, the Pilots’ association, to the commission. They also demanded restoring all trade union activities in the airline by lifting the Essential Services Act from the organisation.