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Govt sticking to its plan for PIA: PM

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February 9, 2016

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Airline offices start opening

PM rules out coming under pressure;airline operates 19 flights on Monday; protesters continue sit-ins

ISLAMABAD/KARACHI: Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has said the government will proceed with its plan to find a strategic partner to run PIA and it would not budge to the pressure tactics of a group of workers. No final word has been given about the establishment of a parallel national air carrier to deal with the emergency.

A meeting of senior leaders of the ruling party under the prime minister on Monday took stock of the overall situation of PIA and its operations which are returning to normalcy. The meeting was also attended by federal ministers Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan and Ishaq Dar, prime minister’s advisers Shujaat Azim, Zubair Umar, Senator Mushahidullah Khan, PIA’s acting Chairman and Federal Secretary for Aviation Irfan Ilahi, Secretary to PM Fawad Hasan Fawad, KP’s outgoing Governor Sardar Mehtab Ahmad and other officials.

Senator Mushahidullah Khan, who is the Convener of the Special Committee of Parliament on PIA, submitted a report to the prime minister on the ongoing operation of the national airline and its workers’ strike.

Well-placed sources in the PM House told ‘The News’ that Prime Minister expressed satisfaction over the resumption of the flight operations and asked officials concerned to bring normalcy back to PIA.

He told the officials concerned that no dialogue would be possible with the protesting workers since they had caused  serious trouble to commuters, Umra pilgrims and workers whose jobs were put at serious risk.

The prime minister termed the strike of PIA employees unjustifiable and said that he personally assured them that no one would be removed from service and the government had no plan to change its status. In the circumstances, the union should not have resorted to action that has damaged the airlines and the image of the country.

Nawaz maintained that the writ of the government was bound to be established as a defiance of the law couldn’t be tolerated. He asked his close aides to continue monitoring the situation and keep him posted about developments.

Zubair Umer’s meeting withthe PIA employees’ leaders was without the prior approval of the prime minister on Saturday evening and he was asked not to take any action without the prior approval of the officials who have been assigned to deal with the matter, the sources added.

Meanwhile, the PIA offices in the country have started opening and flight operations are gradually returning to normalcy, as the national flag carrier has managed to operate at least 31 flights since Saturday late night despite the ongoing anti-privatisation protest, said the spokesman.

“PIA successfully operated some 18-19 flights alone on Monday,” said Danial Gilani, General Manager of Public Relations, PIA.“At least one more flight is to gear up and take to the air from Islamabad for Lahore,” he said.

Out of the total 32, around 25 flights were operated on international routes, including (to/from) Jeddah, Dammam, Medina and Dubai.Moreover, 19 flights took off or landed at the Islamabad Airport, 12 flights at Lahore Airport, four flights at Gilgit Airport, and at least two flights operated from the Karachi Airport.

“We have flown back some 3,000 pilgrims stranded in Saudi Arabia via 10 flights. The remaining few hundred stranded pilgrims would return home by Tuesday,” he said.Besides, all the pilgrims who remained stranded for the last six-days at the Karachi Airport have been flown to Saudi Arabia, he said.

“There is no truth in the media reports regarding PIA operating aircraft with technical faults. PIA has always maintained the recommended standards of passenger and aircraft safety and never compromises on them,” he said in a message.

He said “threats” from anti-privatisation protesters was the biggest challenge in managing the flight operation.Captain Sohail Ahmed, General Secretary, Pakistan Air Line Pilots’ Association, said the pilots’ body was not in favour of suspending the flight operations since the first day, but poor security and safety measures convinced them to suspend the operations on last Tuesday (February 2).

“Pilots are operating planes on the airports where they are being provided security and flying is safe…we own the pilots operating the PIA flights,” he said.“I hope ways would be found for complete restoration of the flight operation,” he said. “We are against the privatisation of the airline and stand shoulder to shoulder with the anti-privatisation co-workers,” he added.

The Joint Action Committee (JAC) of PIA employees against privatisation restrained from taking to the streets on Monday after their four missing colleagues returned home. Earlier, the JAC had announced on Saturday to launch a rally towards the Jinnah International Terminal, Karachi, if their missing colleagues did not return home by Monday morning.

The colleagues went missing on Tuesday night (February 2) following the killing of two co-workers at a rally marching towards the Karachi airport. The killing caused suspension of flight operations. Over 600 flights have been cancelled since Tuesday afternoon.

Every passing day is adding a loss of Rs100 million to the balance sheet of the national flag carrier. Cumulative losses to PIA have jumped to Rs300 billion to-date, it was learnt.

The anti-privatisation protesters, under the leadership of JAC of PIA employees against privatisation, however, continued to sit-in outside the PIA head-office in Karachi and other parts of the country on the 15th consecutive day on Monday.

The federal government has issued show cause notices to the protesting employees, after invoking the Essential Services (Maintenance) Act 1952 for six months, barring union activities and demanded workers to perform duties. The act was invoked with effect from Monday (February 1).

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