Rawalpindi - The district government yesterday imposed section 144 at Benazir Bhutto Islamabad International Airport and stopped the protesting employees of Pakistan International Airline (PIA) to assemble at entry gate. The notification in this regard was issued by District Coordination Officer Sajid Zafar Dall after which the PIA protestors set up their camp on a vacant area near Dhoke Hafiz. The PIA continued its partial flight operation from Benazir Bhutto Islamabad International Airport with special focus on Umrah pilgrims arriving and departing for Saudi Arabia. Reportedly, the law-enforcement agencies started conducting raids at the houses of representatives of PIA employees unions.

According to details, the district administration imposed section 144 in and around the airport to bar the PIA employees from protesting. After imposition of section 144, the PIA employees shifted their protest venue from main gate to an open place near Dhoke Hafiz. Some workers of WAPDA also joined the PIA employees in their protest against killing of their two colleagues and privatisation of the national flag carrier.At about 1:00pm, Rawalpindi police arrested Shoaib Yousafzai, an active representative of the Joint Action Committee of the PIA workers. The police, however, released Yousafzai after the media flashed the arrest. The police, later, explained that the arrest was a mistake.

The frustrated PIA employees also exchanged harsh words with the media persons present outside their protest camp for coverage. A worker used foul language against the media persons for not reporting the arrest of the PIA workers. Shoaib Yousafzai, after release, told media that Islamabad police had continuously been harassing the representatives of the protesting PIA workers. He said that three representatives Sohail Mukhtar, Saleem Bhatti and Naveed Malik are still missing and they have no clue about their whereabouts. He said that police have been carrying out raids on the houses of different representatives of the protesting workers.

According to sources, there were 42 PIA flights scheduled from the BB airport on February 8 but only six flights could be operated. A PIA official at the airport confided to The Nation that all flights could not be operated due to shortage of staff. One flight PK-740 came to Islamabad from Jeddah and two flights PK-741 and PK-7355 left Islamabad for Jeddah carrying Umrah pilgrims. The official figures further stated one flight PK-211 left for Dubai, PK-605 left for Gilgit, and PK-606 came to Islamabad from Gilgit.