Over 2000 international passengers are stranded at various airports in the country. Domestic flights have been rerouted to other local airlines flying extra routes, and it is a wonder that carriers such as Shaheen and Air Blue have handled the extra load with limited capacities. However, there is a limit to the amount of extra passengers that can be accommodated through this measure, and only for a very limited time, until it starts to become too much of a strain to handle.

The PML-N government has been calling for privitisation of national assets such as PIA and Pakistan Steel Mills since the IMF loan of $6.7 billion was granted in 2013. Even if we ignore the outcry against the measure, how exactly is it planning on going about this? Which investors have been approached so far? Are there any that are expressing even a modicum of interest with the debt both organisations will have to pay off to various debtors immediately after privatisation ? The IMF has agreed to hold off the process for six months, in a bid to let the dust settle, but will that help in any way? Before the protests took a violent turn, the Joint Action Committee (JAC) of the unions was clamouring to give the employees of the airline a chance to turn its fortunes around. But this is easier said than done. With over 18000 employees looking after 35 airplanes, it is ridiculous to expect anything but losses.

As opposition parties voice their dissent against both the privatisation process and the killing of two PIA employees, the government has rightly pointed out that other parties are only jumping on this bandwagon to stay relevant. And yet, the PML-N government seems to have forgotten that opposition parties are doing exactly what they are expected to do at a time like this. Nawaz has also seemingly forgotten that one of those parties, namely PTI, spent the better part of 2014 on the road, protesting over a non-issue. Imran Khan’s call for a national protest on February 6 therefore, should come as a surprise to no one. The government on its part, is not ready to assume responsibility for its mistake; indeed it is not even ready to pass the buck on to the law enforcement agencies. Simply saying that someone from within the crowd fired a gun when countless eyewitnesses saw the men being shot by Rangers at near point-blank range is not an adequate explanation. Someone must be held accountable, and fast, or else more protests are only likely to follow.