Rawalpindi - The protest of PIA employees against killing of their colleagues and privatisation of national airline continued yesterday.

The irate protestors also staged a sit-in outside Benazir Bhutto Islamabad International Airport. Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) Chairman Imran Khan participated in the protest demonstration and expressed his party’s solidarity with the PIA employees. He was accompanied by PTI Secretary Information Naeem-ul-Haq.

Addressing the protestors, Imran Khan said the ruling party should eliminate corruption and bad governance instead of killing innocent PIA workers at the hands of law enforcement agencies.

Coming down hard on privatisation policy of the federal government, the PTI chairman said that PTI government in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa took two years to usher in reforms in government-run hospitals, as the provincial government satisfied the legislators and doctors.

“PTI is standing by the protesting PIA workers . The government has been imposing new taxes on the people,” he said adding that the policies of PML-N are against the poor people.

PTI leader Naeem-ul-Haq condemned use of brute force and assured the protesters of his party’s support. The PIA can be made a profitable organisation even without privatisation, he said. Meanwhile, many other prominent political figures visited the sit-in and expressed their solidarity with the PIA employees. They included former bureaucrat Roedad Khan, Jamaat-e-Islami leader Mian Aslam, Asim Sajjad, Babu Idress of the PPP and other trade union leaders.

Speaking on the occasion, Chaudhry Farooq, representative of the Banking Employees Federation, said that after a long time trade union movement has re-emerged against exploitative system. He said that PIA employees are reviving the history of Chicago. They are just demanding their basic rights in response they had been shot at. It is against Article 17 of the Constitution and ILO convention, he said.

There are 127 countries running their own national airlines, said Suhail, a trade union activist. He said that salaries of the PIA workers for January 2016 showed that there were 422 employees per aircraft in the PIA. He noted that there were 1,103 employees per aircraft in the Emirates Airline. On the other hand, the continuing protest of PIA employees outside the airport caused immense troubles for the passengers who had planned to fly through PIA as many passengers had to travel by train or bus from Rawalpindi to other cities. The PIA passengers did not turn up at the airport due to continuous strike by the employees of the national flag carrier.

The police and the Airport Security Force (ASF) allowed entry to only those passengers carrying air tickets. The protesting PIA employees did not try to enter the airport.

Meanwhile, the suspended PIA operations led to cancellation of 50 international and domestic flights from Islamabad. The cancelled international flights were to take off for Toronto, Damam, Birmingham, Manchester, Dubai, Tokyo and Muscat. The cancelled domestic flights were bound for Skardu, Gilgit, Quetta, Lahore, and Karachi.

According to a survey conducted by The Nation, it was observed that the passengers had to take alternate means of transportation to reach their destinations.

According to a PIA official, the airline had signed a contract with the Airblue and the Shaheen Airlines to carry the domestic passengers with confirmed tickets. He said that the PIA was in contact with some international airlines to accommodate its international passengers.

When contacted, an office of Pakistan Railways Reservation Office Mujtaba said that a large numbers of passengers turned up at the station to go to other part of country. He said that the Greenline train bound for Karachi was jam-packed when it left Rawalpindi station yesterday morning.

“Usually rush of passengers was seen during winter vacations but owing to PIA employees strike, the turn-up of passengers increased,” he said.