Imran Mukhtar & israr ahmed

islamabad/rawalpindi - Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) yesterday held protest rallies in twin cities against the economic policy of the ruling government and to express solidarity with Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) employees protesting against privatisation of national airline.

In Islamabad rally, the PTI also announced its 8-point charter of demands to the government. Interestingly, the demands do not include the cancellation of the PIA privatisation.

The major opposition party held a rally from its central office to the main Aabpara Chowk of the capital as part of its protest plan throughout the country. Scores of PTI workers and its local and national leadership marched from the party’s central secretariat to the chowk while holding placards and banners inscribed with slogans against the government. They also raised slogans against the economic policies of the government.

PTI senior leader and a close aide of Chairman Imran Khan, Saifullah Khan Niazi delivered his anti-government speech while addressing the rally at the main Aabpara Chowk.

Interestingly, when Saifullah Niazi was delivering his speech, some traders of the capital held a protest at the same venue against his party leadership for not paying Rs 4.6 million for the tents services they had hired during their 2014 protest sit-in in Islamabad.

In the charter of demands, the PTI instead of demanding the government to reverse its decision of PIA privatisation only asked that ‘the government should announce deferment of PIA corporatisation by one year and appealed to the employees to defer their strike so that Pakistani citizens would not suffer.’ It demanded for the formation of a judicial commission to probe the killings of two of its workers in Karachi, withdrawal of Essential Services Act and sought assurance that that no coercive action will be taken against airlines’ employees.

The charter of demands also includes reduction in petroleum and kerosene oil prices by Rs 5 per litre and diesel price by Rs 20 per litre, elimination of three new taxes added on electricity and elimination of gas infrastructure development cess (GIDC) on natural gas consumers.

Similarly, the PTI demanded the federal government to take immediate steps to revitalise state institutions like PIA, Pakistan Steel Mills, Heavy Mechanical Complex (HMC) and Heavy Electrical Complex (HEC) instead of ‘throwing them away in a loot sale.’ It said that the government should immediately pay the outstanding salaries and pensions of employees of all state institutions like Steel Mills, Pakistan Machine Tool Factory (PMTF) and others.

It asked the government to introduce urgent FBR reforms and increase the direct tax collection from the rich and powerful tax evaders and take immediate steps to bring back all the black money of Pakistanis from Swiss banks, besides monitoring Dubai properties and other foreign investments of Pakistanis, particularly of the ruling elite.

PTI lawmakers including Senator Samina Abid, Nafeesa Khattak and Ghulam Sarwar Khan and its local leadership were also present in the rally.

Meanwhile, Rawalpindi chapter of Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf took out a rally from Saddar to Rawalpindi Press Club. The rally was led by PTI leader Zahid Kazmi and attended by a large number of workers including members of women wing.

More than 100 vehicles and 60 motorcyclists participated in the rally. The protesters were carrying placards inscribed with anti-government slogans and they were chanting slogans in favour of PIA employees. The most echoed slogan chanted by PTI protestors was “Go Nawaz Go.”

Addressing the protestors, PTI leader Zahid Kazmi said that PML-N government has badly failed in mitigating the plights of the poor masses. He said that Sharif brothers are wasting national money on Orange Train Project and metro buses instead of improving the national organisations like PIA and Pakistan Railways, as the PML-N leaders are receiving kickbacks from such projects.

He said that the poor work of metro bus project in Rawalpindi and Islamabad exposed within months and the commissioner Rawalpindi and MBP Chairman Muhammad Hanif Abbasi had to ask the contractors to improve the quality of work at different sites.

Kazmi said that the PML-N leaders did not pass the benefit of reduction in petroleum prices at international level to the masses. The government is getting fuel at lower prices but giving it to the consumers at double and triple prices just to make money, instead of imposing taxes on industrialists and businessmen.

“The PTI will not allow the government to sell the PIA to international firm as mostly firms are working with collaboration with Prime Minister Mian Nawaz Sharif and Chief Minister Mian Shahbaz Sharif and their business partners,” Zahid Kazmi alleged. During the rally of PTI, commuters and pedestrians faced hardships on Murree Road while police made tight security arrangements to avert any untoward incident.