Islamabad, Feb 10 (IANS) Pilots and ground staff of the Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) continued their strike for the third day Thursday, disrupting at least 120 flights scheduled for various domestic and global destinations.
The employees have struck work against a proposed agreement between the PIA and Turkish Airlines and have also demanded removal of PIA managing director Ijaz Haroon.
According to the agitating staff, the proposed agreement with Turkish Airline will add to the financial woes of the already cash-strapped airline.
“PIA will hand over its viable international routes to the Turkish partner and would be reduced to a local carrier only,” said Sohail Baloch, senior leader of the joint action committee (JAC) formed by the protesters.
The PIA issued termination notices to some JAC leaders three days ago, following which the protesters went on a complete shutdown.
“We are not ready to talk with blackmailers who are protesting without any valid grounds,” the airlines’ managing director told reporters.
Aaj TV reported at least 5,000 passengers travelling on different routes within and outside the country have been affected and there are chaotic scenes at the airports.
The JAC has said the employees would not budge at anything short of the resignation of the managing director as well as cancellation of the agreement with Turkish Airline.
“Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani has invited the JAC leaders for talks while the replacement of PIA managing director has also been proposed to improve the situation,” the television report said, adding that paramilitary forces have been deputed at the airports to avoid any untoward situation.
The two major groups in JAC – Peoples Unity and Air League – are backed by the ruling PPP (Pakistan Peoples Party) and the opposition PML-N (Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz) respectively.
The country’s national flag-carrier has been suffering losses of billions of rupees annually and is looking to the government for a bail-out package to revive its operations.
Despite the financial crunch, the airline management has reinstated around 5,000 political appointees, who were shunted out during the previous years.