Palpa withdraws from PIA strike, pilots asked to resume duties

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KARACHI: The Pakistan Air Lines Pilots Association (Palpa) announced its withdrawal from the strike against government’s proposed plan to privatise the Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) on Saturday, with the organisation head directing pilots to resume their duties.

“At least 410 out of 430 pilots in Palpa are in favour of resumption of flight operations,” said Palpa President Amir Hashmi, while speaking to DawnNews.

He said PIA pilots are ready to provide their services but they should be provided adequate security as “we are receiving threats from the protesters”.

Hashmi said Palpa members were a part of the protest from the beginning but never supported the idea of a complete strike “which can have serious consequences on an airline which is already sinking”.

“Pilots are part of a professional body … we are not a political party,” he said, adding that the PIA strike had turned into a political arena.

Hashmi said Palpa stopped flight operations only when “water cannons, baton charge and marches became part of the protest”.

“It was not possible to continue flight operations at a time when the situation was so charged.”

Read: Passengers stranded for fourth day

The pilots community opposes privatisation because the they think PIA can continue to function if “apt professionals manage it”, Hashmi said.

He said the association has written a letter to director general flight operations with commitment to resume flights on the condition that pilots are provided security.

PIA’s flight operations remain suspended on Saturday, when the country-wide strike entered its fifth consecutive day, with the national flag carrier incurring an estimated loss of over Rs2 billion since the announcement of strike.

Although Minister of State/Chairman Privatisation Com­mission Mohammad Zubair met the Joint Action Committee (JAC) of PIA employees in Karachi on Friday and both sides called the talks “meaningful”, the JAC vowed to continue protest and keep flight operations suspended till a satisfactory agreement was reached with the government.

Privatisation of PIA

The National Assembly on January 21 witnessed the passage of six bills, including one to convert the national flag carrier into a public limited company.

Under the bill, Pakistan International Airlines Corporation (PIAC) is to be converted into a public limited company as Pakistan International Airlines Company Limited (PIACL).

The government plans to split the ailing national flag carrier PIA into two companies and sell the control of its core business to a global airline, but the opposition to the sell-off has been intense.

But representatives of PIA employees announced on Sunday their opposition to the government’s privatisation plan, saying they would continue their strike and bring flight operations to a halt from Tuesday if their demands are not met.