Pakistan airline strike enters 2nd day, grounding flights


Airline suffers $4-million loss due to ongoing strike held to protest planned privatization

By Aamir Latif

KARACHI, Pakistan – Over 100 domestic and international flights have been cancelled after employees of Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) remained on strike for the second day in a row on Wednesday to protest the national carrier’s planned partial privatization.

Chanting anti-government slogans, thousands of PIA employees — already enraged over the killing one day earlier of two protesters, allegedly by police — staged sit-in protests outside the nation’s airports Wednesday, including those in Karachi, Lahore and capital Islamabad.

Cargo operations, too, remained suspended, with handling staff and pilots refusing to operate scheduled flights.

According to a PIA spokesman, the airline has already suffered a loss of some 400 million Pakistani rupees (roughly $4 million) as a result of the two-day strike.

Employees say they will remain on strike until the government shelves plans to sell a 26-percent stake in the loss-making airline to private investors.

Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, however, has refused to back down, warning strikers of “strict actions” if they maintain the labor action.