The most worrying aspect of this ruckus is that this ‘protest culture’ has affected thousands of passengers
When the country’s prime minister is forced to step in to resolve a dispute, you know that things have gone too far. His latest intervention comes after PIA and the Pakistan Airline Pilots’ Association (Palpa) were unable to reach an agreement following the latter adopting a ‘go-slow’ strategy leading to several flights being cancelled. The problem here did not arise overnight. If one analyses the press conference held by the Palpa president last month, it is clear that a protest was already in the making. The demands were clear. Palpa wanted Shujaat Azeem, special assistant to the prime minister on aviation, to accede to its demands, including replacing the director of flight operations, implementing a revised working agreement and reinstating grounded pilots among others. Increase in salaries, and withdrawal of inquiries and notices served to pilots were also on the agenda. On his part, Mr Azeem said that pilots were being compensated adequately, citing tax exemptions. Palpa is a smart and strong body. It has chosen, for itself, the perfect time to cause delays — when Hajj flights are scheduled to bring pilgrims back to the country. It is even ostensibly going by the book as pilots are calling in sick. Legally, the PIA management can’t do much, except bring Palpa to the negotiating table.
The most worrying aspect of this ruckus is that this ‘protest culture’ has affected thousands of passengers. When flight delays start inconveniencing ordinary citizens on a regular basis, it is clear that there is too much power vested among a select few. In its defence, Palpa would say that the PIA management only comes to the table when faced with such dramatic actions. The government has already shown its protest-phobia and caves in, more often than not, when faced with wide-scale demonstrations. What Palpa is doing suits its cause and it might even get its way. But this sort of unprofessionalism and incompetence eventually harms ordinary citizens — not only leading them to miss important engagements but also forcing them to pay the higher fares of other airlines taking advantage of the current impasse. This is the last thing the government needs when it is looking to attract tourists, investors and foreign exchange. PIA is already losing money rapidly, and it will continue to bleed if these shenanigans go on.
Published in The Express Tribune, October 7th, 2015.
Like Opinion & Editorial on Facebook, follow @ETOpEd on Twitter to receive all updates on all our daily pieces.