ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif today extended the Essential Services Maintenance Act 1952 to Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) for six months.

 According to a statement from the PM’s Office, the Prime Minister approved the summary of the Aviation Division.

 Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif on Monday enforced the Essential Services (Maintenance) Act 1952 for six months, barring protesting members of the Pakistan International Airlines from participating in any union activity.

 "Any person found guilty of an offence under this Act shall be punishable with imprisonment for a term which may extend to one year and shall also be liable to a fine," the services Act reads.

 The law essentially restricts union activity in state-administered sectors, including railways, postal services, telephone and affiliated services, and airports and seaports.

 The Aviation Division had sent a summary to the Prime Minister which was approved Monday.

 Information Minister Pervaiz Rashid, talking to reporters after the enforcement of the Act, made clear that strict action will be taken against protesting employees.

 “Let me make clear that those who continue the strike will be treated as enemies of PIA and Pakistan and they will end up losing their jobs.”

 Responding to a question, the Information Minister said flight operations will not be halted from tomorrow, adding that the government had made alternate arrangements of pilots and engineering staff to ensure that operations continue smoothly.

 He said that Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif had made clear that no PIA employee will be laid off during privatisation, reiterating that the government will not tolerate strikes.

 Employees of the national carrier have threatened to go on strike from Tuesday (February 2) because of what they called the government’s refusal to accept their main demand of calling off the organisation’s privatisation plan.

 Minutes after the federal government placed PIA under the Essential Services Maintenance Act , employees of the national airline announced shutting down operations from Tuesday evening.

 “It is unbelievable that the government promulgated the Essential Services Act despite our protest,” Sohail Baloch, head of Joint Action Committee,” told media persons at PIA headquarters in Karachi.

 “Rest assured we will not fly from tomorrow. There is no way we are going to let the government privatize the PIA,” he said. “Our sit-in will continue as per schedule. However, we are open to talks,” he added. “We are also ready if government wants to use force.”

 According to the new act, all PIA unions stand dissolved with immediate effect. Employees of Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) are staging a ‘token protest’.

 The PIA employees kept the administration offices closed against a bill that recently sailed through the National Assembly, converting the airlines into a public limited company.

 On January 29, the government had announced to halt the process of finding a strategic partner for the airlines, urging the PIA employees to call off their strike.

 The government had also assured that rights of PIA employees would be protected and their perks and privileges, salaries, and gratuity would never be affected in the new revival plan for the national flag carrier.