LAHORE - Union leaders say there is no difference between privatisation of the PIA and the strategic partner being looked for by the finance minister to improve the health of the national flag carrier and they will lock airline head office today to protest privatisation.

“We had postponed our protests few days back for two weeks after meeting the prime minister who assured us that there will be no privatization,” said Nasrullah Khan, president of Pakistan Airlines Cabin Crew Association. But Aviation Division officers have violated the agreement and issued misleading declaration of the meeting, which said that union leaders had agreed to privatisation of the airline.

“We met the prime minister on one point agenda and that was to withdraw presidential ordinance on which PM formed a five-member committee which was supposed to present its report after two weeks,” he added. Nassrullah said that on Monday a meeting of board of directors was scheduled to be held in airline head office and it was integral part of the policy after declaring airline as PIACL.

No meeting was allowed yesterday and it will not be allowed on Tuesday (today) as well, charged leader pledged.

“At start we will not bother the passengers keeping the protest in low profile but the same will be aggressive if government did not pay heed towards our demands,” another union leader pledged.

A pilot said, “What sort of strategic partnership will it be wherein 26 percent of the shares will be sold to private partner, he will take over the administrative control but will not sack any employee”.

He further said, “One who will invest, will take decisions at his own. He will not operate the airline on routes like Northern and coastal areas which are not profitable and government is paying subsidy on these routes.”

An engineer said that Finance Minister Ishaq Dar was not speaking truth regarding privatisation of airline.

Earlier, unions had planned to lay siege to airports throughout Pakistan and ground all flights to protest government plans to sell 26 percent stake in PIA and transfer the carrier to private management. Though after the PM’s assurance they postponed their protest but violation made by the Aviation Division gave them reason to resume their protest.

President People’s Unity Sajid Gujjar said, “We have not received any instructions so far from our central leadership regarding protest on Tuesday (today)”. Amir Hashmi of the Pakistan Airline Pilots Association (PALPA) said, “We are following Joint Action Committee (JACPIA) and its decision regarding protest against privatisation will also be accepted”.

A meeting of JACPIA was scheduled to be held at Karachi airport last late night in which decision regarding suspension of operation was expected to be taken. Chairman PIA Nasir Jaffer said that he would resign if he was not allowed Tuesday (today) to hold meeting at airline head office.