Pakistan Air Chairman Resigns as Stake Sale Protests Turn Deadly

TEHRAN (Tasnim) – The chairman of Pakistan’s national carrier stepped down Wednesday in the face of intensifying protests against privatization of the airline that turned deadly on Tuesday.

Pakistan Air Chairman Resigns as Stake Sale Protests Turn Deadly

Nasser Jaffer has resigned, Pakistan International Airlines Corp. spokesman Daniyal Gilani said in a text message on Wednesday. Two employees died on Tuesday during protests in Karachi, prompting the nation’s pilots association to call a strike.

“We have asked all members to boycott" international and domestic flights, Sadiq Rehman, vice president of the pilots’ association, said by phone on Tuesday. “The environment is such that we cannot continue with flights. The decision is indefinite for as long as this issue continues."

The showdown threatens to derail Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s plans to sell a 26 percent stake in the airline to meet conditions of a $6.6 billion International Monetary Fund loan. Progress in unloading stakes in about 40 state-run companies is crucial for Pakistan to convince global investors that it’s serious about overhauling its economy.

Striking employees will be fired and imprisoned for a year while staff who work will be rewarded, Dawn newspaper said on Wednesday, citing Sharif, Bloomberg reported.

The strikes were costing the airline 100 million rupees a day.

Employees protested across major cities in Pakistan on Tuesday, with television images showing hundreds taking part in the Karachi demonstration. Sohail Baluch, a protest leader, said two employees were shot and killed by paramilitary forces. Spokesmen for the police and paramilitary said no shots were fired.

The dead included Inayat Raza, an assistant manager in PIA’s communications department, and Saleem, an engineer who goes by one name, Obaid Ullah, a spokesman for the workers, said by phone. He said that most company employees want government officials to call off the sale.

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