Twelve PIA employees in India await justice
By Iftikhar Gilani
NEW DELHI: Will Pakistan International Airlines’ (PIA’s) new chairman Tariq Kirmani do justice and pay off Rs 5.5 million to its 12 employees, all Indian Muslims, who were abruptly sacked in January 2002 following India snapping communication links with Pakistan after a terrorist attack on Indian parliament on December 13, 2001?
It is not a big sum for PIA considering that the same employees taken back as new ones last year with no linkage to their association, earned the airlines Rs 380 million in just one year.
The employees had secured a stay order from a Delhi court against their termination but the then manager of Delhi operations Arshad Raja, went ahead with the dismissals and left for Pakistan. Since then they are approaching President Pervez Musharraf and other politicians and officials visiting Delhi but to no avail.
“Since we were Muslims and that too working for a Pakistani company, every company and institution in Delhi shut their doors on us,” said Sajid, the general secretary of the PIA Employees Association in Delhi, who has been working with the PIA office for 30 years.
Last year, PIA offered them re-employment when the air links were resumed between the two countries. It was, however, conditional. Their seniority was ignored and fresh appointment letters were issued. “We were asked to forget about our past association with the airlines and start working afresh,” Sajid said. They were approached only because they had the experience of running the PIA office but their experience was ignored because PIA did not want to acknowledge their arrears.
This Delhi office with just 12-member staff gave Rs 380 million revenue to PIA last year. “We worked in the night shifts and didn’t claim overtime charges. But PIA authorities are not paying us Rs 5.5 million as our salary arrears from January 2002 to December 2004, which is just 1.44 percent of last year’s revenue,” said an employee who was reduced to penury during this period. On the other hand, the airlines spent more than Rs 20 million on the renovation of its office.
The PIA employees are angry over their former chairman Ahmed Saeed and Mr Raja, saying that they complicated the matter.
Saeed did not acknowledge any of their letters, even though the matter was personally and officially taken up by the former Pakistan high commissioner Ashraf Jehangir Qazi with PIA.
Indian Petroleum Minister Mani Shankar Iyer, while in opposition, had also taken up their cause and used his contacts with the Pakistani politicians. He wrote to PIA on August 26, 2003, but did not get a reply. The Left leaders led by Harkishan Singh Surjeet had also told President Musharraf about the PIA employees’ problems.
From President Musharraf to Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz, these employees have presented memorandums to Punjab Chief Minister Chaudhry Pervez Elahi, Maulana Fazlur Rehman, Senator Muhammadmian Soomro and Labour Minister Muhammad Adil Sidiqqui, to name but a few.