Karachi: At least three persons were shot dead and 12 others injured on Wednesday during clashes between security forces and staff of Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) protesting at Karachi's international airport against the planned privatisation of the ailing national flag carrier.
The clashes led to the disruption and then suspension of many domestic and international flights around the country's main airports.
The incident took place near the Jinnah International Airport after the joint action committee which represents all unions of PIA gave a complete strike call for Wednesday despite the government enforcing Essential Services Maintenance Act (ESMA) under which all union activities were suspended and employees told to report on duty.
Though two of the protesters died of bullet wounds, Rangers and police denied opening fire at the site.
A third patient succumbed to his wounds later in the night.
Following the deadly clash, PIA Chairman Nasser Jaffer announced that he has resigned from his post.
He expressed grief over the deaths of the PIA employees and lamented at the events which lead to their deaths. "My conscience doesn't allow me to head the organisation anymore," he said. "I have resigned from the post," the PIA chairman told TV channels while in tears.
The PIA chairman said that he has sent his resignation to the Prime Minister. Jaffer said he was resigning since no one was willing to to accept his advice anymore and even the joint action committee did not try to resolve the matter through dialogue.
Kamran Afzal, the Deputy Inspector General (East Zone), has denied that the police backed by paramilitary rangers had opened fire on the protesting employees including women.
"The police fired tear gas shells and used water cannons but no shots were fired. Police officials on duty say gun fire was opened from within the crowd. We are investigating and will find out the truth after examining the two submachine gun shells that were found from the site," he said.
Pakistan on Tuesday enforced ESMA against PIA as the employees of the ailing national carrier announced an indefinite strike following the failure of talks with the government on the proposed privatisation move.
Pakistan Airlines Cabin Crew Association President Nasrullah Khan said that the strike would go ahead as the government has not accepted their four-point agenda.
A heavy contingent of Rangers and police personnel were deployed at the site to prevent protesters from entering the cargo gate and moving onto Jinnah Avenue.
Three people including a member of PIA's engineering department have died in the incident. At least 12 persons were injured, Sohail Baloch, who heads the joint action committee of the PIA employees, said.
Domestic and international flight operations from Karachi, Lahore, Islamabad, Peshawar, Quetta and Multan were disrupted with many flights being cancelled, Baloch claimed.
However, Danish Gillani, spokesman of the PIA told PTI that there were some disruptions in flights schedule but otherwise back up arrangements had been made for undisrupted operation of the flights.