Sajid Baloch works as a construction worker in Dubai and visits his family in Balochistan, once in six months. He used to fly directly from Quetta, his hometown, to Dubai through Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) flights. Life was easy for him back then but not anymore. When he visited his home in April this year, He had to use Karachi Airport for travelling to Dubai because PIA administration had recently closed down Quetta-Dubai flights.
“I work tirelessly to meet the ends of my extended family. I can’t afford extra expenses which now I have to bear when I have to travel to Karachi to board a Dubai bounded flight,” lamented Sajid in a desperate tone.
Sajid Baloch is one among millions of people of Balochistan; who claim to suffer due to incompetence, discrimination and apathy of PIA administration towards people of Balochistan.
The Balochistan Point dug down deep in the matters of PIA in Balochistan and found shocking revelations.
People of Balochistan from Turbat, Zhob, Noshki and Chaman amongst others travel in high numbers to Middle East and other countries due to their businesses and employment. However, it’s shocking to learn that, as of this moment, there is not a single international flight being operated by PIA or any other airline from Balochistan. There are not even direct Umrah flights from Balochistan.
What made the matters worse for passengers of Balochistan is that PIA replaced all its planes in Balochistan with ATR-72 aircrafts. Previously, PIA operated B-737, A-310, A-320 and B-777 planes which carried passengers in huge numbers. Problem with ATR-72 planes is that they can only carry 72 passengers.
As a result, lesser number of people from Balochistan can avail aviation services. Private airlines such as Shaheen Air and Indus Airlines operate only few flights from Quetta city only. Therefore, use of smaller planes by PIA deteriorates quality of life in general in the already impoverished province.
Another issue with ATR-72 planes is that it can’t carry luggage of passengers when temperature is above 35 C. So on a warm day, passengers flying from Quetta would have to fly to Karachi or Lahore without their luggage. They would receive their luggage after several hours as it would be transported by road. Not only passengers have to face delay but their precious luggage can be lost altogether when it’s transported by road.
Health services in Balochistan are in poor state and therefore seriously ill patients are flown to Karachi for treatment. Unfortunately, the use of ATR-72 planes has deprived people of Balochistan of that benefit. Aviation sources told The Balochistan Point that ATR-72 doesn’t have the facility of carrying stretcher patients. Other airlines already don’t provide this facility. So, effectively, PIA administration has deprived patients of Balochistan from the opportunity of receiving early treatment in case of serious illness.
Maqbool Zaheer, a 48 year old trader narrated to The Balochistan Point how flying his ill mother to Karachi saved her life. “She was very ill and doctors in Quetta told me to take her to Karachi for further treatment. I booked a stretcher for her in PIA flight and managed to take her to a hospital in Karachi just on time,” said Mr. Maqbool. “Depriving us from the facility of stretchers in planes is equivalent to Homicide,” lamented Mr. Maqbool.
Balochistan is known for its dry frits and fresh fruits around the world. Traders in Balochistan used PIA flights to send dry fruits and fresh fruits to foreign countries. After introduction of ATR-72, PIA has effectively snatched this opportunity from traders of the province. Now, all the stuff needs to be transported to Karachi by road and then booked from Karachi airport for cargo. This would not only increase transportation costs but perishable fruits would be damaged before reaching Karachi airport.
Lower Reservation Booking Designators (RBDs) are the cheapest tickets within the economy class. These are available in other parts of Pakistan, on the flights of PIA, but not in Balochistan. In Balochistan, passengers only get one price for economy ticket which is the highest. One simply can’t fathom this policy of PIA where the passengers of most backward province are deprived of cheap tickets.
Moreover, PIA is the only airline that covers minor stations of Balochistan such as Zhob, Dalbandin, Gwadar, Panjgur, Turbat, etc. If PIA shuts down these routes almost 1,000 passengers would be affected on daily basis.
A source within PIA told The Balochistan Point on condition of anonymity that, “PIA can shut down the flights from smaller stations of Balochistan just like it close down international flights to Dubai and replaced large planes with ATR-72.” PIA source further added, “Shutting down of smaller stations would be a catastrophe for people of Balochistan and people would strongly protest.”
Just Like passengers, employees of PIA in Balochistan are also facing discrimination at the hands of PIA administration, learnt The Balochistan Point from source privy to the matters.
PIA has over 30 international stations where employees of PIA are posted for period of two to three years. These lucrative postings are considered to be life changing as they have attractive remuneration packages. At the moment there is not a single PIA employee from Balochistan posted in any international Station. According to rules, employees are selected on the basis of seniority but this rule is never followed in case any employee from Balochistan fulfils the criteria.
Furthermore, Gilgit-Baltistan, Like Balochistan, is a remote area where PIA employees don’t prefer to go. As a result, PIA pays extra allowances to employees serving in Gilgit-Baltistan as an incentive to work there. There is no such incentive for PIA employees working in Balochistan. Therefore, PIA employees avoid working in the province and prefer to get them transferred out of Balochistan.
In addition to that, PIA employees from Balochistan are ignored for promotion. Human resource Budget is allowable budget for every department of PIA. This budget is over used in rest of Pakistan but it’s under used in Balochistan. PIA doesn’t leave any stone unturned to treat its employees from Balochistan as children of lesser god.
PIA Training Centers
PIA training centers are located in all major cities of Pakistan including Karachi, Lahore, Peshawar and Islamabad but not in Quetta. These training centers teach courses of aircraft engineering, aircraft technicians, Flight operations and passenger handling. Students of Balochistan have to travel to other cities to study these courses. In this way there living expenses increase and under-privileged people can’t afford this education.
PIA administration based in Karachi and Quetta was not available for comment when contacted by The Balochistan Point.
PIA is the national flag carrier and it has a national duty to serve all the federating units without discrimination. It’s quite clear that PIA administration is treating Balochistan as a less important part of the country which is not acceptable to people of the province.
People of Balochistan urge Prime Minister of Pakistan, Civil Aviation Authority and all the concerned authorities to reprimand the incumbent PIA administration and direct them to sort out all the aforementioned issues.
Published in The Balochistan Point on May 12, 2015