ISLAMABAD: Angry Pakistani airline passengers have forced two lawmakers off a plane for delaying its departure by almost two hours, sparking a passionate debate about the country’s so-called ‘VIP culture’ after footage was posted online.
The Monday night Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) flight from Karachi to the capital Islamabad was delayed by a technical fault for 90 minutes, and by a further 25 minutes as it waited for two politicians including the former interior minister to arrive, a government official said.
Senior government and military figures in Pakistan enjoy a host of lavish privileges, from plots of land to heavy police escorts that disrupt traffic. They are often able to keep flights that are ready to depart waiting on the tarmac for their arrival.
But irate passengers on the PIA plane decided to take matters into their own hands this time — aiming a string of invective toward Ramesh Kumar Vankwani, a minority Hindu member of the ruling PML-N party, and later at the country’s former interior minister Rehman Malik.
In one of the videos (http://goo.gl/Y7tVqX), apparently shot on mobile phone, the passengers can be seen waiting at the door of the plane for Malik.
As he walks down the jetway, a man shouts: “Malik saheb (Sir) you should go back. You should apologise to these passengers. You should be ashamed of yourself!
“150 passengers have been put out because of you.”
Another man can be heard saying: “We’ve taken it for 68 years. Are we going to take it another 68?” referring to the country’s age.
The embarrassed politician later turned back. Vankwani left the flight after passengers threatened to beat him with shoes.
Many Pakistanis on Twitter hailed the event as a rare example of ordinary people standing up to the powerful — with some connecting it to the protest movement against government corruption led by opposition leader Imran Khan.
“What a delight to watch the video. Atlast someone stood up & everyone joined. Salute to all those who raised there voice #NotoVipCulture” tweeted user Frasat Mahmood.
Others criticised the abusive language and threats of violence.
Shujaat Azeem, an aide to Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, said two airport officials were being suspended over the incident.
Malik, however, said on Twitter he had not been late and blamed the other politician.
“Why am I being linked with PMLN minister.i saw the noise with the minister and decided not to go on the flight,” he said.