Offloading politicians may have proven costly for one of the mutiny leaders of PIA flight 370.
Arjumand Hussain, one of the men who rebelled against the abuse of VIP privileges aboard Pakistan International Airlines Flight 370, has been laid off—allegedly due to his “failure to meet expectations.”
Hussain had been employed as a general manager at Gerry’s Group, a logistics company that claims to be Pakistan’s largest aviation and travel services company. He told Newsweek that the company’s management had summoned him on the morning of Sept. 29 and informed him that his position had been dissolved and he should submit a resignation. When he refused, he was sacked.
Amid speculation that the dismissal was politically motivated, Gerry’s Group posted “the other side of the story” on its Facebook page. The short statement claimed the decision was “purely based on merit.” The post has since been removed and replaced with an amended statement, which states that the dismissal was not motivated by “any political pressures nor it has anything to do with video recording of VIP travel.”
The new statement claims Hussain was a “new employee” whose performance was reviewed before the company decided not to confirm his appointment. The statement also claims that Hussain has attempted to “politicize the matter to his advantage” without due cause. “This review of his performance was conveyed to him long before the incidence of PIA VIP offloading,” it states, adding that the company condemns “VIP culture in all its manifestations.” A Gerry’s representative refused to comment when contacted by Newsweek.
Cellphone videos of the anti-VIP mutiny on PIA’s Karachi to Islamabad flight on Sept. 15 have been widely viewed across the world, inspiring an anti-VIP movement in India as well as Pakistan. According to a government statement, the flight was initially delayed due to a technical fault, and then incurred an additional 25-minute delay due to the late arrival of Sen. Rehman Malik, Pakistan’s former interior minister. Dr. Ramesh Kumar Vankwani, a leader of the ruling Pakistan Muslim League (Nawaz) was also tardy and like Malik, was forced to disembark the plane.
Malik had initially accused the angry passengers of being alternately inebriated or part of a conspiracy instigated by the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf, which is currently staging an anti-government movement across Pakistan. He had also claimed he was not responsible for delaying the flight. On Sept. 29, after news of Hussain’s dismissal went viral on social media, Malik tweeted again: “I am upset to know that Mr. Arjumand Hussain has been fired by his employer. I strongly protest and appeal to his employer to restore him.”
Dr. Vankwani, who had initially demanded the passengers publicly apologize to him for forcing him to disembark, said the dismissal was likely the result of Hussain’s actions at work. “I didn’t even know where Hussain worked,” he told Newsweek. “The way the media presented him as a hero might have gone to his head. He might have used the same language as he used against me in his office,” he added. “How can the government influence a private company? If anything, PIA should take action against him. He almost hijacked the plane, broke regulations,” he said.
There was widespread support for Hussain’s rebellion, bringing the country’s disdain for the undue privilege accorded to VIPs in Pakistan to the fore. When rumors of his firing surfaced on social media site Twitter, many users protested using the hashtag #ShameOnGerrysGroup. Many users on social media also proposed a mass boycott movement.
The day of his dismissal, Hussain appeared on the ARY channel in a show hosted by Mubasher Lucman. The anchor told Hussain he would personal speak to Gerry’s management about the issue and concluded his show by claiming he had already received job offers for Hussain.
Hussain has previously worked in the hospitality sector in Pakistan, Saudi Arabia and the United States and has appeared on a golf program on PTV. “I don’t know what has happened to freedom of speech in this country,” he told Newsweek when asked about his dismissal. “I was a passenger when I made the video, not a Gerry’s employee.”