Islamabad: A video of angry Pakistani airline passengers throwing two lawmakers off a plane for delaying its departure went viral Tuesday, sparking a passionate debate online about the country’s so-called “VIP culture”.
The Monday night Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) flight from Karachi to the capital Islamabad took off almost two hours late, with a government official on Tuesday confirming the delay was partly due to the late arrival of two politicians.
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 hit back — 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.
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In one of the videos, 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.
He said in a statement the flight was delayed for 90 minutes due to technical reasons and it was delayed for another 25 minutes because Malik was late.