2 shot dead, several injured in clashes during protests at Karachi Airport

People carry a man who was injured during an anti-government protest in Karachi, Pakistan, Feb 02 2016.
People carry a man who was injured during an anti-government protest in Karachi, Pakistan, Feb 02 2016. PHOTO: EPA

KARACHI (AFP) - A Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) employee was one of the two protesters shot dead on Tuesday (Feb 2) and several more were wounded after clashes broke out between law enforcement agencies and workers protesting the planned privatisation of the national carrier, hospital officials said.

Police and paramilitary rangers deployed tear gas and water cannon on the protesters after they blocked the main entrance to Karachi's Jinnah International Airport around midday.

Dr Seemi Jamali, a spokesman for the government-run Jinnah Postgraduate Medical Center, told AFP the hospital had received a total of 10 wounded, one of whom later died.

"Four people with gunshot wounds were brought to the hospital, one succumbed to his injuries while the other three are in stable condition," she said. Six others, among them journalists who had been covering the protest, were treated for other injuries.

Another employee, who had also been shot, was taken to the private Aga Khan University Hospital, where he was pronounced dead on arrival.

"The PIA employee was brought dead to our emergency department and our team attempted to revive him for 20 minutes," a spokesman of the hospital told AFP, identifying the deceased as Inayat Raza.

Mr Nadeem Jaffer, a colleague and friend of Mr Raza, confirmed his death at the hospital.

Both law enforcement agencies denied they had opened fire on protesters.

Mr Kamran Fazal, the police chief of the city's eastern district said: "The situation escalated when a couple of gunshots were fired. My officers told me that they might be fired from the crowd.

"We are searching for the empty shells and only then can we establish who opened fire."

The PIA employees' union had announced a day earlier its plans to shut down the airline's flights after weeks of token strikes against government proposals to complete the partial sale of the carrier by July.

The move follows years of crushing losses and mismanagement that have battered the airline's reputation.

PIA, one of the world's leading airlines until the 1970s, now suffers from frequent cancellations and delays and has been involved in numerous controversies over the years, including the jailing of a drunk pilot in Britain in 2013.