The man who challenged Pakistan’s VIP culture is sacked by his employer

A PIA flight had been held up for 2.5 hours for two politicians.
A PIA flight had been held up for 2.5 hours for two politicians.
Image: Reuters/Mohsin Raza
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The local licensee of FedEx in Pakistan, Gerry’s Group, has terminated the services of Arjumand Hussain, whose activism to evict two politicians from a commercial airline made him a social media hero in the subcontinent.

On 15 September, angry passengers barred two Pakistani politicians from boarding a Pakistan International Airlines flight from Karachi to Islamabad after it became evident that they had held up the flight’s departure by 2.5 hours. A video of the event allegedly filmed by Hussain, who worked as General Manager, FedEx-Gerry’s Group, was posted online and subsequently went viral.

The clip was played on loop by television stations in India and Pakistan, and people across the subcontinent identified with Hussain’s rallying cry from the video: “we have taken this for 68 years and we will take it no more”. People in both countries are all too familiar with traffic jams and flights being held up for ministers and other so-called very important persons, or VIPs.

While the airline had said that the flight was delayed by two hours because of a technical error, the passengers onboard the flight learnt from crew members that the flight was being held for Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) leader Rehman Malik and Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N)’s Ramesh Kumar Wakwani. Both were forced to leave the aircraft before it took off for Islamabad.

Hussian’s troubles started shortly after.

Speaking to Quartz from Karachi, Hussain said he was told on his return from Islamabad after that incident that the company was doing away with his position and he should resign. He worked as vice president for corporate development.

“I don’t have evidence of political interference and obviously no one will come forward and accept it. But they said it was a performance-related issue, which I’m sure is not the case as it was never a problem till that day,” Hussain said. He had been working at the company for a year by then.

The company has issued a clarification on its Facebook page saying the sacking was unrelated to politics. “Recently there has been flood of tweets and comments on Facebook backlashing Gerry’s Group in response to sacking of Mr. Arjumand Hussain, Former General Manager Fedex Gerry’s Group who played protagonist against VIP culture on PIA flight. We feel it is very important that we convey to people the other side of story.” The company says the decision was taken on merit.

Hussain’s supporters are now posting comments on Gerry’s Group’s Facebook post threatening to boycott the company.