Pakistan's Supreme Court has asked national flag carrier Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) to explain why it is forcing its air hostesses to go on leave or retiring them at 45 because of their age and "dull and poor appearance".
The apex court took notice of the cabin crew's complaint that the corporation subjected them to "derogatory and insulting treatment".
They were being asked to go on forced leave for "biased and absolutely meaningless reasons".
Elucidating, the complainants said the basis of their retirement included "dull and poor appearance, scars on face, gap in the front teeth and the age factor affecting looks".
Deputy Attorney-General Nahida Mehboob Ellahi told Dawn newspaper that 98 women cabin crew members, through a complaint signed by six staff members, had invited the attention of Chief Justice Iftikhar Mohammad Chaudhry to the alleged discriminatory attitude towards them.
The complainants have pleaded before the court to direct the PIA to withdraw the "insulting remarks" as well as the letters of forced retirement and call the women to immediately join their duties.
They also complained that while they were being pushed out of their jobs at 45, in violation of earlier court rulings, the PIA was filling up the vacancies with crew from Japan, Thailand, Kenya, Russia and Greece.
The foreign women are paid $5,000, compared to Rs 15,000-20,000 ($1=Pak Rupees 60 approx) being paid to the Pakistani crew.
A majority of the foreign crew, they alleged, could not communicate in English and were thus unsuitable for the job.