BY: Zubaria Rehman
It will take a long time for the tragedy to sink in. There were no survivors from the 47 people who were on-board PK-661, which crashed on the way from Chitral to Islamabad. The aircraft crashed in a mountainous area and was already on fire before it hit the ground. The first thought when confronted with a calamity of this magnitude is to mourn all the lives that were lost so unnecessarily. One can barely imagine the grief the loved ones are going through right now. Soon after the crash, heartbreaking stories began pouring in. The two pilots, Saleh Janjua and Ahmed Janjua, were brothers. One of the flight attendants, Asma, had only given birth six months ago. A passenger, Osama Warraich, had given his life to public service and was the deputy commissioner of Chitral. Every person on that flight had a name and we must remember them all and honour their lives. The most instantly recognisable of those names is that of former pop icon Junaid Jamshed, who was on the flight with his wife. Jamshed had been in Chitral to preach and was on his way back home to Karachi via Islamabad. The death of a man whose voice, as a singer and as a naat khawan, was known to millions has left behind immense pain as we recall a man who figured so prominently in our youth. His anthem for the nation, ‘Dil Dil Pakistan’, now lives on after him.
Our grief will have to be accompanied by vigilance. We have to find out the cause of the crash so that no more lives are lost in the future. This is the third major airline crash in Pakistan in the last six years, following the 2010 Air Blue and 2012 Bhoja Air crashes in Islamabad. In both those cases, the Civil Aviation Authority pinned the blame on pilot error but airplane crashes are usually caused by a whole host of mechanical, technical and human errors. The secretary of aviation has said that the crash was caused by engine problems but a more thorough examination will have to be carried out. The CAA will need to examine its own procedures for inspecting all aircraft to ensure they are safe. For now, it has announced an inquiry and appointed a senior Pakistan Air Force official to head it. The aviation sector in the country has been plagued by safety issues and there are frequent reports of aircraft being grounded or suffering technical faults while in the air. There needs to be a root-and-branch investigation into the entire aviation industry, including not just the safety of the aircraft but the performance of air traffic controllers, the work hours of pilots and the spare parts that are purchased for airplanes. This PIA crash has to be the last straw if we are ever to feel safe while flying again.