Waiting for answers – Kamila Hyat


Those who died in the PIA crash a day before Eid included students, hoping to meet their parents in the arrivals hall, they were journalists who planned to continue work in the future, they were civil servants, businessmen, entire families. They and their families are all victims.

The persons who died or were critically injured under the rubble of the houses which fell in Model Colony as the plane crashed into them have barely received a mention. We know very little about them. Even the number of those who died has not been authoritatively defined. These victims include children, teenage housemaids working in the residences that collapsed and others.

Of course, there has been immense media and informal speculation on the reasons for the crash of the Airbus 320 carrying these persons to Karachi. It is too early to say. The fact that the inquiry commission or Safety Inquiry Board set up to look into the reasons for the crash is dominated by air force personnel is somewhat disturbing.

This has already been pointed out by the pilots’ association PALPA. They have also said it is strange that no pilot, serving or retired, has been included in the investigation nor any member from the control tower team which handled the flight as it came in to attempt what proved to be a devastating landing attempt. The recordings going viral on social media which the PIA spokesman on a television show has said are authentic suggests that the pilot had said he had lost both engines. But experienced PIA pilots say even in such circumstances, a landing could have been possible.

It is worth remembering that in 2007, the 27-bloc European Union banned PIA flights from all its airports until 2014 on the basis of its poor safety record, and according to some media reports at the time, findings that equipment inside some aircraft had been held up by using tape to secure it in place. Any passenger who has traveled abroad PIA will testify to collapsing seats, malfunctioning seatbelts or other problems which seem minor.

We wish simply to know the truth. As PALPA has said, inquiries from the past have still to be made public. This is true of the inquiry into the 2016 crash near the town of Havelian, carrying 47 people from Chitral to Islamabad. The same is true of other crashes in our history in which hundreds of people died, such as the Bhoja flight near Islamabad in 2012 or Air Blue flight 202 which crashed into the Margalla Hills. There have also been stories about flight crew forced to fly for longer than the set safety period and manage multiple flights during a 24-hour period of time without the requisite hours of rest. A tired pilot will always be more likely to make a mistake just as is the case in virtually any field. That it why most quality airlines try hard to make sure their pilots follow the set safety guidelines of the International Air Transport Association, although some are accused of not giving the same consideration to flight attendants.

We must hope that the report will come out, that it will be authentic, that it will be public and that it will include all stakeholders. If this is not the case, the crash of PK8303 will go down in history as yet another mystery with no solution and no answers to the issue of why it crashed, or why tall buildings were permitted to be built in the area immediately surrounding the airport – a factor some hold responsible for the disaster.

The writer is a freelance columnist and former newspaper editor.

Email: kamilahyat@hotmail.com