I’ll be home to welcome you, victim’s last words to wife

I’ll be home to welcome you, victim’s last words to wife

GILGIT: By the time you are done with your exams, I’ll be back home to welcome you, Nisaruddin told his wife over phone, just before his plane took off from Chitral airport on Wednesday.

But he wasn’t able to welcome her.

Nisaruddin, 35, had no way to know that this would be the last time he would speak to his wife of two years.

Nisaruddin was one of the passengers on PK-661 – the Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) flight from Chitral to Islamabad that crashed into a hillside after one of its engines failed.

A banker by trade, Nisaruddin was a native of Oshikhandas in Gilgit and was on a work visit to Chitral, where he spent a couple of days.

Hoping to see her husband, his wife returned home early from college, where she was sitting an exam. Waiting, she turned on the TV and felt her heart drop.

“The Islamabad-bound plane has crashed and casualties are feared,” a TV channel flashed.

She screamed in panic and rushed to her neighbours downstairs, where her husband’s relatives had also arrived after hearing the news.

Nisaruddin got married in October 2014 and had two children. Being the eldest brother, he was also the bread earner for his seven-member family. He had two brothers and three sisters.

“We can’t believe what happened,” Faisal Ali, his brother in law, said on Thursday. “It’s like we lost everything in the world,” Ali told The Express Tribune.

Before speaking to his wife from the plane on that unfortunate day, Nisaruddin first spoke to his older son – two-year-old Uraibuddin, and promised to get him his favorite chocolate bar once he was back home.

“I can’t believe he is gone. He was one of my best buddies,” said Sher Ghazi, one of his friends. “I’ll never forget the times we spent together,” Ghazi said.

He explained that Nisaruddin was always humble and down to earth – a man who would always be ready to help others.

Family members said that Nisaruddin was based at a bank in Islamabad, but would always come to visit his father and mother back home in their village when he got the time. DNA testing is underway in Islamabad to identify his remains. His wife and children are already back in the village so that arrangements can be made for his funeral.

Published in The Express Tribune, December 9th, 2016.

PK-661 crash: PM vows to ‘bring out the truth’

PK-661 crash: PM vows to ‘bring out the truth’

ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif on Thursday ordered an in-depth, independent and transparent inquiry into the tragic crash of PIA flight PK-661 a day earlier, which resulted in the deaths of all 48 people on board.

“An inquiry by the Safety Investigation Board (SIB) should be completed at the earliest. It is imperative to bring out the truth and share it with the people in the shortest possible time,” he said while chairing a meeting over the unfortunate air accident near Havelian in Abbottabad district.

Safety Investigation Board to do first independent inquiry

The prime minister directed a senior Pakistan Air Force officer to be made part of the inquiry committee looking into the PK661 crash. However, the official handout issued by the Prime Minister House following the meeting did not specify a timeframe for the inquiry.

During the meeting, the PIA chairman, aviation secretary and Civil Aviation Authority director general informed Premier Nawaz that the flight crew, particularly the pilots, of PK661 were highly experienced and professional. “The deceased flight captain had more than 10,000 flying hours to his credit,” the handout quoted them as telling the prime minister.

They also told the premier that the ATR aircraft which crashed had undergone routine maintenance and safety checks and had been declared airworthy in all respects. The plane had been last inspected for faults in November and before that in July, they said.

Prime Minister Nawaz was also briefed about recovery operations and told that the remains of all the deceased had been shifted to Islamabad for identification through DNA analysis – a process which could take up to a week, the officials said. The premier in turn directed them to complete the process as early as possible.

Only five out 35 bodies could be identified through fingerprints and other evidence obtained from the wreckage, the National Database and Registration Authority (NADRA) said in a report submitted to Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan. The report added that the remaining bodies could not be identified through biometric means because they had been charred badly in the crash.

Authorities, meanwhile, handed over the bodies of eight PK661 crash victims to their heirs, moving the remains of the other 39 deceased to a private cold storage unit until their identities are ascertained through DNA profiling.

The remains of the crash victims were transported from Abbottabad to the Pakistan Institute of Medical Sciences (Pims) in Islamabad by helicopters earlier in the day.

Among the remains handed over to heirs after identification was the body of Chitral deputy commissioner (DC) Osama Ahmad Warraich. However, the remains of the most high-profile victim of the crash – singer-turned-evangelist Junaid Jamshed – and of his wife could not be identified as yet.

Beset with grief, close relatives of the victims of Wednesday’s tragic crash started coming to the hospital to give samples for DNA verification. “About 26 close relatives submitted blood samples on Thursday,” said Pims administrator Dr Altaf Hussain. Only siblings, children or parents of the victims can provide samples for the process.

PIA announces Rs0.5 million compensation for PK-661 crash victims

Glum, but composed, the relatives of the victims were gathered all day at the information desk set up by the PIA and Pims administration. Some constantly took rounds of the Maternal and Child Health (MCH) centre situated at the opposite corner of the hospital where the remains of the victims were placed for identification. The long wait in the start of identification also frustrated the family members by the evening.

“We have been here since morning, but the identification process has not even started yet,” complained Rehmat Ali, a colleague of one of the victims. “At least the relatives should be allowed to see the bodies, but there is no one here to guide them.”

Some others complained about the handling of bodies during the recovery operation. “Haphazard and careless collection of the victims remains have made identification even more cumbersome,” complained Maqsood Shehzada, a relative of another victim.

During his meeting with aviation officials, Prime Minister Nawaz directed the PIA administration to reach out to the grieving families of the crash victims and to facilitate them in every way to lessen their burden. The premier also called Junaid Jamshed’s son Taimoor and the father of Osama Warraich to condole them on the deaths of the former singer and the Chitral DC, respectively.

Published in The Express Tribune, December 9th, 2016.

Defies common sense that pilots will fly aircraft with defects: PIA

Defies common sense that pilots will fly aircraft with defects: PIA

Pakistan International Airlines on Friday slammed media reports suggesting the ATR-42 aircraft which crashed in Abbottabad was faulty and not airworthy.

“Media reports suggesting that there was some known defect in the aircraft before its last flight are also totally baseless. It defies common sense that pilots and engineers would fly an aircraft that does not meet safety standards, and risk their own lives,” PIA spokesperson Danyal Gilani said.

As questions arise regarding the airworthiness of ATR-42, the airline’s spokesperson said, “ATR is perfectly safe for flying and is useful and economical on short haul flights in both hot and cold weather conditions.”

Several of these aircraft are being operated by airlines in India and Europe, he added.

Engine trouble is initially believed responsible for Wednesday’s deadly plane crash, but many questions remain, including about the airworthiness of the ATR-42 aircraft, stirring new worries about the safety record of the ailing national carrier Pakistan International Airlines.

The plane was en route to Islamabad from Chitral when one of its two turboprop engines failed shortly after take-off, causing it to crash into the mountains of Batolni village of Havelian — 32 nautical miles from Benazir Bhutto International Airport, killing all on board.