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Plane Slipped from Runway – Slipped from Our Memory: A year on from PIA air crash

Only families of 36 [out of 97 victims] have been paid compensation so far and most of them are the families of the PIA crew who lost their lives in the crash. Others are being offered compensation with certain conditions.

Last year, families of over 90 passengers witnessed a trauma that was to live with them for the rest of their lives. In May 2021, a Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) passenger plane, carrying 99 people on board, crashed in Karachi’s Model Colony near Jinnah International Airport.

A Pakistani couple with their children, who died in the PIA plance crash in Karachi on Friday. Social media photo

The PK 8303 crash occurred just two days before the country observed Eid-ul-Fitr. Later, on June 24, 2020, Aviation Minister Ghulam Sarwar Khan said the initial report of the crash found the pilots and air traffic control to be at fault for not following set procedures.

The President of Bank of Punjab (BOP) Zafar Masud, 50 happens to be one of the two people to survive the devastating crash highlights that not much has changed at national level for avoiding the same situation in future. Another survivor was Mohammad Zubair, 26, an engineer by profession.

Relatives of a victim of the PIA plane crash, mourn over the coffin during the funeral in Karachi on Monday. AFP

While talking to a local newspaper, Masud said, “I believe that we need to bring domestic flight standards at par with international ones and enforce standardized procedures to handle crashes and their aftermath. I believe that the entire ecosystem needs to be reviewed and revamped to ensure better safety and security standards,” he said.

For saving people from such misery in future, Masud has decided to establish a non-profit solely dedicated to work on passenger safety and security.

“The foundation will serve two main functions — firstly, work on raising awareness about passenger safety and their rights within the civil society and secondly, work with policymakers to improve standards and regulations, pushing for legislative change and their implementation, and for better legal assistance and coverage for affectees.”

He said.

Besides working for this cause, Masud had to work on his mental health along with other complications.

Fazal Rahman and his wife Wahida Rahman are seen in this undated photograph. Reuters

“I realized that I have been engulfed with survivor’s guilt. I could not bring myself to meet with the other survivor or the victims’ families. I struggled to attend funerals without thinking that the [families] of the deceased must be wondering why I was given a miracle when their loved ones were not.

“This was a life-changing experience with reinforcement of certain thoughts which were tentative before the crash. I now have reasonable clarity on what’s important in life and what’s not and that is the fundamental outcome of the incident in the last year.”

Said the BOP chief executive officer.

“May 22, 2020, to me was one of the saddest days in our lives and will remain so forever.”

said the 50-year-old.

On the other hand, the young survivor Zubair never had any accident in life, this encounter was his first ever. He came out alive from the Airbus A320 on PIA flight 8303 crashed into the densely populated neighborhood of Model Colony, a couple of km from Karachi airport.

“I only remember a glimpse of light after regaining consciousness following the crash amid thick smoke, fire and distant noise of people shouting and yelling,” recalls Zubair.

“I came out from one of the windows of the crashed plane and found myself on the rooftop of a home. Not fully in my senses, I finally found the stairs. I moved to the stairs and saw a man and a woman of the house running down the staircase. I joined them and finally came out of the street where the plane had crashed.”

Masud and Zubair are the only two good indicators of the incident since there are many who lost their loved ones and await justice from our Pakistan’s paralyzed justice system. Cherry on top is the number of aviation disasters during last decade and Pakistan seems to be on top.

Mohammad Zubair, survivor of the PIA plane crash, with his elder brother (left) and a relative at his home in Karachi. AFP

“Does it sound normal? Absolutely not. There must be a reason for it. Do we have the right to know who’s at fault? This must be stopped and stopped immediately.”

He says referring to facts on international aviation industry.

In the crash, Azmat Yar Khan lost his brother and niece.

“What we have learnt is that only families of 36 [out of 97 victims] have been paid compensation so far and most of them are the families of the PIA crew who lost their lives in the crash. Others are being offered compensation with certain conditions.

“Many of our colleagues here have already rejected the compensation, because it is being offered on the condition that we would not ask for a probe [into the crash]. We would not make noise for impartial inquiry and to make the report public.”

Azmat’s statement is seconded by people like Dr. Mohammad Mohsin Aman, who is a family member of another victim, and Zarka Khalid Chaudhry who lost her father, and then her mother who couldn’t bear the grief.  

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