PIA – Perhaps I will Arrive!

A man mourns for a relative who died in the PIA plane crash in Karachi on May 22, 2020.–File photo

It is easy to offer ceremonious condolences to those who suffer a great misfortune but quite hard to stand by and assist them with a touch of empathy when they find themselves neck-deep in trouble. Whenever there occurs an incident or a gruesome accident takes place, emotions are keyed up like foaming of boiling milk but they subside in the blink of an eye, as if nothing has happened. We witnessed the same whimsical human approach one year ago on May 22 when PK-8303, an ill-fated Pakistan International Airline’s domestic flight crashed into a residential area, while making an abortive attempt to land at the Karachi airport without deploying the landing gear. It resulted in a catastrophic crash which claimed the lives of 97 of the 99 passengers and crew members on board and a passerby girl on the ground. The country plunged into deep sorrow. The fact that the accident occurred just two days before Eidul Fitr and people were already grappling with the pandemic made it all the more tragic.

The news of the aircraft crash resulted in an outburst of mixed feelings and reactions from far and wide. At that time TV, social media, Tweeter and all social media websites were flooded with sentiments of shock, sorrow and anguish. The mainstream media flashed ‘breaking news’, newspapers published editorials, celebrities and influencers sent sentimental messages… in a matter of one month or so, the welter of emotions subsided.

Now few seem interested in the follow-up of the investigation report and the memory of that horrible crash seems to fade into oblivion. Only the affected people remember their dear ones and suffer the most. A big question mark hovers over the minds of the victims’ traumatized families that why the investigation is still inconclusive? On May 12 last, the affected people staged a protest in front of the Karachi Press Club. They lamented the insensitive and lackadaisical approach of the authorities in the matter of public concern and condemned the official silence. They expect that the government, the PIA authorities, CAA or any other forum ensure investigation and disbursement of insurance money promised to the people. In the initial investigation report, it was stated that the crash was the consequence of the negligence and incompetence of both CAA and PIA.

Ever since the accident, the families of the victims are trying their best to get justice only to find themselves entangled in more hurdles. They are facing one impediment after another. They seek answers to several questions as to why the government is showing indifference in this matter of serious import. What measures have been taken to improve the safety of passengers? How can occurrences of such incidents be prevented if there is no punishment for criminal negligence and carelessness. They are not satisfied with the legal procedure. No action has been taken against any of those held responsible for the tragedy in the inquiry. The wrongdoers are enjoying impunity whereas the families of victims are suffering the most.

The affected ones also demand insurance money which is their right and, according to reports, only 36 of the families have been given money. The hapless ones also accuse the authorities of coercing them to sign an indemnity agreement which would absolve the PIA and CAA of all liabilities.

The families of victims need the help and support of the media and the masses who were agonized and anguished a year ago. The PTI government should devise ways to ameliorate passengers’ safety at the national level. Such incidents panic people who, in turn, show skeptical attitude towards air travelling and rightly so. According to the international standard, the whole department of aviation should have undergone several permutations, the overall condition of aircraft and flight standards need to be revamped as are the procedures to handle calamities. In such devastating incidents, traumatized families of victims face many problems. They need financial support, psychiatric counselling and moral assistance.

An analyst comments: “Notwithstanding its tall claims, the government has failed to remedy the ills afflicting the PIA. One year after the tragic airline crash in Karachi, questions abound — how many of the heirs of those who lost their lives have been compensated and under what conditions, has the mechanism to ensure airworthiness of the fleet been improved and many other questions need to be answered.” PIA, he says, is no more than a microcosm of the country and it hardly seems to take off any time soon.

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