ISLAMABAD: A year and a half after the tragic AirBlue plane crash, the public will finally learn why the disaster happened.
Defence Minister Chaudhry Ahmad Mukhtar exclusively told The Express Tribune that the investigation report of the deadliest air accident in Pakistan’s history will be released on December 15. According to Mukhtar, the captain of the plane, Pervez Iqbal Chaudhry, has been held responsible for the crash. “It was a pilot error, you will see yourself in the report,” the minister said.
AirBlue flight ED-202 crashed in the Margalla Hills, north of Islamabad, on July 28, 2010, killing all 146 passengers and 6 crew members on board.
The minister said a transcript of communication between Pervez and the first officer Muntajib Ahmad, who was a former Pakistan Air Force pilot, will be issued with the report. It shows that the two men disagreed over landing the plane.
On the day of the crash, Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani promised the nation that the cause of the accident would be found out. The PM asked the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) to investigate.
According to Mukhtar, the report was completed by the CAA team and handed over to the defence ministry, which in turn submitted it to Gilani. The PM then sent it to the manufacturer for their comments.
When asked about the delay in publication, the minister said the course of law was being followed. Following the investigation, the manufacturer submits its comments within 60 days; the PM can make the report public only after this process is complete. Mukhtar added that the manufacturer has returned the report.
Familes of those who lost their lives in the crash have been eagerly waiting the report’s findings. With the support of a few victims’ family members, former parliamentarian Marvi Memon had moved the Peshawar High Court to ground all AirBlue flights until the government made the report public. That court conducted several hearings, but the government successfully held them off and delayed publicising the report.
Ultimately, PHC’s chief justice Ijaz Afzal Khan on November 16 warned the government of serious consequences if the report was not submitted in court by December 20. Following his firm line, Justice Khan was promoted to the Supreme Court.
Junaid Hamid, who lost his wife in the crash and convened the AirBlue Crash Affectees Group, was of the view that it is the fundamental right guaranteed under article 19,A of the constitution that victim’s families know the cause of the accident.
Hamid said the Sindh High Court had also ordered the government in November last year to make the report public, but its order was never implemented. He said he had high expectations from the new chief justice of PHC, Justice Dost Muhammad Khan, a man with a reputation for following through on court orders.
Hamid termed the defence minister’s announcement a political gimmick. He said the government wants to take credit for making the report public before December 20, rather than issuing it due to the PHC’s new chief justice’s order.
Published in The Express Tribune, November 28th, 2011.