The defence ministry, while informing the Peshawar High Court about the progress of the AirBlue crash case, on Tuesday, said that it has directed the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) to carry out a new investigation.
The ministry of defence informed the court that in compliance with the last hearing of the court, the report will be compiled within 90 days.
A two-member bench, headed by PHC Chief Justice Dost Muhammad Khan, was hearing the case.
The federal government informed the court that a notification was issued for the probe and that within the next 24 hours, the defence ministry will nominate experts for a 10-member committee headed by foreign air crash investigation officers.
The defence ministry informed the court that it had taken Rs30 million in order to issue succession certificates of Rs500,000 each to compensate the heirs of the victims of the crash, adding that a letter was written to the registrars of Sindh High Court and Islamabad High Court to assign a senior civil judge each to issue the certificates within 15 days.
The defence ministry also told the court that it had earlier asked the ministry of finance to release the funds and was told to ask the Maritime Security Agency for it.
During the last hearing of the case, the PHC had termed the investigation ‘incomplete’. The petitioners of the case include former MNA Marvi Memon as well as victims’ families.
“It was directed that an extensive inquiry be carried out by an inquiry team headed by international experts,” Chief Justice Dost Muhammad Khan said, adding that the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) and the government of Pakistan shall have no control over the team that will now reinvestigate the tragedy.
Representatives for the ministries of defence and law appeared before the court. However, the secretaries for both ministries significantly remained absent – despite notices issued to both of them during the last hearing.
The chief justice said the government was asked to pay Rs.0.5 million while the AirBlue administration was to pay Rs5 million per family – the money is yet to be paid, however.
“These people have very little respect for the courts, nobody is working honestly in this country,” the CJ remarked.
“You’ve just come here on a pleasure trip. We can issue arrest warrants,” Justice Khan warned Javed Iqbal, a legal consultant for the law department.
The chief justice also said that the court had directed the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) to get ICAO experts to check all aircraft, since many of the planes in use are outdated and there are reports that they are unsafe. These are yet to be checked.
“This is a matter of grave concern and if any mishap occurs, the government and authorities will be responsible,” Justice Khan remarked.
The petitioners’ counsel informed the court that Pakistan Institute of Medical Science (PIMS) had conducted DNA tests after which all the bodies of the victims had been buried in a single grave. He added that PIMS had referred the petitioners to Kahuta Research Laboratories (KRL) for conducting further tests. The KRL administration, however, asked for a sum of Rs4.5 million to carry out the job.
The PHC summoned the PIMS chief executive for the next hearing and ordered the government and AirBlue administration to bear all the charges for conducting the DNA tests.
Published in The Express Tribune, February 22nd, 2012.