PESHAWAR: It was clearly a case where the judiciary wishes it did not have to say to the government: “We told you so.”
At a hearing of various cases on Monday, Peshawar High Court Chief Justice Dost Muhammad Khan expressed his exasperation at the government’s failure to launch an inquiry into the airworthiness of all public and private aircraft in the country’s domestic aviation sector in the aftermath of the AirBlue tragedy two years ago.
“Our orders were defied, but if they had been followed, dozens of innocent lives could have been saved,” said the chief justice, referring to the recent Bhoja Air Flight B4213 crash, which killed 127 people.
It appears that the chief justice was not actually hearing any cases related to either the AirBlue or the Bhoja Air tragedies, but decided to take up the issue with the government’s lawyers on what was the first working day of the court after the most recent crash.
Justice Khan reminded the government that in the aftermath of the AirBlue crash, the Peshawar High Court had ordered the defence ministry to conduct a comprehensive inquiry into the flying capacity of all planes in the domestic aviation sector within 90 days, an order that the government pleaded unconvincingly that it had complied with.
“Not even a single step has so far been taken. What is the government doing?” asked the chief justice. “Those orders were meant to prevent incidents like this [Bhoja Air crash].”
The order had been issued on February 21, 2012, during a hearing of the case in which relatives of the victims of the AirBlue crash were suing the airline for negligence and incompetence. The Peshawar High Court had issued the orders to the Civil Aviation Authority – the highest aviation regulator in the country – and the Ministry of Defence, which is the single largest shareholder in the state-owned Pakistan International Airlines. Both authorities had been ordered to hire international experts to assess the capabilities of all planes in the country.
“The cheapest thing in our country is human life,” said the embittered chief justice.