The Society of Air Safety Investigators (SASI) Pakistan has expressed serious concern over the ongoing investigation into the Bhoja Air crash in which 127 people lost their lives.
The investigation being carried out by the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) cannot be impartial as it is responsible for safety of aircraft using the country’s airspace, said Syed Naseem Ahmed, the president of SASI Pakistan on Tuesday.
“Independent experts should be made part of the investigations,” he said. “They don’t necessarily have to be from SASI Pakistan but qualified people with experience in dealing with aircraft crashes.”
SASI Pakistan has recently been established as an NGO to lobby for better safety of the aircraft flying in the country. It has five members who are affiliated with the International Society of Air Safety Investigators.
Ahmed said recent air crashes have worsened Pakistan’s air safety record. “We need to make sure that recommendations made by the investigators are implemented.”
Without naming anyone, he said that no one was qualified in the CAA team investigating the causes of Bhoja Air’s Boeing 737-200 crash.
Ahmed was flanked by about half a dozen families of the passengers who lost their lives.
Criminal charges against Arshad Jalil, the managing director of Bhoja Air, will further complicate matters for the families and won’t assist the investigation, Ahmed said.
Jalil, who also owns a majority stake in the airline, is refusing to come back to Pakistan, fearing arrest as a first information report (FIR) has been registered against him.
SASI Pakistan’s general secretary Air Commodore (retd) Rasheed Ahmed Bhatti said that Boeing officials should not be allowed to examine the evidence.
“Boeing will always try to keep its name away from the crash,” he said. “It is very easy to manipulate the evidence. They should not be made part of the investigation.”
Legal Adviser for SASI Pakistan Dr Abdul Razzaq said families were entitled to a minimum compensation of Rs5 million. “This amount is the no-fault liability, which an airline has to pay in any case,” he said, citing the Carriage by Air Act 2012. The compensation does not come with any strings attach, he said. “Bhoja Air cannot force any family to sign pledges that they won’t sue the airline, aircraft manufacturer or the suppliers for more compensation.”
Unfortunately, he said, Pakistan has yet to set a precedent where a court has awarded anyone compensation according to the worth of the individual as deemed fit by the family.
Published in The Express Tribune, May 30th, 2012.