Minutes before the clock struck 9:40 am on Saturday, tears began trickling down the faces of those whose loved ones perished when the ill-fated Airblue flight to Islamabad, ED 202, crashed two years ago into the Margalla hills. The families had gathered outside Jinnah International airport’s departure lounge to pay tribute to their loved ones on their second death anniversary.
The tribute was organised by the Airblue Crash Affectees Group, who prayed for the victims as a cleric recited verses from the Holy Quran. A poster bearing the names of the victims was pinned on the wall behind them and a small Airblue office in front of them remained closed.
The families had brought flowers and portraits of their loved ones along with them.
The hustle bustle at the airport reminded some of them of the fateful July morning when they came to drop off their loved ones. Others recalled arriving later to depart for the capital to collect the bodies.
While talking to The Express Tribune, the families said that they are not satisfied with the investigation report released in April by the Civil Aviation Authority. Junaid Hamid, whose wife was a victim, said that there were loopholes in the report, which does not clearly depict what had happened. “We are still in the dark about what happened. We want a proper and correct report.” He added that 40 per cent families have yet to receive monetary compensation promised by Airblue. “The authorities blamed the Bhoja air crash on bad weather and the Airblue one on a pilot error. There have been 60 aviation mishaps in the country’s history, but the CAA has never made any of the reports public.”
The families said that they don’t want more crashes happening in the future. Haris Lodhi, who lost his mother in the incident, said that the group is trying to make air travel safer. He said that when he was dropping his mother off at the airport, she was extremely uneasy about flying. “Ammi promised that she would return in two days. I brought her body back after two days,” he said.
Murtaza Naqvi, whose daughter Rabab died in the crash, said that the most painful moment for him was when he found out there were no survivors. “Immediately after the crash, there were reports that some people had survived. We kept praying, wishing that one of them would be Rabab. I can’t explain what we went through when we found out that everybody had perished.”
Naqvi said that Rabab excelled at everything and was a member of the youth parliament. “She aspired to be a politician and bring change.” Rabab was pursuing a distance-learning degree in economics and finance.
Zarka Iftikhar had brought a wedding picture of her eldest child, Rumaisa, who was amongst the three newly-wed couples who were travelling on the ill-fated flight to Islamabad for a honeymoon. Rumaisa had gotten married to Owais on July 25, just three days before the crash. Their bodies were never found. Zarka said that her daughter loved weddings and arranged a perfect one for herself. “Rumaisa would attend every wedding, go to the stage and see the bride,” she said. “I really wish I had come to drop her at the airport and had one last glance,” added Zarka, as her voice quivered.
Rumaisa’s death devastated her family – her younger siblings no longer travel by air. “Families celebrate wedding anniversaries, but on Rumaisa’s, we were mourning her death,” said Zarka.
Published in The Express Tribune, July 29th, 2012.