At around 7pm on Saturday Omar Farooq Bhoja didn’t know that news of him being taken into custody was making the rounds on television channels.
“What? Have I been taken into custody? Who said that?” he said speaking to The Express Tribune. When told about the news tickers, he paused for a while and then said: “Bas! Allah malik hay.” The phone went dead after that.
The news channels quoted the Federal Investigation Agency. Legal and insurance experts say what could follow is a long battle for the fragile Bhoja Air, which renewed operations just last month.
In the last two aircraft crashes involving Pakistani airlines, the relatives were compensated in varying amounts. Airblue agreed to pay Rs5.5 million to each family of the 152 people onboard the flight which crashed on July 28, 2010. Most of them have taken the money but some are fighting cases.
After the 2006 Fokker crash of Pakistan International Airlines (PIA), it paid Rs2 million per family. “I am pretty sure that Bhoja would have to compensate with Rs5.5 million. A precedent has been set by Airblue,” said Yahya Adeel, an aviation lawyer. “The Carriage by Air Act 2011 says a family must be compensated by Rs500,000. But that is in conflict with a lot of international conventions.”
Pakistan is a signatory to the Montreal Convention, which says families of the dead be given 100,000 SDRs (special drawing rights) in damages. Each SDR is equal to $1,544, which comes to around Rs14 million.
The sponsor of Airblue, Shahid Khaqan Abbasi, says he was lucky to have good insurance cover. “The international reinsurers were able to quickly mobilise funds.”
About the perception of an airline after a crash, he said the business must continue to run. “That is very important. We didn’t stop the flights. And trust me after 10 per cent seat cancellations following the crash, things were back to normal in three days.”
Published in The Express Tribune, April 22nd, 2012.