Bhoja Air crash: Volunteerism, voyeurism; vandalism

Published: April 22, 2012
Millions worth of cellphones, jewellery and other luggage items were strewn across the bloodied, burning field. PHOTO: APP

Millions worth of cellphones, jewellery and other luggage items were strewn across the bloodied, burning field. PHOTO: APP

Millions worth of cellphones, jewellery and other luggage items were strewn across the bloodied, burning field. PHOTO: APP A plane wheel (C) lies amongst debris at the scene of a plane crash as Pakistani rescue workers search for victims in the outskirts of Islamabad on April 20, 2012. PHOTO: AFP

ISLAMABAD: Spread out in long grass, with the smell of spent jet fuel hovering in the air, burning plastics and a sea of corpses covering, the similarity to the Air Blue crash was eerie.

With 127 feared dead and village houses covered with smouldering remains, the traffic jams en route to the disaster site were unimaginable.

Thousands of people had dropped everything they were doing, rushed out of their homes and rushed to the crash site to help save the survivors of Bhoja Air flight 213.

They saved thousands.

Just not people.

Not a single person was alive by the time the ill-fated aircraft came to a stand in Hussainabad village. But there were survivors.

Just not the human kind.

Millions worth of cellphones, jewellery and other luggage items were strewn across the bloodied, burning field. While most were damaged, there was still money to be made by the unscrupulous, and we are blessed with more than our fair share of those.

Before rescue services could even get to the tiny hamlet, villagers started sifting through the debris in a futile search for survivors. Help soon arrived, or so they thought. Unfortunately, it was the kind they and the victims’ families could do without.

At the site, a crowd of gawking voyeurs had collected, seeing the opportunity to take a couple of pictures of the crash site or pose with the wreckage. They were squealing with laughter and joking around. When our news team was stuck in traffic – mostly other gawkers – along the narrow road to the site, one twenty-something gent returning from there, laughing like he was leaving the cinema after watching a comedy, advised us to turn around because the scene was “boring”.

He then stopped in the middle of the road, got off his bike, went and stood in front of an ambulance and had his friend take pictures. It wasn’t until a soldier got to the site and ordered him to return to the rock he crawled out from under that traffic got moving.

Once the army moved in and started organising things, gawkers were told to turn around and traffic flow improved. Unfortunately, with nowhere else to embarrass themselves, they converged on the media assembled at the nearby gas station-cum-temporary relief organising area. Here, while some volunteers attempted to help the traffic police, arguing with the voyeur crowd, dozens of cars, bikes, vans, pedestrians and even a tractor kept trying to get to the site, creating havoc.

Somewhere along the line a scuffle broke out among the spectators – one group was talking so loud it was apparently drowning out the other’s shameful ‘jokes’. All the while, a small group of victims’ relatives standing nearby was trying to stay composed.

It wasn’t until the classic laathi-charge threat that the jokers left.

Still, many ‘tamashais’ who made it to the site managed to pick up stray cellphones and jewellery. One such group left in a luxury sedan.

All this while our dear interior minister raced into action to get to the hospitals and then the crash site. Fortunately, army men, remembering Malik’s inability to tell apples from bananas, decided it would be better if he did not help them look for human remains in the mud. Malik’s dozen-car motorcade raced back, cutting off ambulances and other emergency vehicles as it did on the way to the scene. A bunch of local political leaders also showed up and left without even getting their shoes dirty.

Death is not supposed to be a joke. But in a poverty and hunger-stricken land where words like tsunami inspire hope, atomic weapons are a source of pride, and soldiers are sent to die in frozen wastelands, what is wrong will always be right.

The writer is a sub editor on the Islamabad Desk. [email protected]

Published in The Express Tribune, April 22nd, 2012. 

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Reader Comments (40)

  • Lazarus
    Apr 22, 2012 - 2:14PM

    The fact is no matter how much is educated in Pakistan still remains a Jahil


  • Anwer
    Apr 22, 2012 - 2:57PM

    Pity on us


  • Asad
    Apr 22, 2012 - 2:58PM

    The whole nation need lathi charge from time to time from the army to keep it straight.


  • Apr 22, 2012 - 3:27PM

    Pointed out the facts, harsh but truthfully! It is sad to see how insensitive we are as a nation, its unofrtunate that we couldnt even unite at a time of such a calamity.
    may Allah bless them in the highest ranks


  • Huma
    Apr 22, 2012 - 3:27PM

    I am so grateful to the writer for bringing home the stark realities of what was really happening on the ground. I applaud The Express Tribune for bringing this article forward and publishing it for us. Until we acknowledge that we as a nation have problems which we ourselves are to blame for we can not begin to start the long and arduous process of mending our wayward ways.

    The fateful Bhoja Air Flight 213 was carrying someone I know so I ask all the readers to take a minute or so out of their day and say a little prayer for the victims of the air crash and their respective families who are now left to pick up the pieces.


  • Critic
    Apr 22, 2012 - 3:29PM

    Your writing made me teary..may Allah help and guide us all..aameen


  • Ameer
    Apr 22, 2012 - 3:34PM

    I love the last paragraph!Recommend

  • Meekal Ahmed
    Apr 22, 2012 - 3:44PM

    This is very distressing.


  • Dr.X
    Apr 22, 2012 - 3:45PM

    Shameful! A few of these ‘spectators’ arrested would have scared the others away.


  • Apr 22, 2012 - 3:57PM

    Very disturbing! I am sure the same happens in India, but does not get reported. Only it appears that ET has got the courage to do so. I am again so sorry!


  • Oopsie!
    Apr 22, 2012 - 4:07PM

    sadly it comes from ET – from where vulgarity is called “fashion!”


  • Apr 22, 2012 - 4:22PM

    Sorry could not understand what message you were trying to convey? ET is calling a spade a spade! So where does the fashion word come here? Either try to be more explicit or take back your comment. Does not suit the situation/occassion!


  • Haq Nawaz
    Apr 22, 2012 - 4:24PM

    May Allah bless the departed souls. I was far away from the scene but I am sure a great majority who got there were well intentioned or harmless bystanders. No doubt, there were some unscrupulous and immature 20-somethings as reported. But this report only highlights the behavior of bad apples. A reporter should have a keen sense of balance and objectivity. Focusing on bad and evil and glossing over the good does not do justice to reporting. I would have liked to know what percent of the crowd behaved badly; 5% or less or more. Pakistan is going through troubled times and it is important that media reports reflect true picture.


  • Masoodul
    Apr 22, 2012 - 4:47PM

    Dear sir please see this table of safest and worst airlines of the world:

    since year 2000, PIA is 1266% more unsafe than “average”. This does not include the “private” airlines.


  • Ibad
    Apr 22, 2012 - 4:50PM

    Typical of most Pakistanis. I want to laugh at ourselves. What a fine breed of people we are, right?

    We have been made immune to the death of our fellow beings. Sad, sad state of affairs.


  • usman
    Apr 22, 2012 - 4:52PM

    interesting how ET managed to take a shot at Imran khan in an article focusing on the Bhoja crash!


  • Saladin
    Apr 22, 2012 - 5:01PM

    I don’t agree with the writer. The people of Pakistan really are volunteers and they have proved it when ever we confronted with a hard time. The fact is that most of them are uneducated and don’t know how to response in such kind of emergencies. Our media should have educated people to stay away from roads and don’t become obstacle in such crucial situation. Rather it was busy in showing the pieces of human body parts and annoying the poor relatives who were already in such a huge shock.


  • me
    Apr 22, 2012 - 5:05PM



  • Shafiqu Awan
    Apr 22, 2012 - 5:21PM

    Referring to I Quote

    These accident rates should not be used to provide an assessment of an airline’s safety profile or future risk of an accident. These rates are derived from past accidents and not an estimate or prediction of future risk.

    It should not be interpreted that PIA is unsafe to fly. This is not a mechanism to predict any accidents. ALLAH forbid no one knows what will happen next. The article sadly shows the real picture of our proud nation, which is otherwise full of complaints. It does not however mean that we are all like that but unfortunately a large part of us are. should be read and surely the departments responsible for air safety in the country need to review and question the processes and procedures and standards as well as implementation methods. Thankfully two possible disasters were averted.


  • Big Rizvi
    Apr 22, 2012 - 5:33PM

    How terrible are we? That we make fun of death. They do not seem to be aware that they could be next.


  • Sarc
    Apr 22, 2012 - 5:48PM

    You forgot to mention the TAMASHA portrayed by our so called ‘media’ on the tv screens displaying the splashes of blood and amusing people with cartoon images of how actually the crash happened.


  • MK
    Apr 22, 2012 - 6:21PM

    wow. this is absolutely surreal. to laugh at death, and such tragic and disturbing modes of death, shows utter lack for humanity, and utter lack of empathy. it’s strange right – any car accident, any road fight, any scuffle, and the long group of ‘gawkers’ somehow manages to emerge. the tamasha searching crowd, for as we pakistanis know, we all love drama.



  • DILU
    Apr 22, 2012 - 6:54PM

    A bit over exaggerated. I doubt how they managed to find stray mobile phones.Every thing broken in to 100 pieces plus mobile phones were still intact. Perhaps all the passengers were still using Nokia 3310.


  • Ali Zameer Gardezi
    Apr 22, 2012 - 7:07PM

    I’ve never replied to an article before. But reading this author’s words has forced me to leave a comment as well. For the last few years we Pakistanis have been crying over the government looting and ruining our lives up. This incident has brought forth the true nature of us Pakistanis. Instead of blaming the President for us misfortunes perhaps its time to evaluate our individual selves and see what we really are. May it be PPP or PTI, we as a nation will not improve since we lack even the basics of ethics. We are looters, opportunists and undisciplined. We don’t even know how to honor the dead unless they are related to us. I know this comment would never be printed in Express Tribune since the media is biased. But nevertheless, it’s worth trying.


  • Adil Saeed
    Apr 22, 2012 - 7:28PM

    Inhumanity in people of pakistan is increasing day by day. I think reason is lust for money and earning from interest(sood, ribah) is turning humans into a form worst than devils and beasts.

    Check the following post about it.


  • scratching head
    Apr 22, 2012 - 7:29PM

    love the ending…


  • Saladin
    Apr 22, 2012 - 7:48PM

    Disaster preparedness is a scientific field nowadays and the poor Pakistanis don’t know the ABC about it. We are not mentally prepared to respond positively in such occasions. The approach should be leaving the professional workers do their job and don’t hamper their emergency functions. People should also adopt alternate routes so that ambulances and necessary vehicles can approach and leave swiftly.
    The question is that if media played its due role during such a tragedy. The answer is no. Electronic media should educate the people to keep away from the site and don’t drive in roads leading to the side. Unfortunately our opportunistic media only jumped to the side to cash the bounties of such a big news.

  • Dr. Asad Sadick, Germany
    Apr 22, 2012 - 9:44PM

    Can anything or anyone help Pakistan and it’s people. The answer is NO. There is a limit to our insensitivity, even in tragedy and death. Shameful!


  • let there be peace
    Apr 22, 2012 - 9:57PM

    Reminds me of ‘no country for old men’. People are basically same everywhere.


  • True Muslim Paki
    Apr 22, 2012 - 10:28PM

    “Death is not supposed to be a joke. But in a poverty and hunger-stricken land where words like tsunami inspire hope, atomic weapons are a source of pride, and soldiers are sent to die in frozen wastelands, what is wrong will always be right.”

    Very Powerful words, but perfectly appropriate. But then, a nation brutalized ever since its birth, what do you expect. A nation where people die in bombings, shootings, in cities (Karachi) to villages in the remotest corners for reasons they are not aware.
    Sometimes, the Mullah`s kill children, sometimes, husbands give their wives the acid shower, more drugs are cheaply available than medicine, the story goes on. The nation is at war with itself. since independence.


  • Abrar
    Apr 22, 2012 - 11:58PM

    Very well written and articulated Vic. We are a tamash gah nation, enjoy watching more than helping…


  • Adil Saeed
    Apr 23, 2012 - 12:07AM

    @True Muslim Paki:
    We do not realise it, but all these are punishment from ALLAH, because we call our self muslim and do every bad thing. ALLAH says that to take sood(interest) is equal to starting war with him, and our most nation say that its profit and those who work in banks say that they earn by hard work, a robber also robs by hardwork.
    General zia started this sood thing and after that fall of nation started.
    Children grown on unlawful money (i.e from sood bribe frauds etc) become unlawful, and their hearts die and they feel nothing, and just become money loving selfish animals.


  • munchkin bob
    Apr 23, 2012 - 1:18AM

    please don’t try to act like a moral police!! by an large speaking, we have seen the so-called moral conduct of “free”, yet irresponsible, media during the coverage of the unfortunate event!Recommend

  • Dabby
    Apr 23, 2012 - 3:56AM

    Loved this part man. Right on!

    Death is not supposed to be a joke. But in a poverty and hunger-stricken land where words like tsunami inspire hope, atomic weapons are a source of pride, and soldiers are sent to die in frozen wastelands, what is wrong will always be right.


  • Jahanzeb Effendi
    Apr 23, 2012 - 4:41AM

    Bhutto Kal bhi Zinda thi, Bhutto Aaj bhi Zinda hai! Jeay Bhutto!

    All that matters is keeping the bloodlines in power. Our Politicians and their governance are a shame to humanity.


  • Usman Chohan
    Apr 23, 2012 - 6:13AM

    “The devil… seldom leads people astray anymore, finding it easier to just follow along in their footsteps.” – Robert Brault


  • saeed
    Apr 23, 2012 - 6:56AM

    I bet these same people next day will be blaming politician for all mismanagement .Its goes for media also.


  • Shahzad
    Apr 23, 2012 - 8:45PM

    To call this shameful would be an understatement. Unfortunately we are members of such a society whose moral fabric has disintegrated to the point where any sane person would ponder on the question “Can we be called civilized people ? ” if not, then where are we headed as a nation (if at all we can be called a nation and not a mob as many learned people have stated).


  • Yuri Kondratyuk
    Apr 24, 2012 - 10:01AM

    @Dr Priyanka:

    Very disturbing! I am sure the same
    happens in India, but does not get

    Well, we have seen how Indians organized themselves during Mumbai floods as opposed to Bhoja crash in Pak or hurricane Katrina in US.
    What I do not understand is the way you seek to console Pakistanis by stating that in a hypothetically similar situation, Indians would behave as badly. Such a statement cannot be a consolation for any decent civilized human being.


  • alicia
    Apr 24, 2012 - 11:50AM

    This really made me cry.
    Sadly though this does not only happen in plane accidents its common occurrance during any accident in pakistan. I am so ashamed


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