‘In the end, we got nothing’

Published: August 14, 2010
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Relatives mourn the death of their family members killed in a passenger plane crash in the Margalla Hills. PHOTO: AFP

Relatives mourn the death of their family members killed in a passenger plane crash in the Margalla Hills. PHOTO: AFP

ISLAMABAD: “Kalma-e-Shahadat,” Iftikhar Ahmed bellowed as he shouldered a casket for burial, his voice choked with emotions.

For 15 days, he had been waiting in anguish to utter these words. To lay his daughter, Romaisa Khan, in her final resting place. But the body inside the casket was not even hers.

In a collective burial service in H-11 graveyard on Friday, 72 coffins were laid to rest, representing 19 unidentified victims of the Airblue plane crash on July 28.

Iftikhar Ahmed had just married off his daughter to Owais Khan. The couple was flying to Islamabad for their honeymoon when the plane crashed into Margallah hills and killed all 152 people on board.

Airblue had arranged for a special flight to bring the relatives of the victims from Karachi to Islamabad.

The relatives were devastated to find that the bodies were charred beyond recognition, but DNA tests raised hopes that the families might at least get the remains of their loved ones. However, Owais and Romaisa’s families, among others, found nothing. Out of the 72 remaining coffins lying in cold storage, none contained Ahmed’s daughter’s body.

“Someone else had already claimed her body,” he added, his voice trailing off with despair.

On Thursday, the relatives received a phone call from Airblue.

“The management of Airblue will build a monument for these 19 people. The names of the crash victims will be inscribed [on the monument],” said Deputy Commissioner Islamabad Amir Ali Ahmed.

“They have been permanently buried. In case any DNA result matches later, the relatives can apply to exhume the body,” he added.

“It was almost impossible to identify most of them even through DNA tests as they were decomposing fast,” he said.

The cold storage where the government had been storing the remains was designed to store fruits and vegetables and was not suitable for long-term storage of human bodies.

“It was imperative to bury them soon. The decision of collective burial was the only solution,” DC Amir insisted.

However, the relatives at the burial said that the administration and Airblue management had already made the decision. “The Airblue management only informed us of the decision on Thursday. We had no choice but to accept it,” said Iftikhar Ahmed.

“In fact, it was on our [the relatives] insistence that the administration decided to hold a proper burial of the caskets,” Iftikhar maintained. “Otherwise they had only planned to inform us of the decision in the meeting and do the burial later.”

Shaukat Bangash, who had also come from Karachi, had hoped that he would be able to get the body of his 52-year-old friend, Ghulam Abbass, after the DNA tests were done. But in the end the family had to consent to the collective funeral service.

Ahmed, Romaisa’s father, said that the government had failed to honour the promise of the compensation money. “Most of the families have not received a single penny of the Rs500,000 compensation announced by the government as yet,” he said.

“In the end, we got nothing of our children. No belongings, no body parts, nothing at all. On July 28, they literally vanished from our lives.”

Published in The Express Tribune, August 14th, 2010.

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Reader Comments (15)

  • rehan
    Aug 14, 2010 - 11:39AM

    Inalilahi-Wa ina ilahi raajioon.My heart goes out to all the grieved.Just reading the above article gives me a lump in the throat,I can imagine what the affectees are going through..God has HIS own ways,which we humans can’t fathom.We bow down our heads to HIM in humility.Recommend

  • Jameel ur Rasheed
    Aug 14, 2010 - 12:42PM

    That was the will of Allah and who can stand before His will, please have patience. May there souls rest in peace, Ameen!Recommend

  • Usama
    Aug 14, 2010 - 2:35PM

    The very same should have happen with PPP .Recommend

  • noor
    Aug 14, 2010 - 2:53PM

    may their souls rest in peace, its really painful when we read such news, may Allah bless their relatives with patience. ameenRecommend

  • Ahmed
    Aug 14, 2010 - 3:29PM

    i have a lump in my throat too. Really sad.Recommend

  • Asim
    Aug 14, 2010 - 10:40PM

    Inalilahi-Wa ina ilahi raajaoon!

    I saw the air blue plane fly over my sector, F-7/4, that morning. I was leaving for work when suddenly I heard the engine noise of a low flying plane. I got out of my car and saw the tail of the plane as it flew towards the margallas and disappeared into the clouds. I had never seen a plane fly this low over F-7 and that too towards Margallas. Because there was no distress call from the cockpit, I think either the pilot did not see the hills in the cloudy weather or the pressure plate which gifts the lift to the aircraft failed. Anyway, I was devastated when I learned about the crash at work because I did not witness the actual crash.

    I drove to daman-e-koh over the weekend and prayed fateha for the crash victims. I also emailed Chairman CDA to build a memorial in memory of the victims. May their souls rest in peace. Amen! We would know the actual picture once black box has decoded the last minute conversation between cockpit and air traffic control. The govt should honor its words and give at least 5 lacs per victim as had been promised.

    [email protected]Recommend

  • waqar
    Aug 15, 2010 - 8:37AM

    i am saddened to read this, my heart goes out to all of those who lost their loved ones, i know how it feels to loose a loved one. May Allah Taalah give you peace and courage in this moment of time.Recommend

  • Sakina
    Aug 15, 2010 - 5:43PM

    Omg….Allah Bachaye sub ko… may all the departed rest in peace… :(Recommend

  • huma
    Aug 15, 2010 - 8:43PM

    am waiting for you my brother,,you cant leave me this way:((Recommend

  • huma
    Aug 15, 2010 - 8:47PM

    i know you there somewhere,they couldn’t find the beauty sleeping in dense. am missing you very badlyRecommend

  • Aug 16, 2010 - 12:06AM

    Our prophet noted that dead bodies must be buried asap. Mulling over someone long gone is not the way of the true Muslim. I lost a few friends as well, we had a short prayer session and moved on. Stop living in the past.Recommend

  • Shahryar Ahmed
    Aug 16, 2010 - 10:08AM

    Babar Jawad, please!

    In those days there were no cold storages, don’t you think that might have been the reason. Please don’t be insensitive in the name of Islam & our Holy Prophet.

    By remembering Our Prophet & his teachings, people might say that you living in the past?

    So I suggest first think & then speak, in this case write.Recommend

  • bilal sheikh
    Aug 16, 2010 - 1:21PM

    a dreadful incident at that time really incredible!

    no body can bring the innocent people back but pray can lead them into edan.

    May allah give calmity to the hiers and may their sole rest in peace!! (ameen).Recommend

  • rehan
    Aug 16, 2010 - 3:09PM

    @Babar.What we are doing is remembering the dead.Didn’t the Prophet(S.A.W.)get teary when he would remember his beloved wife,Hazrat Khadija(R.A.)or for that matter his dear uncle Hamza(R.A.).The prophet even requested Hazrat Hinda(R.A.)not to appear before him as it reminded him of his dear Uncle.Was he clinging onto his past??Babar,try this,I have.I imagine the plane to have carried my very loving 9yr old daughter and my adorable 6yr old son…and I get the goose bumps.It is the maximum I can do to get a feel of the grief the real affectees are going through..though it is just an iota of it.Recommend

  • Huma
    Aug 17, 2010 - 6:23PM

    life is fraud,life doesn’t componsate you,,and you are a minor character in the hands of life.it can throw you off when it wants.Recommend

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