ISLAMABAD: Misery and pain in a society where the slogan “Justice for All” is held by the Supreme Court, but denied by its subordinates, is all that is left for widow Dr Naheed Fatima who lost her husband in a Fokker plane crash in Multan four years ago.
Her husband, Dr Abdur Rauf, who was an assistant professor in BV Hospital Bahawalpur of Psychiatry, left for Turkey via Lahore on July 10, 2006 to attend an International Conference, unaware that it would be his last journey.
Flight PK-688, a Fokker F-27 twin-engine aircraft, took off from Multan Airport at around 12:05 pm and within a few minutes burst into flames after spiralling in the air and crashing into a wheat field, about three kilometres away from Multan airport.
All 45 passengers – 33 men and eight women – were killed. Two army brigadiers, two judges of the High Court in Lahore, Justice Muhammad Nawaz Bhatti, and Justice Nazir Ahmad Siddiqui and the former principal of the King Edward Medical College were among the passengers.
On the orders of then Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz, Director General Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) formed a board of inquiry to investigate the cause of the crash. However, four years have passed since the tragic incident but the investigations have still not been made public.
A few days after the crash Pakistan International Airline Company (PIAC) announced Rs0.5 million as compensation for each passenger but when the aggrieved families decided to go to court, the PIAC lawyer offered Rs2 million as a lump sum compensation for each deceased passenger.
Many who were unaware of the law received the compensation money but Dr Naheed Fatima refused to take the compensation amount and demanded the original compensation under the “Montreal Convention”.
Dr Naheed filed a civil suit in Sindh High Court against PIAC and CAA in 2007 but due to the judicial crisis the same year the case was never fixed for hearing.
She claimed that under the Montreal Convention, PIAC is under obligation to pay 114231/00 SDR (Special Drawing Rights – an IMF devised currency unit adopted by the Montreal Convention in 1999) which is equivalent to Rs14, 760,701.
However, according to her, PIAC and CAA continued to defy this national and international law and even failed to fairly advise the victims about their lawful rights after the crash.
Dr Naheed told The Express Tribune that she is unaware how much amount PIAC and CAA claimed from the insurance company. “Obviously it would have been a huge claim, but they disbursed peanuts amongst the families and put the rest of it in their own pockets.”
She appealed to the Chief Justice of Pakistan Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry to take suo motto notice of the crash and prayed to the court to direct PIAC to pay the owed amount of SDR 114231/00 and also direct PIAC and Civil Aviation to make the inquiry report conducted after the Fokker crash public.
She has also appealed to the Supreme Court CJ to direct the Sind High Court to decide her civil suit – which is pending before the court since 2007 – within six months, and to direct PIAC, CAA and rest of the Airlines to advertise the rights and entitlements of travelling passengers.
Published in The Express Tribune, September 5th, 2010.