The Federal Investigation Agency (FIA), which has for months gathered clues into the crash of Bhoja Air’s aircraft on April 20, 2012, is still waiting to be summoned by a Judicial Commission inquiring into the disaster, officials said.
The two member judicial commission, headed by Justice (retd) Ghulam Rabbani, was formed in July last year after the Islamabad High Court noted delays in the investigation while hearing pleas from the victims’ families.
The commission hearing will formally start on January 13, 2014, but it has yet to approach key stakeholders who hold vital information.
Bhoja’s maiden flight to Islamabad from Karachi crashed on April 20, 2012, killing all 127 people onboard. Details of another, more technical investigation are still awaited.
“We are waiting for a summons,” a senior FIA official said. “Only FIA has leads which indicate the reasons for the crash. Our officials have completed their homework but they haven’t been able to question anyone except Farouk Omar Bhoja.”
Farooq Bhoja, 70, was the chairman of the airline. The Civil Aviation Authority’s (CAA) licence is also issued under his name. He owns only 5% of company’s share.
According to documents available with The Express Tribune, Arshad Jalil, the CEO, his wife and son altogether control 80% shareholding including the management control.
Farouk Bhoja refused to talk on the subject but said he has not been approached by the commission. “I will tell the commission whatever I have to share.” His name has been on the exit control list since the crash.
Perfect plan ends in disaster
Soon after the incident, Jalil and his family had moved to Dubai. According to FIA, he has already been paid $800,000 by the aircraft insurer.
“Now he is waiting for compensation to the victims’ heirs to be paid. Like all the cases, the CAA investigation report will blame the pilot for the accident and everyone will walk free,” an official involved in the enquiry said.
A commercial aviation veteran Jalil headed Shaheen Air for many years before launching an airline of his own. Under an arrangement, he had bought the airline licence from Farouk Bhoja. But the money was never paid.
According to FIA, the remaining 15% shareholding belongs to Zeeshan Karimi who was CEO of Aero Lube and Syed Mazahir Hussain, the CEO of Pak Engineering Services.
“Through Jet Aviation, Jalil bought four Boeing 737 aircraft. Three of them were sold by South African carrier Comair. These planes were useless,” said the FIA official.
The registration number of the aircraft that crashed was AP-BKC. It took its first flight on December 13, 1984 and perished 27 years later. Other aircraft- BKD and BKE – are over 33 years old.
FIA believes the ill-fated plane was not checked by any certified company and even the final check right before the flight was given in violation of rules.
“No one from the CAA has answered any of our questions despite repeated reminders. We haven’t been able to detain anyone because of the judicial commission. Two enquiries can’t go on in parallel.”
Interestingly, despite the ongoing enquiry, Jalil had been able to remain in business. That one plane AP-BKF has been leased to Shaheen Air.
CAA’s own investigation in the crash faced a setback when lead investigator Group Captain Mujahidul passed away in March last year. He was considered one of the country’s few experts in the field of aircraft crash investigation.
A CAA spokesman refused to make immediate comment on the matter. Arshad Jalil couldn’t be reached.
Published in The Express Tribune, January 11th, 2014.
Correction: An earlier version of this article stated the hearing already began in January 2013. The error is regretted.