Despite a lapse of two years, the government has kept under wraps the Civil Aviation Authority’s (CAA) inquiry report into the April 20, 2012 crash of Bhoja Airline’s passenger carrier in Islamabad.
The constant delay in unveiling the report is adding to the misery of people, whose relatives and friends perished in the tragic crash. The incident had resulted in the death of 127 passengers, including six crew members.
The relevant laws entitle the victims’ relatives to know the exact reasons behind the air tragedy. According to the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO), it is obligatory for the CAA to submit its findings after conducting investigation within one year.
However, the CAA did not meet the condition and delayed its report for many months. And now it is the federal government which is holding back the findings for unknown reasons.
An official source, while seeking anonymity, told The Express Tribune that the report had been pending with the highest officials in the federal government for over two months – adding that the report was ‘not worth making public for certain reasons’.
One of the reasons is that the CAA – while preparing the report – has only revealed those circumstances that led to the crash but did not fix responsibility for the failure on those responsible for ensuring the safety of the flight and its passengers, he said.
“Those people include the officials of the CAA and the management of the airlines,” he added. Media reports also confirmed that the CAA in its report has only blamed the captain and the first officer for the Bhoja Air crash.
Earlier, in its 2012 report on the Airblue tragedy – in which 152 people had lost lives after their aircraft crashed into Margalla Hills in Islamabad – the CAA had also declared the captain and first officer responsible.
“The CAA always puts the blame of an air crash on the deceased captain and the first officer and never questions its own ineffectiveness and incompetence,” said Anwarulhaq Kakar, whose close relative Naser Akhtar had died in the 2010 Airblue incident.
He said being a regulatory body, the CAA should ensure that the managements of all the airlines fully adopt its rules meant for the safety of the aircraft and its passengers.
“However, no CAA official has ever been held responsible for the 36 air crashes during the last 65 years that caused death of 1,199 passengers,” Kakar regretted.
Justice (retd) Tariq Mehmood is of the view that the government should have appointed an independent fact-finding commission to fix responsibility for the two air crashes.
“An official authority should be appointed to watch the performance of the CAA on such issues,” he said. “However, the federal government has depended on the CAA to investigate the two recent major crashes,” he added.
According to experts, the managements of the airlines should also be considered responsible for the air disasters. “It is the prime responsibility of airlines’ management to see whether its pilots are adequately trained for their jobs,” said a defence analyst Brig (retd) Shaukat Qadir.
The delay in CAA report forced the victims’ relatives to approach Peshawar High Court (PHC) and Islamabad High Court (IHC) seeking a judicial inquiry into the Airblue and Bhoja tragedies. And the IHC constituted a judicial inquiry commission to submit its report within three months.
However, the commission – including the former Supreme Court judge Justice (retd) Ghulam Rabbani with air vice marshal (retd) Faaiz Amir Siddiqui as its technical member – could not meet the deadline due to certain unavoidable reasons. Now the commission is expected to submit its report next month.
Published in The Express Tribune, April 21st, 2014.