The crash of the single-engine aircraft piloted by the father and son team of Babar and Haris Suleman, which was on an around-the-world flight, is a tragic episode. The crash happened soon after takeoff from Pago Pago airport in the American Samoa islands, and the plane went down about a mile offshore. The flight was remarkable in a number of ways, but particularly that Haris Suleman was the youngest qualified pilot ever to attempt a circumnavigation. The body of Haris has been found but that of his father is missing as is the wreck of their aircraft. The cause of the crash has not yet been ascertained.
The duo were on the last leg of what had thus far been a hugely successful enterprise. They were on a fundraiser for The Citizens Foundation, a Pakistani organisation that provides schools for some of the poorest in the country. They stopped in Karachi on July 2 and Lahore on July 5, receiving a rousing welcome wherever they went. The last leg of the long flight was always going to be the most dangerous — 17 hours over open sea. They had received a positive media reception wherever their small plane landed, and it was refreshing to see people of Pakistani origin being lauded for their efforts rather than chided for their failures. The Citizens Foundation has established an exemplary record in the provision of education, and is mostly funded by donations from the Pakistani diasporas around the world. It receives some international aid but no government funding. Although the around-the-world attempt by Haris and Babar Suleman has ended in tragedy we must not regard it as entirely a failure. Their courage and commitment to bettering the lives of those less fortunate than themselves is an example to all of us, and their deaths have not been in vain. Thus we salute you, Haris and Babar Suleman, you stood for the best of Pakistan and you will be remembered and admired for years to come.
Published in The Express Tribune, July 25th, 2014.
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