IT seems to be a case of ‘who do they think they’re fooling?’ The investigation into the causes that led an Airblue plane to crash two years ago, dragged on for long. After a series of delays, a report on the tragedy prepared by the Safety Investigation Board was released by the government. It seems to pin the blame on the crew in charge of the ill-fated plane. But if the families of the victims — 146 passengers and six crew members — thought that they had finally been allowed closure, they were wrong. After the Peshawar High Court issued an order opening a reinvestigation into the crash in January, a fact-finding team of the International Civil Aviation Organisation visited Pakistan in June. No words were minced in pointing out that the report released by the government was not only inadequate, but that the “accident investigation authority — SIB as well as the investigation process — is indeed not independent”.
The ICAO report noted that the fact-finding team was not provided a copy of the main report and was only allowed to examine it under supervision. And, there were omissions that even to the layman must seem glaring: no information, for example, about the crew members’ flight hours (which would indicate experience), medical history and duty and rest times, or about maintenance checks carried out on the aircraft. As a result, not just the victims’ families but anyone who travels by air is left wondering. Was the plane safe to fly or not, and if it wasn’t, what guarantee do we have that domestic fleets and their crew comply with international safety standards? This confusion must end. A credible and comprehensive inquiry into the tragedy needs to be conducted with speed, and the results made public. Further prevarications will not be acceptable.