Trauma of families

May 28 2020

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THE trauma and grief that the families, relatives, friends and colleagues of those who lost their lives in the PIA plane crash in Karachi last Friday are going through cannot be expressed in words. There is very little that anyone can say or do to mitigate the unbearable pain they are experiencing. What has added to their agony is the unsympathetic attitude of the government and the PIA authorities as the affected families keep rushing from one hospital to another and from one mortuary to another to try and retrieve the remains of their loved ones. In between, they are required to go through a cumbersome process of verification and documentation involving police and other government agencies before they are handed over the remains of their loved ones for burial.

The bodies of most passengers on the fateful flight were burned beyond recognition. There is no way that the remains can be identified without a DNA test, the results of which may take some time to come. However, those who have lost their children, spouses and parents in the crash want speedy results and identification. A news report, which quoted Faisal Edhi, the head of the Edhi Foundation, as saying that at least 19 bodies were forcibly taken away from a hospital mortuary by relatives, shows how frustrating the dysfunctional system is proving itself to be for the distraught families. That may have put at risk the DNA testing process for identifying the deceased. Further, a video posted on social media shows a man, who lost his wife and three children in the tragic incident, calling upon Prime Minister Imran Khan to intervene to cut the bureaucratic red tape; this reveals how the lack of trust between the federal and Sindh governments is jeopardising the DNA testing process and delaying the handing over of bodies to the grieving families. The ongoing debate about what might have led the plane to crash moments before landing seems to have sucked in the PIA authorities from the very moment the rescuers started scouring the flight wreckage in the hope of finding survivors. Normally, other airlines immediately establish a dedicated system for assisting the affected families in such cases to keep them informed of developments and help them in completing the formalities. But PIA remains true to its old character. It has abandoned them. The government hasn’t done any better either.

Published in Dawn, May 28th, 2020