Civil society demands ‘independent’ commission to inquire into crash

Updated 29 May 2020


Activists hold a vigil to remember the victims of the tragedy outside the KPC on Thursday.—Fahim Siddiqi/White Star
Activists hold a vigil to remember the victims of the tragedy outside the KPC on Thursday.—Fahim Siddiqi/White Star

KARACHI: Members of civil society organised a reference meeting to pay tribute to those killed in the PIA plane crash followed by a vigil at the Karachi Press Club on Thursday.

On the occasion they refused to accept any findings that may be presented about the tragedy by the inquiry commission as they said the commission, which is not independent and impartial, is in flagrant violation of Appendix-13 of the Chicago Convention on International Civil Aviation.

“The Civil Aviation Authority, PIA and the Ministry of Aviation are rubbing salt in the wounds of the victims’ families with their inhumane and biased behaviour, which is also hampering the investigation process,” said Nasir Mansoor, secretary general of the National Trade Union Federation of Pakistan, while expressing his heartfelt condolences to the families of the 97 passengers and crew members killed in the crash.

He said that PIA’s CEO had himself cast doubts on his impartiality by declaring that there was no technical glitch in the ill-fated plane even before any investigation. Moreover, by nominating his parent institution’s officials, who are also juniors to him as members in the inquiry committee, he has made the transparency of the investigation completely unacceptable.

“Efforts to save those responsible for the accident are continuing just like they have been happening for previous several such accidents. The proof of this is the fact that an investigation team has been formed that completely disregards Appendix-13 of the Chicago Convention on International Civil Aviation. The inquiry team members are not qualified to get to the bottom of this important and sensitive issue,” said the labour leader.

Holds vigil for the 97 victims of the aviation tragedy

It was explained during the press conference that Appendix-13 of the Chicago Convention says: “A state shall establish an accident investigation authority that is independent from State aviation authorities and other entities that could interfere with the conduct or objectivity of an investigation.”

“This is a universal standard in the aviation environment. But the organisational structure of the investigation committee here in Pakistan is in direct violation of this general rule,” he said.

“So it is necessary to set up an independent and impartial commission that can help bring justice to the bereaved in the light of international conventions.”

Former general secretary of the Pakistan Medical Association Dr Shershah Syed, while expressing his views, said those who lost their lives in the Flight 8303 tragedy were ordinary innocent citizens who became poor victims. “Among them was a medical student, a very senior paediatrician, a young embryologist, a journalist, a model, soldiers and their families and most of them were travelling to Karachi to celebrate Eid with their families here. They were all ordinary people and the PIA and civil aviation violated their trust,” he said.

Speaking to PIA’s CEO he said: “Your aircraft was unable to land on its first try. You failed to check the performance of the Civil Aviation Department for the purpose of passenger safety.”

Zulfiqar Shah, co-director of the Pakistan Institute of Labour Education and Research, said that an impartial inquiry into the accident was impossible in the presence of the current head of PIA. “Under the guise of the coronavirus

pandemic, they have suspended the basic rights of PIA employees by enforcing the Essential Services Act of the last century, which is in clear violation of international labour laws and the country’s constitution,” he said.

Habibuddin Junaidi, president of the Peoples Labour Bureau, said it seems to be a habit of PIA’s management that technical glitches and complaints about faults in planes are seen as tactics by employees and pilots’ organisations to blackmail them.

Khaliq Zadran, convener of the Lyari Awami Mahaz, also aired his concern over the “criminal negligence” in providing timely information to the families of the victims while conducting the DNA tests on several of the victims. “The unnecessary delay in the delivery of dead bodies to the bereaved families has caused further distress to them,” he said.

Other speakers included Asad Butt, vice president of the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan, Sindh chapter; Dr Riaz Sheikh, dean of Social Sciences and Education at Szabist; Saeed Baloch of the Pakistan Fisherfolk Forum, Saira Feroz, secretary general of the Home-based Women Workers Federation; Aslam Khokhar, general secretary, Mazdoor Kisan Party; Sheikh Majeed of PIA Union; Saeeda Khatoon, chairperson, Baldia Tragedy Victims Association; human rights activist Qazi Khizar and Mehboob Malik, secretary, PC Workers Union.

Later, there was vigil held in memory of the victims where it was demanded that an independent inquiry commission be constituted in accordance with the Chicago Convention that should also include representatives of the PIA workers and pilots, while the CEO of PIA and the head of the CAA should resign as there would be no impartial inquiry possible in their presence.

They also blamed the Airbus company for “criminal neglect” and failing to carry out its legal responsibilities.

Published in Dawn, May 29th, 2020