KARACHI: Remains of six more victims of the Pakistan International Airlines plane crash tragedy were identified through DNA tests at a Karachi University (KU) laboratory on Thursday.

“Today, we have received reports of another six victims whose DNA tests have matched with their relatives, raising the number of bodies so far identified through DNA analysis to 12,” said a health department official, adding that the bodies were being handed over to the families after completion of legal formalities.

So far, according to the health department, 46 bodies have been handed over to their families.

Asked about a recent incident in which bodies of some 19 victims were reportedly taken away by families from an Edhi mortuary without waiting for DNA tests, the official said the department would complete the DNA-matching process currently under way despite this “unfortunate incident”.

“It’s regrettable that this incident occurred which may create legal complications at a later stage,” he said, blaming the Sindh governor for the “mistrust” people were showing in the provincial government.

Governor criticised for his lack of knowledge about the existence of forensic labs in Sindh

“He wrongly claimed that there is no forensic lab in Sindh, which created panic and confusion among victim families. He should have withdrawn this statement following the health minister’s statement about the forensic laboratory working at the KU for the past one year.”

Sindh Governor Imran Ismail had recently stated that there was no DNA testing facility in Sindh and a team had arrived from Lahore to help identify the PIA plane crash victims.

Later, provincial Health Minister Azra Pechuho clarified that Sindh had two forensic labs, one at the KU and the other at Liaquat University, Jamshoro. The DNA sampling of all unidentified plane crash victims, she had said, would take place at the KU lab.

She also stated that the team from Punjab would investigate the aircraft specifics, not the bodies.

The minister also urged the governor not to politicise such a tragedy by giving out statements “without complete knowledge”.

Samples from 54 unidentified bodies along with samples from 59 relatives had been sent to the KU laboratory for DNA tests.

According to officials, the DNA-matching process would take at least seven days till all bodies are identified.

Ninety-seven people were killed and two passengers miraculously survived the deadly crash after a PIA plane carrying 99 people plunged into a densely populated residential area near Jinnah International Airport on May 22.

The ill-fated flight, PK-8303, from Lahore crashed into the Jinnah Garden area near Model Colony in Malir minutes before its landing at the airport. Eleven people on the ground were injured.

Published in Dawn, May 29th, 2020