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A sense of déjà vu

Published Apr 20, 2012 06:49pm

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Qamar (R), an uncle of a newly married couple who are victims of the Bhoja Air airliner crash, is consoled by a Civil Aviation Authority official at Jinnah International Airport in Karachi April 20, 2012. Sajjad, 27, and his wife Sania, 22, were traveling to Islamabad from Karachi on their honeymoon. -Reuters Photo

As these words are being written the whole country, as well as people from around the world, are watching or hearing the news of the terrible plane crash near Chaklala airbase. When one works in the news business sadly you tend to get to read many tragic stories. A constant barrage of bad news tends to immune a person from feeling anything. However this disaster has really pulled my legs out from underneath me. A close relative of mine was going to arrive in Karachi tonight on a flight as well and it’s only in a situation such as this that you realise how real this tragedy is.

I may not have been directly affected by the plane crash, but sadly many people tonight will be. One can only imagine the horror relatives of the deceased must be going through. Their world will have collapsed around them and their trauma has only just begun. What makes it worse is that this calamity is also a national tragedy which is being broadcast live on people’s television screens.

At a time like this it is very important that the media plays a responsible role in covering this accident and snub out any urge to sensationalise the story. The Airblue crash in 2010 is still fresh in the public conscience, especially how news organisations ramped up the rhetoric, whether in news content or television images of the plane crash.

Many will remember that after the Airblue crash occurred, the media hounded relatives of the deceased with television cameras and questions as to what they were feeling. Even when bodies were being returned to loved ones, it was shameful to see people from the press swarm traumatised family members. I remember one incident from the 2010 crash in which bodies had been brought back to Karachi for burial, and cameramen were literally falling on top of each other to get a shot of the bodies being loaded into ambulances.

One question that now needs to be asked is to whether anything will come out of the Bhoja air crash and the inquiry that will be set up to investigate it. Over 20 months have passed since the Airblue crash and still nothing has happened to give closure to that accident. Going on precedents and the pattern of previous events, the same thing will happen now. No heads will roll, no one will be held accountable. We have seen this bad movie before and know what the ending will be like.

One needs to also find out whether this accident was because of a technical fault or simply due to the bad weather. Reports suggest that the plane crashed while it was in flames and that lightning may have struck the aircraft while it was in flight. The situation seems very fluid at this time, but pray that a clearer picture does eventually come out of it. The people of Pakistan have had to deal with many problems on a number of issues in the past few years. Let us not add aviation safety and worries about loved ones returning from a safe flight to that list as well.

Let us also pray that all the institutions of state will now make a collective effort to hold a proper inquiry into the plane crash. Hopefully they will set a precedent that will not only be satisfactory to all but will also be made public.

Raza Ali Sayeed is a journalist at Dawn.com