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After tragedy strikes

Published Apr 21, 2012 12:06pm


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Family members of a passenger killed in a plane crash, wait for transportation at a local hospital in Islamabad, Pakistan.—AP Photo

Today, the entire country is grieving for the loss of countless precious lives, which became victims of the Bhoja Air crash tragedy on the evening of April 20, 2012. The faces of grieving family members and their sheer helplessness make us all question if this tragedy could have been prevented? If we could be of assistance and support? And most importantly if the shattered family members will ever return to normal lives?

Whilst looking for answers to the most apparent questions, it is also extremely important to understand the problems that the victims’ families face during such incidents. It is essential to stay abreast with the issues and address them appropriately.

It can be said that preventing or pre-empting a disaster is very difficult; however provisions and facilitation to console and comfort the families of the victims can be made possible. The government, aviation authorities and private airline companies should learn lessons from pervious disasters and pacify the families as much as possible.

Qaiser Imtiaz, a journalist with Express Tribune, who lost his brother in Airblue’s crash said, “the issue which affects all the families equally, regardless of their economic and social class, is the lack of information. The so-called information cells which are created right after the crashes or any other disaster divulge no information regarding the victims.”

“If they think pasting passengers’ list on the wall can placate the families, then it’s high time that the authorities should wake up,” he added.

According to Imtiaz, Pakistan Institute of Medical Sciences (Pims) which has the reputation of being one of the largest hospitals in South Asia does not accommodate and facilitate the patients.

“The families of victims, which are already so traumatised, are made to stand and wait for hours. I remember they did not even let us enter the hospital and provided no facilities whatsoever. In fact Pims does not even have a proper cold storage room for storing the bodies,” added Imtiaz who still has not recovered his brother’s body.

However, learning from the Airblue tragedy, this time around the local authorities hired a cold storage as the PIMS mortuary was expected to run out of space.

The most important aspect of such incidents, which most of us tend to overlook, is the post-traumatic shock syndrome. Many a times, members of the immediate family are unable to grieve or are in a state of shock which is why counselling is enormously important.

Sohail Anwar, a supervisor at a private gym, who lost his brother to the Airblue tragedy said, “The government agents and various ministers who try to stay in the limelight by showing off in front of the cameras should instead arrange for psychiatric assistance for the families.”

According to Imtiaz appropriate crisis management cells should be established to facilitate the victims of the families which are affected by any such disaster.

Compensatory payment, which appears to be secondary when a loved one is lying in a grave, however, later becomes important, especially for people whose sole bread-earners die in such tragedies.

“I must tell you that the government, Airblue and Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) promised us compensatory money, however, many amongst us still has not received a dime,” said Imtiaz.

Anwar, whose views concur with that of Imtiaz said, “various officials from CAA, responsible for interim payment and compensation, are mostly unavailable. Since 2010’s tragedy, we have not been able to get hold of them.”

Issuance of succession certificate, which establishes the heir or next of kin of the victims, became a huge issue after 2010’s crash.

“I know of a lawyer who took Rs. 40,000 from a friend just to issue a succession certificate. Moreover, there have been reported incidents of the authorities not accepting the succession certificate at all,” said Imtiaz.

“Nothing will bring my 22-year-old brother back but we all want justice and we want our skies to become safer so that other people do not have to undergo the same pain and suffering,” added Anwar.

Having said that, it is also important for the victims’ families to act and think rationally. Considering all the injustices, demanding support by vandalising public property, generally adds fuel to the already ignited fire.

“In retrospect, I think we all should have stayed calmer and let the authorities help us out. Emotions are generally so high at such times that it gets very difficult to think rationally and stay put which is why we all believe that counselling can play a vital role,” added Anwar.

Moreover, it is important to understand that sites of disasters are not a source of entertainment. Many people unintentionally direct their steps toward the site which hampers the rescue process.

“I do not understand why people start pouring in from different parts of the city whenever there is an accident. If you cannot be of assistance then stay home or wherever you are,” added Anwar.

Most of the families are not satisfied with the investigation report of the Airblue tragedy. According to them it is essential to identify the loopholes and reprimand the culprits to save the lives of the passengers.

“If we will not learn lessons from our past and will only look for scapegoats then how are our skies going to become safer? It is high time that we own up to our mistakes and work collaboratively to rectify them otherwise these tragedies will never stop,” said Anwar.

It is wise to say that the loss of a loved one is irreplaceable. It is impossible to fill the void left by the deceased people; however, appropriate support and assistance can be invaluable during trying times. Lack of information, facilitation and mismanagement ignite people’s fury. Staying united and helping those in need is the only way to curb the sense of deprivation and despair that the families undergo.


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Comments (22) Closed

Amjad Wyne Apr 21, 2012 05:58pm
What do you mean by "if we could be of assistance and support"...Airlines, aircrafts, their operations, their worthiness are checked by the airlines and when airlines are not doing their job, the responsibility falls on the shoulders of the government. People don't do this job but the governments do around the world. Please point the finger in the right direction - some towards yourself (the Dawn) that fails to highlight the criminal behavior of the government it supports.
Nishtar Apr 21, 2012 06:00pm
The lesson to learn is the following: Stop lying and cheating to eachother. Be honest and look at the pathetic condition the country is in now. Stop being self centered and instead think about fellow human beings.
Nishtar Apr 21, 2012 06:30pm
Pakistanis should stop asking others to do what they should be doing on their own . Pakistan government is broke and it is no secret that it is one of the most corrupt . Stop corruption where ever you see it. Had you pointed out and stopped corrupt practices maybe the aircrash and many similar incidents would have never occurred . By staying silent, you are as much to blame as the most guilty. Stop shrugging your duty .
maimoona Apr 21, 2012 07:31pm
well said
SK Apr 21, 2012 08:40pm
Aviation industry in Pakistan has been in decline for years. PIA has been destroyed by induction of personnel with connections rather than merit. Most international airports complain about safety standards of our airlines and EU is threatening to stop all services soon. Most expatriate Pakistani's fear to fly PIA if alternates are available. Newsmedia has responsibility to report on what is going on with the mess in PIA/CAA and similar organizations. How is the Fix being planned and implemented. We only hear of tragedy but its fixes are unknown or unreported. Federal Government is fully responsible for this and should come out to explain these affairs.
garg Apr 21, 2012 10:49pm
Why was the plane cleared to take off and land during bad weather conditions? Who cleared it? Isn't that the CAA's responsibility?
zafar Apr 21, 2012 10:56pm
Agreed, all greedy people setting thier and sucking innocents blood.thier should be a strick rule to ground all expired planes
Nishtar Apr 22, 2012 12:56am
Who should be "blamed" for this tragedy? The answer is : The person who granted the license to the airline, the person who accepted the bribe to grant that license, the person who looked the other way when the bribe was being given, the person who marketed the airlines and encouraged people to fly it, the person who sold the tickets to fly this airline, the person who got the plane "ready" to fly . There are so many that it is almost everyone. It is a shame that our society has become so corrupt that everyone has been stained by it and carries it's foul odor . Who is to blame for this tragedy? The answer is every single Pakistani.
Khurshid Apr 22, 2012 12:59am
1) Is there any extra pre-flight insurance offered at the airports to passengers who want extra coverage? 2) Why the search and rescue efforts appear so haphazard in photos publish in Dawn. 3) Islamabad airport has been reported to lack essential equipment which are commonly installed on major airports around the World. What is going to be done for arranging the latest equipment? 4) What are the qualifications of the staff conducting the investigation of this accident? The results of the investigation are as good as the people conducting the investigation. These are some serious question which need to be answered.
Khurshid Apr 22, 2012 01:04am
CAA first and the foremost responsibility is to equip all the airports in Pakistan with the latest equipment to meet the norm by most International airports. The buck stops are CAA desk. They are responsible for ensuring that all rules and regulation are followed. If the heads do not roll this time then expect more crashes. .
Kashif Qazi Apr 22, 2012 01:20am
I am a first grade Pakistani citizen and I love Pakistan as here I am among emotional crowd who believes in Allah but doesn't value Human life, where ahsasat are not linked with Aamal, where mistakes and accidents can happen all time but nothing we learn. My heart is strong and I can cry and walk again, in fact as a crowd i am well tuned, groomed and have accepted all as my faith. I am ready to be crushed again and again as I am a first grade Pakistani and as a crowd I am not ready to learn. I am Speechless for the Air crash...
Avid Reader Apr 22, 2012 03:48am
This is a classic example to pass on the buck. It would have been a constructive criticism if you had some specific questions requiring a response.
Buck stops here Apr 22, 2012 03:50am
It was Air Blue not too long ago and now it is Bhoja Air. It would not be too far-fetched to guess that next could very well be PIA. The next air disaster can only be averted if drastic measures are taken NOW. It is easy to trace the root cause of the problem to endemic corruption. Microburst and wind shear are known phenomenon and this is not something that cannot be dealt with. The right question to ask is that why the ISB airport is not equipped with the proper equipment and what was the role of the meteorology department. What are the maintenance records of this airplane? Was there any serious issue with the aircraft? Was the cockpit crew adequately trained? Were there any shortcuts taken in any aspect of this flight? We all know that our pilots are as well trained as a third world country can afford. They are certainly no captain Sully Sullenberger but with improved training and change in culture towards learning and better work ethics higher standards can be achieved. People must read the history of Korea air and learn how they reformed their airline after the tragedy of air crashes they faced one after another. We have fooled ourselves long enough that we have qualified work force acting as engineers on latest generation of airplanes. Most senior engineers employed in aviation industry including P.I.A have promoted people with high school education to positions such as Chief Engineers and Director Engineering while they are not even recognized as Engineers by Pakistan Engineering Council. There is no dearth of qualified Engineers with advanced education and recognized credentials. who can lead the aviation industry to a sustainable levels only if there are sweeping reforms implemented in the country. The old policies of quota system and nepotism must be stopped. The time to act is NOW.
Dilawar Apr 22, 2012 04:02am
We should focus on asking specific question. Just making general comments is not going to get us anywhere. It make a nice commentary but the culprits are not pinned down. Be more specific.
Dilawar Apr 22, 2012 04:12am
So, if that is the case then Dawn should ask CAA for the details of every single commercial aircraft flown in the country. CAA is obviously not doing its job. The certificate of airworthiness is awarded by CAA. If CAA is policing the commercial airlines then where are the reports? How often they carry out inspections and where are the reports on individual aircrafts and why that data is not in public? What are the qualifications of the people in-charge? Is CAA itself qualified to qualify others? Where is the report for Airblue crash? Where are the lesson learned documents? Did the air blue crash report change any aviation business in Pakistan? Did it result in a technical publication? These are the question which need to be answered.
ali Apr 22, 2012 05:41am
@Nishtar Well said. Its a high time that we should become honest to our country and even to ourself. Stop lying to each other and also break our CRIMINAL silience.
Suleyman Apr 22, 2012 07:25am
With the seemingly incessant Pakistani obsession with and proliferation of conspiracy theories, I am surprised that they have not yet blamed India or the United States for this aviation disaster. Until Pakistanis accept and take responsibility for their endemic corruption and lack of value for human life, all of this pseudo-mourning & fake sense of unity wrought by this disaster, is merely that - fake. Pointless, useless & fake. Wake up, Pakistan!
Fazal Rehman Safi Apr 22, 2012 11:06am
One can only realize the loss if he takes an example of any of his family member death. There should some standards for the airlines. The airplane should make a test fly before going for such journey. Then the government should allow them only if it passes the test. Please raise your voice against the corrupt people who are a part of this incident. They are just greedy for the money. Humanity has no value in front of them. No leader is loyal to this country(exception cases are always there). Its just special mercy of Almighty ALLAH that we are still in good position. Please raise your voice against the corrupt politicians of this country. At last its my request to all of you that please pray for the victims and specially their families.
Abdur R. Talukder Apr 22, 2012 02:22pm
Inna Lillahi Wa Inna Ilaihi Rajiun! May Allah (SWT) gives patience of all the victims families for this kind of unmeasurable loss and suffer. Amin!!
Jawad Hasan Syed Apr 22, 2012 12:36pm
Pakistan Institute of Management Sciences (Pims) Please note: Pakistan Institute of Medical Science.
Dr Meekal Ahmed Apr 24, 2012 08:22pm
The Bhoja Air flight was cleared to land. Although there was convective activity nearby, the airport was above "minimums" . An Airblue airbus directly behind the Bhoja flight on the same approach landed safely a couple of minutes later. No, Islamabad does not have wind-shear warning systems/sensors. Maybe hidtoric Met data show that wind-shear is so rare that it was not considered worthwhile. I am only guessing. If it is any consolation, I would imagine the new airport at Fatehjang with its four runways will have all the modern safety equipment.
Ebrahim Apr 25, 2012 01:38am
Will this tragedy turn out be another short term bust of anger destined to fade away as soon as the next crisis hits us? I hope not. Only eternal vigilance and the constant prodding of our authorities would yield results. Tragedies are inevitable; but that is not an excuse for not doing our best to prevent them.