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Bhoja Air: another view

August 04, 2012

TWO letters published in these columns (July 31 and Aug 2) give me an impression that we are losing focus on the main issues and can’t see the forest for the trees.

In my humble view the Bhoja Air crash, or for that matter the Airblue crash, involves two main issues. First, proper investigation into the accidents so that their causes are determined for taking necessary remedial action. Second, prompt and adequate compensation to the families of those who perished in these tragic accidents.

As regards the investigation, the primary responsibility lies with the director-general, Civil Aviation Authority — rather with the federal government — which should have intervened and taken over the investigation, considering the seriousness of the accidents for which they have necessary powers under the law.

The federal government could have constituted a high-powered body comprising competent professionals to investigate these cases. This action would have satisfied the affected families and evoked confidence among the public.

This was obviously not done or else the Peshawar High Court would not have asked for requisitioning the services of foreign experts. What these experts would be able to achieve at this belated stage in the Airblue crash or the Bhoja Air crash is another question.

Reverting to the second main issue regarding compensation to the families of the victims, I have a different view worth considering by the CAA director-general. There are reports about adequacy of insurance, intervention of ‘ambulance chasing’ lawyers who are promising moon to the poor families and the legal rigmarole in obtaining heirship and succession certificates. Since CAA director-general is responsible for ensuring that the airlines ‘maintain a comprehensive insurance policy covering aircraft, crew and passengers’ (rule 179 (2) (c), Civil Aviation Rules,1994), and also responsible for ensuring, on behalf of the federal government, that the ‘carrier shall maintain adequate insurance covering all possible liability’ (Fifth Schedule, para 49, Carriage by Air Act, 2012), the CAA director-general is connected with the adequacy of insurance policies of the airlines.

This casts a duty on the CAA director-general to see that that the liability of the airline under the insurance policy is adequately discharged. I, therefore, make an humble appeal to the director-general to kindly consider setting up an office where families of the victims who are running helter-skelter for their dues are advised and helped in obtaining the legal papers and eventual compensation at an early date.

This may not come strictly under the responsibility of director-general but by extending this help he will surely earn goodwill and gratitude of the many bereaved families and accolades from the public. May I also add that by freezing the assets of Bhoja Air and impounding the Jet Aviation aircraft, which does not belong to Bhoja Air, the affected families are not being helped.

Why can’t this aircraft be sold while it has some worth and the proceeds are kept in an escrow account under agreement with the owner till all the dues are paid to the bereaved families.

The longer this aircraft remains in frozen state, the more it will lose its value and eventually may be almost of little worth. So this freezing might hurt the owner but gives little help to the families of the victims which should be our main concern.

S.M. Anwar Karachi