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اتوار، 22 اپریل، 2012

Pakistan's private airlines or Flying Coffin

 .PIA has suffered strictures abroad for failing maintenance and safety standards. What a fall for our proud national carrier. With the opening up of the skies to private airlines, what was needed was a strengthened regime of regulation and monitoring to ensure safe and trouble-free operations. Instead, like much else in the country, it seems that this area of national life too has suffered a grievous decline.

As people were still looking with hope and despair towards Giyari where rescue efforts have so far bore no fruit, the nation was jolted with another tragedy on Friday when Bhoja airline flight from Karachi to Islamabad crashed just minutes before landing killing all 121 people on-board. Everyone shares the grief of the bereaved family who really deserve fullest possible consolation to bear this great and unexpected loss.

The crash in Rawalpindi of a Bhoja Airlines flight coming there from Karachi killed all on board the ill-fated plane, 127 people, including five crew members. However, while the entire nation tried to come to terms with the tragedy, a number of questions cropped up, which will not go away without satisfaction. It was perhaps inevitable that the crash would be measured against the crash of the AirBlue Airbus on July 28, 2010. The planes were flying on the same route, and were both attempting to land in Islamabad. Both were planes belonging to private airlines, and in the AirBlue crash too, all on board, all 152 people, were killed. Air travel is supposed to be safe, and there are supposed to be more chances of dying on the road than in a plane. Therefore, this recurrence of accidents cannot be acceptable

 Bhoja Air has a chequered history. It was closed down in 2000 by the Civil Aviation Authority because of financial difficulties. It announced the revival of its operations just last month. The ill-fated flight was its inaugural flight to Islamabad. Questions are being raised in the aftermath of the tragedy about the viability, technical and financial solidity and credibility of Bhoja Air. Some sections of the media have gone so far as to assert that political pressure or favouritism was at play in allowing Bhoja Air to resurrect itself when it did not have an adequate fleet (the crashed Boeing 737-200 was reportedly 27 years old) and proper technical, maintenance and safety checks according to international procedure and standards were not carried out.

 As this example and the plethora of stories lately about the national flag carrier PIA show, there is something rotten in the state of our aviation regulatory and maintenance systems. Every other day there are reports about flight cancellations, delays, near disasters that are slowly but steadily eroding the idea, at least in Pakistan, that flying is still the safest way to travel.

 The government’s conduct of rescue operations under difficult conditions is no doubt creditable, but that is the beginning of its task. The tragedy happened, and it is up to the government to find out why it did, and to ensure that it does not recur in future. The government must make it clear that there will be no compromise on the safety of passengers. They must come first, ahead of the commercial interests that see safety measures as needless expenditures.

Thank You For Reading.

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