Bhoja Air crash: We are accessories to murder

Published: April 21, 2012

Rescue workers and local residents search the site of a plane crash in Rawalpindi on April 20, 2012. PHOTO: AFP

Please refrain from shedding tears or feeling remorse for the unfortunate victims of the Bhoja Air crash. As painful and heart wrenching as this episode is, I’m afraid we have no right to feel sorry or pity for the departed souls and their loved ones.

This may seem harsh, but it is the truth; we are all culpable in what is brazen murder. We are the ones that are allowing these airlines to operate within our borders; we are the ones that are tolerating unethical business practices that all too frequently imply cost cutting at the expense of the public at large.

Air Blue and Bhoja Air have already suffered at the hands of all too predictable air disasters while the fleets of PIA, Shaheen et al are also lamentable. It is common knowledge that PIA may be forced to cede operations as it no longer commands a fleet fit for flying (or a crew for that matter). Our national carrier itself is flirting with extinction, so the standards of the smaller domestic airlines can hardly be expected to be any better. Are our aviation standards so poor that anything with wings and an engine attached to it is cleared for flying?

It isn’t just the lives lost in this horrific accident, but the life of every single passenger that flies on these ‘flying coffins’ is put at risk, by these airlines. Disregard for human life and its sanctity at the expense of profit, which is the disgusting truth. This isn’t just an issue plaguing our aviation industry, but a cursory glance at other industries will reveal the same immoral pattern. This is not good business sense; this makes you an accessory to murder.

Where are our courts and our politicians? Are they going to introduce and enforce legislation that will confine avoidable tragedies like these to history books? If there is to be another aviation tragedy, its reason should not be negligence.  As for the media that is highlighting this event, shame on you. Bollywoodising news reports with emotionally charged musical numbers and carefully crafted tear inducing narratives should be grounds for termination of broadcasting rights. The plight of those suffering should not be used as a battleground for ratings. PEMRA, if you want to censor and ban anything, this is your cue. No longer should channels be allowed to invade private spaces, especially of those mourning the loss of loved ones.

Rather than focusing on the actual news, the actual problems and the actual solutions, the media is keen to prove which one of them is the least tactful. Since the nation follows the media’s lead, it should hold itself responsible for the behaviour and tastes of the masses. This event is somber, shocking and painful enough as it is. Please let the feelings sink in purely, these are real lives, real people, not the script of a film. Conspiracy theorists may say what they will about foreign channels, but at least they have the dignity not to exploit moments like these.

We only deserve to shed the tears we must shed for the victims once we have done something about this. We are a nation of armchair intellectuals suffering from attention deficit disorder. They say ‘don’t fix it if it isn’t broken’; well it is broken. When we show that we respect the sanctity of our own people’s lives, only then can we expect foreign powers to do the same. Our empathy for the victims and their loved ones is trumped by our apathy that allows such tragedies to happen in the first place.


Muhammad Talha Zaheer

A University of Toronto Graduate in Economics, Political Science and Near and Middle Eastern Civilizations. He tweets @talhaz (

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.

  • Saad Shuja

    True facts … well said.Recommend

  • maiden

    While I agree with what you have written overall, yout first paragraph is very insensitive and disturbing – whether the airlines ran or not… These people have all lost their lives due to no fault of their own.Recommend

  • Ahmed

    I fully endorse views of the writer. It is true that when our own national flag carrier is in a pathetic situation, how, can we expect authorities not to award licences to private airlines of the standards like Bhoja, Air Blue or Shaheen. I do not rule out the huge financial & material corruption which must have been resorted to by both sides in seeking & awarding licences for operation of private airlines. This and any other such loss of life can only be attributed to NOVEL CORRUPT PRACTICES adopted by our authorities. This is another evidence of governance failure of the government. People are right to raise questions as to why Air Traffic Control did allow this unfortunate Bhoja flight to land when weather did not permit landing? Recommend

  • Sarah H.

    The Pakistani media is still in the stages of infancy and capitalizes on people’s emotions. Two years back when a plane crashed in the Margalla Hills, there were reports showing charred flesh and other gory details pertaining to the accident. Moreover, relatives were caught on camera, crying and screaming, with melancholy music playing in the background. As for aviation standards, improving them can reduce the risks of accidents, but cannot eliminate them. I don’t mean to be insensitive, but it was their time, and they had to go; and when it’s time, no precautionary measures or high-quality security can save you. However, I refute when you say that we shouldn’t remorse, because it’s human to remorse, and not everyone is as indifferent as a journalist!Recommend

  • http://--- Riaz Akbar

    It is indeed a very sad incident. The real cause of accident will be determined by judicial commission. Besides this, location of Islamabad International Airport in densely populated area of Rawalpindi demands its shifting to a location well far off from populated area. The residents of Koral village remained lucky that they did not suffer any human loss in ths accident. This is second disastrous tragedy within twenty one months. I request concerned authorities to to speed up efforts on war footing in shifing airport to a new site.Recommend

  • samaha

    you sir are ignorant . thats all i can say ! because although the points you have raised are all true, right now really isnt the moment to spit them out and that too in such an insensitive manner ! the only reason for bhoja crash was weather ! islamabad’s weather is known to be unpredictable and if anyone was in the city at the time of the crash they would agree that a storm came out of nowhere and that is something no one in the world can predict !! within ten minutes the sky was full of black clouds and thunder so grow a heart and know that some things like this are out of our control !Recommend

  • MarkH

    By removing the aspect of real public remorse you lose all hope of something changing.Recommend

  • Meekal Ahmed

    The airport IS being shifted. A new one is under construction near Fatehjang.

    As for the Blog, this accident may have NOTHING to do with an old aircraft or cost-cutting. When you are a jet, doing only 125-130 knots, on final approach with your gear and flaps extended and power is way back as you prepare to land, you are very vulnerable — especially if you are landing in stormy weather with sharp changes in wind direction and speed.

    Maybe the airport should have been shut down if the conditions were as bad as suggested. Airports around the world will normally do that in bad weather conditions and certainly if there is a thunderstorm over the field or in the vacinity that is whiping up strong gusts.

    He MAY have been caught in a down-draft or a “wind-shear”. The question to ask is whether he recognized it and was trained in how you escape a “wind-shear” event. Maybe he failed to react quickly enough but even if he did, we know that jet engines are slow to spool up. Being so close to the ground, he simply ran out of “altitude and luck” as they say.

    An old aircraft crashes and we point to the aircrafts age. In the AB case, that was a brand new aircraft with the best systems that man has created. In that case, the captain ignored all the warnings that the computer-generated voice was giving him — as per the design. Seventeen in all, including pleadings from his co-pilot that they were approaching terrain.

    It is small comfort to say “these things happen”. There may be criminal negligence involved but that is something that we do not know yet.

    The black boxes have been recovered and will be sent abroad for de-coding. The black boxes do not lie. I hope they will ask the US NTSB to help in the investigation. I think they have offered already. Since this is a US aircraft with US engines, I hope Boeing and P&W (the engine makers) will help out too.Recommend

  • Sarmad Naseer

    Well said! There is no difference in the Airlines and the Wagon walas who run battered ram shackle wagons inside the cities.Recommend

  • Umer Toor

    Private Air Line, BHOJA’s Boeing 737 Crashed leaving 127 people dead. The plane crashed just before landing. Weather has been reported as the primary reason for the crash. Islamabad was covered with dark clouds. Heavy rain could have played a vital role in BHOJA Air Boeing 737 crash. None of the passengers have survived the air plane crash.

    Air plan crash may turn out to be more tragic as air plane crashed in residential area. Initial reports have indicated the 40 plus houses which got affected by air plane crash. Residential area is known as Hussain Abad Village.

    The plane is completely destroyed. Fire fighters and emergency workers are trying to control the situation to minimize the damage. Hospitals in surrounding areas have been put on high alert.
    Bhoja Boeing 737 was flying from Karachi to islamabad. Initial reports have indicated that crashed air plane lost the connection with the tower at 6:40 pm.Recommend

  • The Only Normal Person Here.

    Insensitive and an attempt to seek attention, that’s what I can say about your first para. However, rest was true and well pointed out. Recommend

  • Ahmed

    What a simplistic view on weather conditions in Islamabad by SAMAHA. Media is reporting that Met Department already gave two warnings on bad weather conditions to Civil Aviation Authority(CAA) Islamabad. Question is why these warnings were ignored & pilot not advised in this regard.

    One has to view the situation objectively. In a similar situation, today, CAA diverted plane of Prime Minister to Lahore, as it carried some one special — VVIP , Mr PM. But, unfortunate Bhoja flight was carrying HAVE NOTs, so no one cared.

    Allah may help our nation — two serious air accidents in less than two years. What happened to the investigation of Air Blue Crash — no one knows. Ironically DG CAA says that Bhoja investigation may take more than a year — i.e. by the time this DG will be over with his assignment with all the legal & illicit benefits earned & of-course after having served his masters.
    Air Blue & Bhoja crashes points out more seriously on the need of early commissioning of new Airport at Fathejang.
    Our heart goes out to the families of the victims of two air crashes. Recommend

  • Waseem Ahmed

    Bhoja Air Crash is no doubt an incident which along with leaving grieved adults and crying children behind has again raised so many question about the integrity and compliance of safety procedures followed by the Civil Aviation Authority and other concerned technical institutions. We have lost almost 700 valued lives in air crashes so far. This is the time we must open our eyes and learn the lesson. Unfortunately most of the air passengers in Pakistan feel insecure while flying through any national airline, whether it is public or private, but they are bound to fly with these even having no complete confidence because of being time bound. I invite the media to conduct a survey of frequent flyers to find out whether they would fly with any of national airline, once they have choice of flying with any reputed international airline, inland? I promise 99% of response will be negative.
    The technical institutions especially related to safety of human life must be made realize to behave more responsibly and professionally. I suggest that Media itself should take initiative to convince and even force CAA and the Ministry of Defense to issue fortnightly bullion on the fitness of aircrafts under operation by all airlines. This initiative will not only force airlines to follow the safety rules strictly but also will make CAA responsible for any incident, if God forbid, it happens in future. Currently, in case of any incident, no one takes responsibility of any mishap.
    I further suggest that it should be made mandatory for the airlines to issue an “Air Craft Fitness” certificate of the particular air craft, to the passenger along with the air ticket.
    At this sad moment the whole nation is with the grieved families in their sorrow. No doubt this is an unrecoverable loss but we have to live these hard realities. May Allah bless the souls of all deceased passengers with peace and high places in heaven (Ameen) .

    Waseem Ahmed

  • harri

    Could not agree more…..Recommend

  • SM

    We all need to realize that by us not doing anything about the corruption in Pakistan, we are all culpable. We need to throw out the existing system since it no longer works for us.
    It only works for the top brass of the country – our lives are pawns in the hands of the politicians who overlook the good of the masses and care only about profiteering and lining their own pockets. And we allow them to carry on. Let there be revolution against the corrupt system and then we can blame those responsible. But right now, only we are to blame.Recommend

  • Karim d

    Very Very well said.
    The aviation people are to be blamed for letting such an aircraft into air.
    what were the engineers thinking.they say its in Allahs hands which is fine, but we have to do our duty 100 percent and with clear honesty, and leave the rest to Allah, thats what the term means i believe.
    Anyways v good article keep it up ,

  • anumalik

    This is Pilot mistake nothing else, in this bad weather one should be on hight and above 250 knots or change course. But With high load on board low altitude and slow speed with flaps 15 and maintaining 160KNT pilot all did this and cross wind dip him. Black box will surely tell all these things.Moreover PIA jets are worst than bhoja.Recommend

  • MK

    I think the biggest problem in this fiasco is how the media handled it, and will continue to handle it. You’re right – PEMRA needs to step in and have some basic ethical guidelines. I flipped TV channels, and ALL of them were disgusting in their coverage – all kept showing the broken plane parts, a small child’s dress, gold bangles, and kept pushing the camera into the victims’ families faces. Completely appalling. In fact, GEO and Sama had a small plane that they kept showing bursting into flames – in the lower left corner of the screen. That has to be the height of insensitivity. I wish our TV channels could pay heed to how US channels covered 9/11 WTC crash – after the initial shock, no TV channel was allowed to show the whole plane crashing scene. Instead they just showed a dark screen to mourn their losses.Recommend

  • Parvez

    A bit emotionally over charged but the general idea conveyed is correct.
    Think about it…… who’s the captain in charge and the co-pilot of (nation) Pakistan ????……Is it now hard to understand why things are all going downhill ??Recommend

  • samaha

    the CAA for ur information. as far as i know, doesnot sit in the cockpit and flies the plane ! yes the weather warning was given and the pilot was advised to divert the landind but it was ultimately HIS OWN decision to land their so i dont see CAA’s fault there.
    also if u check the reports the plane before landing had already caught fire, i gues CAA has a habit of doing that as well ! i dont deny that there are problems in CAA and our national airlines and including other organizations as well but they can no way be linked with this accident because the weather was the only cause here.. no one else !! somethings are out of our control.
    as far as the PM’s plane is concerned again it was the pilots decison.. the CAA doesnt sits in karachi and diverts planes here and there. they are not police flying in the skies that can force or enforce anything when it comes to things like this !
    and about investigations, i doubt that of any investigation of a plane crash or anything else in the whole world, not just in Pakistan comes out with the truth and the real reasons so thats just a waste of time.
    even i feel saddened by the fact that two major crashes occured in this capital city which has people including foreingners flying in and out all the time but that doesnot mean you start pointing at the wrong people. do your research and point out the real culprits. fix the PIA problem and there wont be any need of airlines like bhoja or airblue or shaheen or any other.Recommend

  • Awais

    @Sarah H.:
    When you say that it was “it was their time, and they had to go; and when it’s time, no precautionary measures or high-quality security can save you.” You make it sound as this was inevitable and the passengers had to die in this way and no other. I bet there is a greater chance of dying on the way to the airport than dying in a plane crash.Recommend

  • Sana

    I think we need to get our pilots to undergo psychological test instead of testing our planes. The Air Blue report clearly shows pilot’s arrogance and and a few in the past (e.g. crash in Nepal, where pilot loved to fly around Everest) too. I believe it is people that are more dangerous than equipments! Recommend