LAHORE - The Bhoja plane crash is the most shocking news for the nation. As is true with all tragedies, we, as members of public, would soon come out of the state of shock. But for the 127 families who have lost their dear ones, it is going to be a perpetual pain.
It was usual to note the abundant condolences pouring in from the echelons of power -- an expression of sadness and an order for investigation from the President and the PM and numerous notes of sympathy from Ministers, Advisers, Special Advisers as well as their predecessors.
Yet, one really doubts if anyone from the powers-that-be really attributes to the crushing ache of the mothers who lost their sons in the crash, the misery of the fathers who lost their daughters, or the hollowness of the women who lost their husbands……. The answer is no, predicated on the treatment meted out to the families of the earlier air disaster – the 2010 AirBlue crash. Reports abound that families of several, if not all, of the AirBlue crash victims have not been paid compensation by the airline. This very callousness is symbolic of the rot at the heart of all the ills afflicting us today. Which civility on the face of the earth would force the bereaved families to resort to legal recourse?
A late March 2012 report reads that on the compensation issue, AirBlue took up this stance before the Peshawar High Court that it would be giving out compensations only if the heirs of the victims had withdrawn lawsuits and signed some other documents (that would obviously amount to them surrendering other rights under the international aviation law). The question, nonetheless, is, what forced the heirs in the first place to seek legal remedy. The airline’s plea could be seen as a way to block and eventually deny payment, which in itself is a paltry sum of 500,000 rupees per victim. This amount may sound too big in a country where people get killed for five rupees. Anyhow, the delay in compensation on any grounds could not be condoned, while the authorities should also up the compensation to at least Rs 2 million per victim.
The same report showed that in an earlier hearing of the AirBlue compensation case, PHC Chief Justice Dost Muhammad Khan had ordered inspection of aircraft of the private companies as well as the national PIA on account of complaints about the health of the aircraft. And locally things have gone so murky that the honourable CJ had to order inspection by International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO). Reports such as PIA flying a plane from London to Islamabad, with water flowing from toilet into the aisles all the journey through, are but a reflection of the dereliction that stems from a virtual blanket amnesty to the wrongs. The CAA (Civil Aviation Authority), however, was quick to deny the political dimensions to Bhoja air re-launch despite its chequered history.
What exactly is wrong, should no more be elusive. The soul-scathing tragedy is national, warranting comprehensive correction. The plea here is: do not amplify the pain of the victims, do not delay compensation, do not deny justice. The expressions of sympathy matter, but acts shall prove.
Don’t offer lip service, prove that you care