ISLAMABAD - The Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) on Saturday arrested Umar Farooq Bhoja, owner of Bhoja Airlines, as Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani announced that a judicial commission would investigate Friday’s air crash that killed 127 people on board the plane.
A case for killing 127 people was also registered against Farooq Bhoja with Koral police station, Islamabad.
The FIR lodged into the incident accused the owner of Bhoja Airline of using an outdated aircraft.
Bhoja is currently in the protective custody of FIA for interrogation, while the Interior Ministry also put his name on the Exit Control List (ECL).
However, a private TV channel reported late on Saturday that Bhoja had told interrogators that there were six partners in the airlines. Arshad Jalil, his wife and son owned 80 percent of the shares and Arshad was the managing director, while Bhoja claimed that he owned only five percent of the shares. Two directors of the airlines — Mutahir Hussain and Zeeshan Kareemi – are also shareholders in the business.
Meanwhile, rescue workers have recovered the Cockpit Voice Recorder of the ill-fated plane, however, CAA Director General Nadeem Yousafzai announced that there was no technical fault in the plane, as it had been thoroughly inspected at the Karachi airport before its flight.
Another CAA official said the Boeing 737-200 was 28 years old and had been bought on dry lease from a South African company.
A Bhoja Air official insisted that despite its age, the plane was safe to fly.
“The aircraft was old and second hand but it is not something unusual. The fleet of state-run Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) also runs old aircraft,” Bhoja Air official Masham Zafar told AFP.
“Airlines rarely have brand new planes, and this aircraft was also refurbished. Pakistan Metrological Department Director General Arif Mahmood told Pakistan Today that bad weather warning was provided to CAA twice on Friday. “The first warning was issued at 3pm that cited major aviation hazards, while the second one was issued at around 6pm,” he added. Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani visited Pakistan Institute of Medical Sciences (PIMS) on Saturday and directed Interior Minister Rehman Malik to form a judicial commission to probe into incident. The commission would be headed by former chief justice of the Lahore High Court Zahid Hussain Bukhari and would comprise Justice (r) Naseem Sikandar and Dr Wasim Kosar. PIMS spokesman Wasim Khawaja said that most of the relatives had identified their loved ones and the remaining bodies had been sent to a morgue in Sector I/10.
“We would hand over the bodies after DNA tests,” Khawaja said, adding that the process would take five to seven days.
Relatives: But the developments had no calming effect on the aggrieved families, whose loss only amplified on the receipt of as many as 118 bodies of relatives. It was a breakdown indeed. Dozens of coffins lined a hallway of PIMS on Saturday as weeping relatives of the victims slammed the authorities for the disaster.
Staff at PIMS, faces covered with masks, sprayed air freshener to mask the smell of burnt flesh in the room where the remains were being kept, some of them no more than a few body parts.
A dejected woman identifying herself as Mrs Hassan, 45, said she had come to collect the body of her 45-year old cousin Mohammad Yunus, a scholar who had been running a madrassa in Karachi.
“We could not get the full body. We recognised his hand and hair along with his jacket,” she said.
“It’s sheer incompetence of the government. This is the second major accident here in less than two years but the president and the prime minister remain unmoved. If the weather was bad why did they not warn the pilot. Why did they allow the plane to land?” she charged. Abdul Raoof, 55, said he had come for the body of his cousin Ghulam Farooq, 45, who worked for the State Life Insurance Corporation in Islamabad.
“We have been roaming here since early morning. We go inside the mortuary and returned in depression after seeing body parts and severed limbs lying there.”
“We wait, get impatient and then go inside again only to return disappointed. We are traumatised. We want to get the body and leave this place as early as possible.” Raoof blamed the airport control tower for negligence.
“If the weather was bad the plane should have been turned away,” he said. “It is also a mistake of the airline. They sacrificed 127 lives just to save some fuel.”
A majority of affected family members, flown from Karachi on a special Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) flight, were inconsolable, too overwhelmed with grief to speak.
One young man wept bitterly for the cousin and aunt he lost in the crash, who were returning from pilgrimage in Saudi Arabia.
“I don’t want to talk, please leave us alone,” he told journalists.
Hospital staff sprinkled rose petals on some of the coffins as a gesture of compassion, while police and soldiers consoled relatives.
“My brothers are gone! My brothers are gone!” wailed Mohammad Shahzad, slumping to the ground by the hospital entrance. One brother had been identified, he said, the other remained missing. Both had been on a daylong business trip linked to the transport company run by the three siblings.
“We don’t know what to tell the kids, we don’t know what to tell my mother,” Shahzad said. “They keep calling. I told them there was an accident and we don’t know anything yet.” Ayesha Ishaque pressed her face against a light brown wooden coffin labelled “Body 140”. Her brother, Mohammad Saud Ishaque, had been returning home from studies in Karachi. “Why has God done this to my brother,” she wailed. A senior PIA engineer told AFP the age of the aircraft mattered less than its flying hours, and said he thought an air pocket — a patch of low air pressure — could be to blame.
“Since it was approaching the airport to land it was obviously flying low — between 3,000 and 4,000 feet above the ground,” he said.
“Visibility was also low because it was raining and there was thunder and lightening. The pilot lost control and apparently failed to lift it out of the air pocket.”