Pakistan on Thursday mourned the 47 victims of its deadliest plane crash in four years, among them a famed-rockstar-turned-naat khwan, two infants and three foreigners, as officials sought to pinpoint the cause of the disaster.
Engine trouble was initially believed responsible, but many questions remain, stirring new worries about the safety record of money-losing state carrier Pakistani International Airlines.
The ATR-42 aircraft involved in the crash had undergone regular maintenance, including an “A-check” certification in October, airline chairman Muhammad Azam Saigol said.
“I want to make it clear that it was a perfectly sound aircraft,” Saigol said, ruling out technical or human error.
The aircraft appeared to have suffered a failure in one of its two turboprop engines just before the crash, he said, but this would have to be confirmed by an investigation.
“I think there was no technical error or human error,” he told a news conference late on Wednesday. “Obviously there will be a proper investigation.”
Outpourings of grief erupted online soon after flight PK661 smashed into the side of a mountain near the town of Havelian, in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa province, late on Wednesday afternoon, after taking off from the mountain resort of Chitral.
It crashed just 50 km (31 miles) short of its destination, the international airport in Islamabad, the capital.
Much of the anguish focused on Junaid Jamshed, the vocalist of Vital Signs, one of Pakistan’s first and most successful rock and pop bands of the 1990s, who abandoned his musical career in 2001 to become a travelling preacher with the conservative Tableeghi Jamaat group of Deobandis.
FOREIGNERS AMONG THE DEAD
Some urged Pakistanis to remember the 46 others who perished, including two infants, three foreigners and five crew listed on the passenger manifest.
“Junaid Jamshed’s death has saddened many. But don’t let this overshadow the tragedies of other families who lost their dear ones,” tweeted Islamabad-based journalist Umar Cheema.
The foreigners included two Austrians and a Chinese man, the airline said. Foreign tourists increasingly flock to Chitral every year, besides thousands of domestic visitors, as Pakistan emerges from years of violence caused by a Taliban insurgency.
The dead included a member of Chitral’s traditional royal family and his wife and family, as well as a regional administrative official, Osama Ahmad Warraich, killed with his wife and infant daughter, the Dawn newspaper said.