Thursday Dec 07, 2017
We all remember Pakistan International Airlines flight PK-661 which crashed on December 7, 2016. It crashed on its way from Chitral to Islamabad. Junaid Jamshed, singer-turned-preacher, was onboard the flight, but so were 46 other people.
Shah Fahad lost his youngest sister Ayesha in the crash. She was only 24-years-old, with her entire life ahead of her. Ayesha was on her way to Islamabad to receive her M.Phil degree from the Quaid-i-Azam University. After receiving her degree, she was to leave for Canada and unite with her husband.
My legs trembled as I spoke with Fahad, who stayed composed throughout our conversation.
Since her death, her brother has moved from one corridor of power to another in order to get justice. The first challenge faced by Fahad was when he tried to repatriate his sister’s body and take it back to his hometown of Chitral. Unfortunately, he did not receive a straight answer from the officials he met.
There were delays, misinformation and unanswered calls. At one point Fahad had to bring a sample of his mother’s blood from Chitral for a DNA test. He also shared how he and his brother-in-law had made the long journey through snow-covered roads towards Islamabad, carrying the blood sample.
Despite challenges faced, Fahad persisted.
Searching from hospital to hospital, he finally found his sister's body. She was returned to him in a sealed coffin.
Tragically, the bodies had to be stored in containers used to preserve fruits under normal circumstances. This caused the bodies of the martyrs to further deteriorate on their way to burial grounds.
The wait is still not over for Ayesha’s family and that of the other 46 victims of the crash. They are still waiting for the inquiry report to be completed and released.
Fahad told me another disturbing story, about how one of the other victims’ family found out later that the coffin they were given was not of their loved one. The refusal on part of the authorities and the hospitals to release the DNA results further feeds into this fear.
As for the compensation, which was promised by the then-prime minister, over nearly a year ago, has yet to be given to the families.
On the first anniversary of the crash, the families gathered outside the PIA office in Islamabad in order to raise awareness and to demand answers to their questions.
Waheed is an advocate of the High Court, director of the Blackstone Law Office and a teacher at the Blackstone School of Law.