97 bodies retrieved from crashed PIA plane

By Faraz Khan
May 24, 2020

KARACHI: A day after the domestic state-run Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) Airbus A320 jet with 91 passengers and a crew of eight flying from the northeastern city of Lahore crashed in the densely populated Model Colony residential area near the southern port city of Karachi, the authorities on Saturday ended the search and rescue operation after announcing to have recovered all the bodies of the passengers and the crew from the plane crash site.


The death toll from PIA flight PK-8303, which crashed on Friday afternoon at around 2:25pm after sending a distress call, has now risen to 97, marking it as the third most catastrophic aviation disaster in Pakistan's history. Only two survived the crash — the chief executive of the Bank of Punjab, namely Zafar Masud and a young engineer named Muhammad Zubair. The Karachi-bound flight from Lahore was "just seconds" away from landing at the Karachi airport when it crashed in the residential Jinnah Garden area near Model Colony in Malir, right outside the airport's boundary wall. “We have 97 bodies including 68 male, 26 female and three children,” said police surgeon Dr Qarar Abbasi while talking to The News. “20 bodies at the JPMC and four at the CHK have been identified of which, 20 have been handed over to their families while the rest of four are in the process of being handed over to their legal heirs.” The Police surgeon said that 66 bodies were brought to the Jinnah Postgraduate Medical Center PMC while 31 to Civil Hospital, Karachi. “The medico-legal officers have collected the samples from the bodies and sent them to the forensic lab of the University of Karachi to match them from their families for the DNA analysis in order to have a conclusive identification,” he explained.

The families of the deceased passengers and crew members were also asked to approach the forensic laboratory at the KU to give their samples for DNA analysic, which will take around three weeks. “So far 54 families have given their samples to the forensic lab for the DNA identification,” the police surgeon confirmed. “Majority of the bodies were charred beyond recognition. The DNA testing was the only option left to identify them.” “Some of the samples collected from the hospitals were not correct and their procedure is being revised,” DSP Aftab Alam told The News. “Some of the families have identified their loved ones with the help of their wallets, rings, watches, clothes, shoes and others.”

Both Governor Sindh Imran Ismail and Federal Minister for Aviation Ghulam Sarwar Khan also spoke to media regarding the crash. Talking to media the Governor Sindh said “a team to carry out DNA tests has arrived in Karachi from Lahore and is working on the identification process.” He also said that those whose houses were damaged in the crash have been shifted to a hotel situated within the airport premises. “Those who cannot be accommodated will be shited to Qasar-e-Naz Guest House,” he said. “The examination revealed damage of low magnitude to the houses which is nothing short of a miracle,” Ismail added. Federal Minister Sarwar Khan said the inquiry will be made public and it will be ensured that it is transparent. “Will try our best that the results (of the investigation) are brought to the fore as soon as possible,” said the aviation minister. “If the inquiry proves dereliction of duty against the PIA and the CEO or himself (minister), then they will resign and present themselves for accountability,” he said. “Currently the priority is to hand over bodies of the victims to the families.”

The crash has brought to forth many tragic stories telling about the fragility of life and the plans one makes. Among those who lost their lives in the tragedy included a entire family of five. The head of the family Zain Polani along with his wife, Sara and three children passed away in the crash. Zain Polani was the head of the Credit Card and Personal Loans at Standard Chartered Pakistan SCB. He had moved his family to UK almost a year ago to let his wife complete her PHD. Following the Corona pandemic he was worried that London quarantine was affecting his kids, and was trying yo get them back to Pakistan. He managed to get them on a flight from London to Lahore and went last Wednesday to pick them from Lahore. In Lahore all of them tested negative during quarantine and Zain was bringing them back home before Eid on Friday's flight. “Though it is confirmed that Zain Polani and his family members have perished in the crash but they are yet to be formally identified for which their DNA samples were collected” said the police. Governor Sindh Imran Ismail also visited the prominent businessman Yahya Polani and offered his condoleneces for the death of Yahya’s nephew Zain Polani and Zain’s wife and three children.

Similarly, Nida Waqas and family was also among them who lost their lives in the tragic plane crash. She was HR manager at Atlas Honda and had studied from IBA.

She was the first position holder of the DBA batch. Dr. Yasmeen Akbani a senior paediatrician & HOD Peads Department, Abbasi Shaheed Hospital (KMC) since 1986 also lost life yesterday. Five military officers, a model Zara Abid and senior journalist Ansar Naqvi were also among the unfortunate passengers of the plane which crashed on Friday. Naqvi had remained associated with The News and Geo News eversince their inception and later moved to work for other tv news channels including the one in Lahore where he was working recently. Naqvi was desperately trying to meet his children in Karachi since they had not met since the lockdown. In fact he was so eager that he tried to drive down to Karachi from Lahore and had even packed his luggage in a car, when he received a phone call telling him of confirmation of his reservation on the PIA flight 8303.

Another family of four who lived in Karachi’s Gulbahar area was also among the deadly plane crash victims. Though Waqas and his wife Nida have been identified but their two children Aliyan and Aima remain to be identified and the DNA samples were taken to identify them. “The couple was in Lahore for the last one year for an employment.” Another ill-fated father and a son were also among the victims. Saleem Qadri who was a businessman and his son, Osama Qadri also lost their lives in the tragic incident but their bodies remain to be identified.

Lieutenant Mir Balach Khan Bugti who lost his life in the plane crash was laid to rest at Bahria graveyard on Saturday. The Corps Commander Karachi and senior officials from the military, Rangers and police also presented at the occasion. Bugti after matriculation at Jacobabad had joined the Cadet College, Steel Town. He was commissioned into Pak Army two years ago and was recently promoted as Captain.

He was eldest of the four siblings and his engagement was also scheduled in the coming days. He was coming to home to spend Eid with his family but he lost his life in the tragedy. He was the nephew of famous classical singer Ustad Hanif Lashari and Ustad Wahid Lashari.

Meanwhile, the funeral prayers of Major Sheheryar, his wife, Maham, and two children were offered at Masjid Ali located at Bahadurabad after Zuhr prayers which was attended by large number of senior officers from the military, police, Rangers and family members and relatives. The Corps Commander Karachi also attended the funeral prayers. Similarly the funeral prayers of another victim of the plane crash, namely Engineer Farhan Qadir also offered at his hometown, Ghotki and later he was laid to rest amid tears and sobs.

The Sindh Health Minister Azra Pechuho said that DNA tests of the plane crash victims will be conducted at a Karachi University lab, calling it a state of the art facility.

Addressing a joint press conference with the Sindh government spokesman Murtaza Wahab, and Sindh information minister Nasir Hussain Shah, Dr Pechuho said that Sindh Governor Imran Ismail is "unaware of matters pertaining to DNA tests,"adding that the tests will be done in Sindh. She said that DNA tests will take 21 days and so far, 47 families have submitted their samples. Pechuho said that 97 people died in the crash, adding that 68 men, 26 women, and three children were among the dead.