Sunday May 26, 2024

Air tragedies that struck Pakistan's armed forces

Since 1949, numerous planes and helicopters of the Pakistan armed forces have met painful aviation tragedies

By Sabir Shah
August 03, 2022
According to an ISPR statement issued on July 30, 2019 rescue teams of the Pakistan Army are present at the crash site. — AFP
According to an ISPR statement issued on July 30, 2019 rescue teams of the Pakistan Army are present at the crash site. — AFP

LAHORE: Since 1949, numerous planes and helicopters of the Pakistan armed forces have met painful aviation tragedies that have left scores dead, research shows. 

In a number of cases, bodies of men clad in uniforms were found and identified in debris, ashes and ambers. And many corpses were not even identifiable.

Here follows the timeline of these air-related catastrophes: At 10 pm, on December 12, 1949, a Dakota plane of Pak Air Services crashed near Jungshahi, 65 km northeast of its intended destination. The machine was flying from Lahore to Karachi when a navigational error left all 26 on board dead. Amongst those who perished were Major General Iftikhar Khan who was a strong contender for the appointment of the first Pakistani Commander-in-Chief, Brigadier Sher Khan and Qazi Musa (the brother of famous Muslim Leaguer Qazi Isa). General Iftikhar (1907-1949) was junior in service to General Ayub Khan but had been promoted earlier to command 10 Division in Lahore. He was proceeding to the UK to attend a year’s course at the Imperial Defence College to groom him for the appointment as Commander-in-Chief as he was pegged to succeed General Douglas Gracey.

He was one of five brothers in the Army. The eldest was Major General Akbar Khan, and his other brothers were Major General Anwar Khan and Brigadier Muhammad Afzal.

The crash scene was several miles from Jangshahi’s rescue base and the bodies had to be transported on stretchers through very difficult terrain with the aid of ropes. While the body of Iftikhar and his wife were identified by his brother Major General Akbar, the corpse of Sher Khan was spotted courtesy a silver cigarette case, which bore his initials “S.K”.

(Reference: The December 14, 1949 edition of the Sydney Morning Herald)

On August 17, 1988, a US-made Hercules C-130 military aircraft crashed near Bahawalpur, after it had caught fire, killing the then military ruler General Ziaul Haq and 30 others including Pakistani generals and the US ambassador.

On February 19, 2003, an Air Force Fokker F27 smashed into the fog-shrouded mountains near Kohat, killing Pakistan Air Force Chief Mushaf Ali Meer, his wife and 15 others.

On July 3, 2009, A Russian-manufactured transport helicopter of the Pakistan Army struck the ground in Orakzai Agency. Official accounts stated 26 soldiers were killed in the incident, though other sources had put the toll at 41.

On February 7, 2008, Major General Javed Sultan and seven other army officers were killed in South Waziristan, when their helicopter succumbed to destiny on their return to Kohat from Wana.

On May 31 ,2011, a helicopter carrying Director General of Punjab Rangers, Major-General Mohammad Nawaz, his son and ADC Asif Nawaz, Colonel Amir Abbas (the pilot) and Subedar Ibadullah (a technician), nosedived into the Indus River near Layyah.

On May 23, 2012, the debris of a Pakistan Army Aviation helicopter was found. It had plunged into the Chenab River between Gujranwala and Gujrat.

On May 8, 2015, a transport helicopter of the Pakistan Army Aviation Corps met a terrible fate in Naltar in Gilgit, killing eight people.

Among the victims were the ambassadors of Norway and the Philippines to Pakistan, as well as the spouses of the Indonesian and Malaysian envoys.

Numerous Government officials and international dignitaries were travelling to the Naltar Valley, where the-then Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif was due to host a luncheon in their honour. While Premier Nawaz Sharif was scheduled to travel by fixed-wing aircraft, 32 foreign diplomats and their spouses were flown in from Islamabad in a C-130 transport aircraft to Gilgit Airport hours earlier.

Some 25 Pakistanis were also accompanying the foreigners. Although two of the helicopters had already landed at the time of the incident, the third one somehow lost control and collided with the ground while landing.

The cause of the accident had been attributed to the mechanical failure of the helicopter’s tail rotor.

In August 2015, 12 people were killed when an army chopper crashed.

On November 24, 2015, a Pakistan Air Force Flying Officer, Marium Mukhtiar, became the first female pilot to have died on a mission when her trainer jet crashed near Kundian, Mianwali.

On July 30, 2019, some 17 people, including five crew members and 12 civilians, lost their lives after a Pakistan Army aviation aircraft on a routine training flight crashed near Rawalpindi.

On February 7, 2020, a Mirage aircraft of the Pakistani Air Force, on a routine training mission, crashed near Shorkot city in Punjab. The pilot ejected safely and no loss of life or property was reported on the ground.