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Mayday, Mayday, Mayday

  • June, 2020
  • 290
  • Editorial

22nd May 2020 was a may-day that none would have desired in an already crisis ridden year.

The mayday call by the pilot of the unfortunate plane PK 8303 could not have been more tragic despite its strikingly calm decibels. “Mayday, Mayday, Mayday, Pakistan 8303” the pilot conveyed, and then was heard no more. Such helplessness in the hapless flight bound to crash is more symptomatic of the calm surrender of the nation to the criminal denial of the failing system. This tragedy is also an evidence of the transformation of the national flag carrier from a drain on the state purse to a death’s head at the feast. Probably, the one thing not needful has been to keep the ailing airline on ventilator. There have always been odious approximations that have made the safest mode of travel ‘unsafe’ in Pakistan. Tragedy after tragedy, the failing system has done nothing but to find excuses for placating its haunting conscience. It is a ‘perpetually recurring mortification’ devoid of guilt, and therein lay the rub.

Pakistan Airlines have been known for unpunctuality, but now the airlines could be known for putting passengers to the sword. During the last two decades there has been on an average one civilian domestic crash every two years. Alarmingly, none of the Pakistani airlines make to the list of safest airlines: not even to the list of low-cost safe airlines.(Considering the services and cost parity, the airlines do not even deserve to be bracketed as low cost.) Hours after the unfortunate plane crash, the aviation authorities told that both the engines had stopped functioning. Interestingly, the same was the reason for the unfortunate plane crash of PIA ATR-42 aircraft PK 661 on December 7th, 2016, claiming 47 lives including the artist and evangelist Junaid Jamshed and a serving PAS officer Usama Warraich. This time round the death toll is doubled up, making it one of the deadliest plane crashes in the history of Pakistan, yet less deadly than the 2010 Air Blue Air Bus crash which claimed 152 lives. However, the collateral damage of this crash might be humungous as it sadly occurred in a populated neighborhood of the airport.

The loss of lives is an irreparable damage, but to avert future disasters can still be a possibility. It is imperative to set the house in order. The national flag carrier can no longer be tolerated to act like a Lazarus at the state's door and yet under perform. The state is doing no more than preserving an Agathocles pot for itself in the shape of PIA. Raising the standards seems an unlikely possibility with a fragile economy. The options available hint towards outsourcing the national flag carrier. This might be a solution for economic aspect of the crisis, but the human aspect of the crisis demands both the framing and implementation of SOPs for all airlines operating in Pakistan to prioritize the safety of the passengers and crew. A criminal state of denial by the state is a worse evil than the gross neglect by the airlines. The truth must out without shuffling that any neglect would lead to cancellation of license; otherwise the truth will out in the face of the state like a drawback upon success.

Time waits for none. Much time has been wasted on mere rhetoric. The nation may not bear more tragedies. A timely and pertinent response can still transform the system beneath the leaven of change. However, protecting the status quo of an ailing system can easily spark into an uncontrollable fire. How much symbolic is the raging fire that blazed after the aircraft’s wings had sliced through the roofs. The fire spread to homes in the bustling port city after the plane had scattered to pieces. It was horrifying, terrifying and chaotic. Alas! horror, terror, squalor have been the words dinned into the ears of the nation. The nation might not take any more of it. Let it not perpetuate because such fires might be extinguished, but the loss is often irreparable.

This tragic plane crash will always be an unwelcome remembrance, but it must be recognized as a mayday call with little time left to avert future catastrophes. Such tragedies are not merely a blot on the state's escutcheon, but also a rebuke to its rising. Responsible nations learn from history and carve their destinies by application of newfound light. Lethargic responses would only result in greater miseries. Lion in the path is not the ill organized institutions, its rather sloth, apathy, and a persistent state of denial of a failing system. Age old tested and failed models would never bear fruit. Inquiry committees would prepare files, use the state resources, find scapegoats, and let the system run in its misguided trajectory. Hear the mayday call before its no more. Mayday, Mayday, Mayday Pakistan…

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