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Junaid Jamshed among 48 dead in Pakistan air crash

Junaid Jamshed

ABBOTTABAD, Pakistan: A plane belonging to Pakistan’s national carrier crashed and burst into flames yesterday with 48 people on board, killing all of them, police and an airline spokesman said. According to senior police officer Khurram Rasheed, the plane crashed in a village in the district of Abbottabad, 75 km northwest of the capital, Islamabad. The small twin-propeller aircraft was travelling from the city of Chitral to Islamabad when it crashed shortly after takeoff.

Among those on board was Junaid Jamshed, a former Pakistani pop star turned evangelical Muslim, according to the Chitral airport manager and a local police official. The singer’s Twitter account had said he was in Chitral. Jamshed rocketed to fame in Pakistan in the 1980s and 1990s as the singer for the Vital Signs rock group, and later launched a solo career, with a string of chart-topping albums and hits. Jamshed abandoned his singing career in 2001 to join the Tableeghi Jamaat group, which travels across Pakistan and abroad preaching about Islam.

In his last tweet, Jamshed posted pictures of a snow-capped mountain, calling Chitral “Heaven on Earth”. Tributes were pouring in on social media for the former lead singer of the country’s first major pop band, whose popular “Dil Dil Pakistan” became an unofficial national anthem. “The voice of my youth, the voice of my generation…. #JunaidJamshed you will be sorely missed,” tweeted user Huma A Shah.

According to Daniyal Gilani, the spokesman for Pakistan International Airlines, the plane had lost touch with the control tower prior to the crash. He said the plane was carrying 42 passengers, five crew members and a ground engineer. “There is no survivor,” a senior government official at the Interior Ministry said. “All those on board the plane were killed,” said the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity as he was not authorized to release details about the crash to the media.

Azam Sehgal, PIA’s chairman, said the pilot of plane told the control tower 4:09 pm that an engine had developed a technical fault and moments later he made a “mayday call” shortly before the plane disappeared. Sehgal said the plane was fit to fly but that it was unclear what caused the crash. Pervez George, the spokesman for the Civil Aviation Authority, told AP that a team of experts would determine the cause after retrieving the plane’s black box recorder.

TV footage showed debris from the plane and a massive fire at the site of the crash. The footage showed local villagers collecting the remains of the passengers and covering the bodies with cloths. In a statement, the military said that 40 bodies had been retrieved. Several bodies were later transported to the Ayub Medical Complex, where mourning relatives began arriving to receive the remains.

Among such mourners was tearful Ghulam Rasool Khan, 24, who said his brother Umair Khan was on board the plane. Ghulam asked police to allow him to identify his brother’s body. However, police officer Iqbal Khan told him there was no point in going to the mortuary as, “there is nothing left which you can recognize.” Khan said he had heard that the plane was not fit to fly. “It is a murder and I want to know who killed my brother,” he said.

Altaf Hussain, a rescue worker who transported the remains of passengers in an ambulance, told the AP that the crash site smelled of burnt flesh and oil and that body parts were scattered everywhere. “We collected the burned bones of the ill-fated passengers and wrapped them in cloth,” he said. Ambulance driver Duray Hussain said the remains of the passengers were “beyond recognition”.

One official, Farman Ghori, was crying outside the hospital, saying he saw the faces of two toddlers among the remains. “Oh God, I never saw such a tragedy,” Ghori said. A spokesman for the Interior Ministry said at team had been dispatched to help identify the bodies through DNA tests. Authorities have released names of passengers – among Jamshed.

Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif expressed his “deep grief and sorrow” over the crash. In a statement, he said “the entire nation is deeply saddened over today’s unfortunate crash and shares the grief of the families who lost their dear ones”. Plane crashes are not uncommon in Pakistan. About 150 people were killed in a crash in the hills of Islamabad in 2010. In 2015, a military helicopter carrying several diplomats also crashed in the country’s north, killing eight people. A private plane also crashed near Islamabad due to bad weather in 2012, killing all 127 people on board. – Agencies

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