ISLAMABAD - Despite the fact that international aviation organisations and Pakistani courts have been seeking independence of Special Investigation Board of Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) for probing air accidents of commercial flights, the board is still toothless and even short of its members.
Since its inception as authority in 1982, the investigating board is lacking any civilian expert to properly probe air incidents while at present the serving officers of Pakistan Air Force (PAF) contribute to its strength, therefore, the call to make the board independent and fulltime body is yet to accomplished.
Globally, the safety boards have been placed directly under prime ministers but in Pakistan, the investigating board of CAA, according to officials, is not in line with international standards resulting in failure to conduct probe into mishap of commercial flights.
This is the reason that the affected families fail to get compensation. In wake of the tragic incident of Air Blue plane that crashed in Margallah Hills in Islamabad in 2011, chief justice Peshawar High Court had ordered the federal government to make safety board as independent body so that no other department or ministry could interfere in its affairs.
The judge had also asserted that the report of Air Blue plane crash had been changed by ministry of defence that later resulted in shifting of aviation wing from defence ministry to aviation division. The safety investigation board is now also part of aviation division instead of making it an independent board.
Nargis Sethi, then secretary defence, had assured the court that the federal government would make it an independent investigation board as per the direction of Peshawar High Court; however, the promise is yet to be honoured. The failure to make an independent board has so far not assured proper probe of any air accident and at present in case any untoward incident happens with a plane, an ad hoc board is formed by authorities in which untrained serving officers from other departments and forces are inducted that cannot fix the reason of plane crash.
“Such officers can be easily influenced in order to hide the facts,” a senior CAA official told The Nation seeking not to be named.
On the other hand, the inquiry report of Bhoja air crash is still in cold storage and has not been made public as prime minister has not yet signed the report while the affected families have not yet been compensated by the commercial airliners.
A legal expert observed that only federal government compensates the affected families, while according to international standards, the airline has to compensate the families once the inquiry report fixes the responsibility. “It is ironic that in Pakistan where high profile politicians and service chiefs have lost lives in air crashes, the formation of a sovereign safety investigation board raises some eyebrows. We have failed to satisfy international community in this regard,” the official regretted.