LAHORE - The Punjab government helicopter en route to Uzbekistan for over-hauling and crash-landed in eastern Afghanistan on Thursday was fully insured along with its crew, it was learnt reliably.

The crew of the plane included five Pakistanis and a Russian national that likely to be included chief pilot Col (r) Safdar Hussain, second Pilot Col (r) Shafiqur Rehman and third pilot Major (r) Safdar, flight engr Col (r) Nasir, flight engr Havaldar Daud Ahmad, flight engr Havaldar Kausar and a Russian navigator, said sources.

Usually, Pakistani pilots carry the copter to Peshawar and there one or two Russian navigators join them that lead the plane to Russia. Punjab finance department in May approved funds for overhauling of the CM’s helicopter by releasing Rs270 million under the supplementary grant for the year 2016-17.

The chopper, which has completed its flying hours, was to be sent to Russia for overhauling.

The MI17, a Russian-made copter, took off for Peshawar on Wednesday afternoon. After an overnight stay at Peshawar, it resumed flight for Uzbekistan through Afghanistan after boarding Russian navigator, said sources in the Punjab government requesting anonymity.

The only helicopter owned by the Punjab government was to stay in Russia for approximately six months along with the crew.

The Punjab government bears its overhauling expenses that exceed Rs270 million. Back in 2011, the Punjab government had to spend Rs 180million on overhauling of the chopper.

The Punjab government pays over Rs 11 million per annum as a premium to National Insurance Company Limited (NICL) for the rotary machine which is primarily used by the Punjab CM, the governor and others including ministers and bureaucrats on behalf of the CM. The chopper and its staff are insured.

To a question, an insider told this paper, the Punjab government hires the flying machine for official use from the federal government or Askari Aviation that owned helicopters. The Punjab government has to pay in millions as hiring expenses during the non-availability of the MI-17 during overhauling. Responding to a query about the fate of those onboard or why it crash-landed, the official said, it will be too early to discuss. “The Punjab government is unaware of the fact whether the chopper caught fire while crash-landing or it was set on fire by the insurgents,” the official stated. He also refused to confirm names of the crew.

It is not the first incident of such crash-landing. A Nato helicopter crashed in eastern Afghanistan in June 2011 killing two service members onboard, as stated by the Nato-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF). Another Isaf helicopter crashed in south Afghanistan in January 2012 killing six Nato service members, the Nato-led forces had confirmed.