ISLAMABAD - A Pakistan Air Force (PAF) F-16 fighter jet crashed on Wednesday in the heart of the federal capital during rehearsal for the air show of Pakistan Day (March 23); the pilot of the jet got martyred, the PAF said.

A social media video footage showed flames and a plume of smoke emitting from the site, near Shakarparian Hill of the capital, after the US-built plane hit the ground and caught fire.

The plane quickly came down before crash and any reason of the incident is still unknown.

A spokesman of Pakistan Air Force said that the pilot, Wing Commander Noman Akram, was martyred in the crash. He was the only pilot in the plane.

No other loss of life and property was reported on the ground because it is largely a deserted area where the plane hit but the parade ground, an exhibition centre, several museums, parks and sports facilities are located in the area.

“Pakistan Air Force reports with regret that a PAF F-16 aircraft crashed near Shakarparian, Islamabad, during the rehearsal of 23rd March parade,” the PAF spokesman said adding that rescue teams have been dispatched towards the site of the crash. “A board of inquiry has been ordered by Air Headquarters to determine the cause of accident. “

After the incident, police and security forces cordoned off the area. The rehearsal was for the annual military parade that is scheduled to be held in Islamabad’s Parade Ground on March 23 to celebrate the Pakistan Day. The military parade coupled with an air show is an annual feature of Pakistan Day in Islamabad though it remained halted for many years in the past due to bad law and order situation of the country following the 9/11 incident.

The F-16 jets are considered among the most valuable equipment of Pakistan Air Force’s arsenal and the country has a fleet of about 50 jets.

Chief of Army Staff (COAS) General Qamar Javed Bajwa paid glowing tribute on the martyrdom of brave heart Wing Commander Noman Akram in the line of duty, the Inter–Services Public Relations (ISPR), the media wing of Pakistan army, said in a statement while quoting the army chief.

“Laying one’s life is the ultimate sacrifice one can make for defence of the motherland. May his soul rest in peace. My thoughts and sincere prayers for the bereaved family,” said the army chief.

President Dr. Arif Alvi and Prime Minister Imran Khan also expressed their deep grief over the martyrdom of Wing Commander Nauman Akram.

In their separate messages, the President and the Prime Minister prayed for the departed soul and for the fortitude of the deceased family.

The incident has come over two months after a PAF aircraft had crashed while on a routine training mission near district Mianwali of Punjab and killing both pilots aboard the plane.

In July last year, a small military plane had crashed near Rawalpindi killing 18 people on board.

On February 12 this year, a PAF trainer aircraft had crashed during a routine training mission near Takht Bhai area of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa’s Mardan district. On February 7, another PAF Mirage aircraft that was also on a routine operational training mission had crashed near Shorkot city in Punjab. Pilots in both the incidents had ejected safely.