By Dr. Haider Mehdi
(We) are neither the flower/blossoming of song, not the…note of music; (We) are the sound of our own defeat/loss/breaking.
You are absorbed in the embellishment of your curls; And for me are the concerns/apprehensions of matters far and long. Ghalib (translated by Aijaz Ahmad)
National calamities leave emotional scars on nearly all of us; if not for personal loss or setback in those tragedies, it is because of compassion, anguish and grief that we all feel for the innocent victims of some catastrophic events: unexplained, mysterious, concealed, mismanaged or simply covered-up for the sacred ritual of obscurity and deception. Such a national tragedy was Air Blue flight 202 that fell out of the sky for no apparent reason in the early hours of July 28, 2010, minutes before landing at Islamabad International Airport. 152 people died. Shivers go through my spine as I recall the news, those moments and precious lives lost.
After all, we are human beings: aren’t we intrinsically wired to feel the pain, understand the nature and causes of such a calamity, seek a judgment as to how and why it happened and hold those responsible accountable? It is all part of the process in a civilized and democratic society.
Ironically, however, the entire Pakistani political establishment, the country’s leadership at the helm of national affairs, civil aviation authorities, bureaucrats, national managers, the media including print and television’s massive network, have treated the sad tragedy as merely an episode that has passed, of no important significance, and the loss of precious Pakistani lives as an accident that simply happened – just as random lightning bolts from the sky hit animals in an open field – an act of unforeseen, unexplained forces out of the control of human power. But is this a fair and acceptable explanation of the Air Blue flight 202 crash?
Why can’t Islamabad tell us what exactly happened to the ill-fated Air Blue Airbus on that tragic morning?
The point is that modern planes, sophisticatedly engineered, with technology mastered by human enterprise and genius, do not fall out of the sky for no reason. Let me recount for you the recent drama in the cockpit in Qantas A380 super-jumbo’s Singapore-Sydney flight: The 7-story tall plane, an engine as big as a bus, 450 passengers on board, a disintegrated engine blasting shrapnel holes in the super-jumbo’s wing, aircraft computer system issuing an overwhelming flood of alarm warnings of the possible failure of the plane’s critical systems, sliced electric cables and hydraulic lines in the wing, 2 fuel tanks punctured, imbalance between the left and right side of the plane, and the wing’s forward spar – one of the beams that attaches it to the plane – damaged. The plane’s electrical bus system on the left wing had failed and the fire suppression system on the engine on fire could not be deployed. Not only that – once the plane touched the landing strip, brake temperatures reached over 1650 degrees Fahrenheit (900 Celsius) causing several flat tires.
And yet, the pilot made a safe landing – no one was killed, no one perished. In a relatively short time, the authorities in Australia were able to explain all that was needed to understand the nature of the problems that struck the Qantas A380 Spirit of Australia superjumbo flight.
The Pakistani authorities in Islamabad have swept the entire Air Blue flight 202 crash under the rug. The nation’s managers would like us to believe that the plane crashed because of a minor error of the flight commander—a skilled pilot known for his professional expertise and credibility, flying at a low altitude awaiting clearance to land in just about 2 minutes on the visible airstrip at Islamabad International Airport. The aircraft had all of its systems operating with absolute efficiency and the captain and the co-pilot had followed every landing procedure with precise accuracy. There were no fault lines in communication, mismanaged procedures, system failures or technical hpw or behavioral human errors that could have caused the plane to crash suddenly.
The absurdity of the official view of the Pakistani political managers and their appalling attitude towards this national tragedy as “just forget about it” is simply humiliating for the nation.
Indeed, the pilot did make a mistake, an error that could be misconstrued as an “error” only in a country like Pakistan with its present political dispensation. The captain of the ill-fated plane circled the nearest airspace of the airport waiting for clearance to land. He circled over Islamabad, the country’s capital, a city within the territorial limits and airspace of Pakistan, both legitimately and within the parameters of international laws, air space rules and national sovereignty. No one anywhere in the world or global aviation circles would have politically, logistically, rationally or technically asked the pilot to seek permission from the control tower to circle over nearby airspace awaiting landing clearance – or fly to Peshawar or Kabul for a 2-minute wait to land. It was an act of normal behavior of a commercial airline pilot – there was nothing wrong with what the captain of Air Blue flight 202 did. It was reported in the international media that there were two eye-witnesses to the trail of missiles fired at the plane – those eye-witnesses were immediately visited by the said embassy’s security personnel and Pakistan’s Interior Ministry officials – obviously, they were silenced. The two guards left the country at once. Rumor has it that the president of the said county telephoned Asif Ali Zardari and remorselessly apologized for the entire episode in which Pakistani citizens had lost their lives: however, reminding the Pakistani counterpart that his country’s embassy in Islamabad had a month before issued a memorandum to the Pakistani Foreign Ministry that “anything that flies over our embassy will be shot down.” A law unto itself, an act truly identifiable only to a colonial occupation. But isn’t Pakistan under occupation now?
Imagine, the political consequence, diplomatic storm and UN resolutions had, for example. the US embassy sent a similar memo to the Indian Foreign Ministry? Or the Russian embassy in Tel Aviv dispatched such a memo to the Israeli Foreign Ministry? Or, for instance, had the Chinese embassy in Washington D. C. informed the Pentagon of such an intention? It certainly would have resulted in an international military conflict and severance of diplomatic relations globally; and justifiably so.
I think it is time to take up the cause against poorly-behaved national politicians and foreign nations that blatantly, unilaterally, aggressively, and illegally violate national and international laws. The indigenous home politicians who act entirely in self-interest and seek power by collaborating with external forces and foreign powers in the art of covert politics must be taken to task. The Air Blue 202 disaster was a result of a pathological attitude and unlawful enterprise between the incumbent Pakistani political leadership and a foreign nation that thrives on its political-military powers and consistently violates international laws in the quest for illegitimate global hegemonic objectives.
The Pakistani people are the victims of their own poorly behaved politicians and their collaboration with the West’s political establishments skilled in coercive and covert politics. Air Blue flight 202 crashed on Margalla Hills not because of the pilot’s error – it went down for the same reason that hundreds of Pakistanis are losing their lives daily in drone attacks, suicide bombings and through covert operations of foreign intelligence agencies which aim to destabilize this country, disintegrate this nation and take over its nuclear assets.
To quote Ghalib:
(We) are neither…blossoming of song…note of music; (We) are the sound of our own defeat/loss/breaking.
And for me are the concerns/apprehensions of matters far and long!! They will never tell you why Flight 202 crashed on Margalla Hills!! There are a lot more secrets of deception and national betrayals to be unveiled yet!
The Writer: a professor, political analyst, published author and conflict-resolution expert. He is a regular contributor to Opinion Maker.