Naltar tragedy and display of valour
Muhammad Jamil


Air Chief Marshal Sohail Aman told state television that “the MI-17 helicopter was fully airworthy, but just prior to landing it suddenly lost control due to technical reasons”. He dismissed as bogus claims by Taliban of having shot it down. Pakistan Air Force has constituted the board to investigate the deadly air crash at Naltar, which has begun its proceedings. “It was purely an accident, and accidents do happen,” Foreign Secretary Aizaz Chaudhry said. Envoys of the Philippines and Norway and the wives of the Malaysian and Indonesian ambassadors were among seven persons killed when the helicopter, carrying 12 foreigners, crashed in Gilgit-Baltistan area in the north. Two army pilots and a Pakistani crew member were also killed in Friday’s crash. The nation will always remember their valour, sense of responsibility and for laying down their lives to save many precious lives.

When the helicopter crash-landed at the school, it caught fire. According to a TV channel report army and Air Force officers and jawans virtually went through the flames to evacuate the dead and especially survivors before fire could reach the fuel tank. The survivors of course are the witness to the tragic incident, who did not notice any hit by the rocket. South African High Commissioner Mpendulo Jele, who was on board the helicopter but miraculously remained unhurt, was all praise for military officials and jawans. “It’s an accident that can happen anywhere in the world. Unfortunately we lost some of our colleagues, but Pakistan military saved many lives,” he told a news channel. He added it was a miracle that there were many survivors - twelve passengers survived the crash, as in all there were 19 people on board.
International community has shown solidarity with Pakistan on Naltar tragedy, which was not sabotage or an act of terror. It was an accident, an adversity or one may call it misfortune. Though tragedy or an accident sometimes does not have a cause, a board has been set up by PAF to investigate the Naltar Helicopter incident. Reportedly, the black box of the helicopter has been found and according to initial investigation the incident was not an act of terrorism. President Mamnoon Hussain has expressed profound grief and sorrow over the tragic Naltar incident. He prayed for the departed souls and extended heartfelt condolences and sympathies to the bereaved families. The President stated that the government and people of Pakistan are deeply saddened over the tragic death of foreigners in the unfortunate incident and equally share the grief of the affected families.
Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif extended condolences on the demise of the two ambassadors and the spouses of two other envoys who died in the crash and had declared one day-mourning on Saturday for the loss of invaluable lives in the tragic accident. The prime minister on Saturday called Malaysian premier Najib Razak to convey his condolences over the death of Malaysian ambassador’s wife. He had contacted the Prime Minister of Norway on Friday to extend condolences on the death of Norwegian ambassador to Pakistan. “The entire Pakistani nation is heartbroken on the incident,” he told the Norwegian prime minister, according to a statement issued by the government. It is just sheer bad luck for Pakistan that a tragic accident took the lives of foreign diplomats. However, the TTP spokesman claimed the responsibility for having downed the helicopter.
Indeed, it was a false claim and nobody believed that TTP militants have had the capacity to launch such an attack in that area. According to ISPR it was not sabotage or an act of terror but an accident; and there is no reason to disbelieve him. DG ISPR said: “The helicopter crashed due to a technical fault and ruled out the possibility of any terrorist or subversive activity. However, human error has to also be ruled out after a thorough inquiry so that we can rest easy.” The US State Department said on Friday it had no reason to doubt Pakistan’s claim that a helicopter crash, which killed several people including two ambassadors, was an accident. State Department spokesman Jeff Rathke said: “The Pakistani air force has already said something about this. They described it as a technical fault that they believe was responsible.”
Reminded of a claim by the banned TTP that it had brought down the helicopter, he said: “We have no reason to doubt what the Pakistani authorities have said.” Envoys of Netherlands, Norway, Romania, South Africa, Philippines, Sweden, Lebanon, Malaysia, Poland and Indonesia were on the unfortunate flight. Ambassador of Indonesia Burhan Muhammad was reported to be in a critical condition with 75 per cent burns. The 10 survivors had “varying degrees of injuries”. The injured are being treated at the Combined Military Hospital at Jutial, about 30km away from the area in which the crash occurred. The delegation was on its way to inspect projects on a three-day trip to Gilgit-Baltistan, and also to pay a visit to ski-resort where they were set to meet with Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif. Having that said, international community has stood by Pakistan in this hour of grief.
The Naltar incident was the fifth crash involving the Russian-made Mi-17 helicopters since 2004. Most of the crashes, according to investigations into previous incidents, happened because of technical failures. Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif called his Malaysian counterpart Dato Sri Mohammad Najib to condole the death of Mrs. Datin Habibah binti Mahmud, wife of the Malaysian High Commissioner in the crash. Adviser to PM for Foreign Affairs Sartaj Aziz called Philippines Foreign Secretary Albert Rosario to convey condolences on the death of Ambassador of the Philippines Domingo Lucenario. United Nations Secretary-General Ban ki-Moon expressed his sorrow and condolences over the helicopter crash in Gilgit-Baltistan that resulted in seven deaths, including two foreign ambassadors. In a statement, the UN secretary-general extended his condolences to the families of the crash victims of the Philippines, Norway, Indonesia and Malaysia, as well as his wishes for a speedy recovery to the injured.