Posts Tagged ‘ Islamabad ’

Afridi Sentence Pushes U.S.-Pakistan Relations From Bad to Worse

As Compiled by Araminta Wordsworth for The National Post

Full Comment’s Araminta Wordsworth brings you a daily round-up of quality punditry from across the globe. Today: One country’s freedom fighter is another nation’s traitor, from Benedict Arnold on down.

That’s the fate of Shakil Afridi. The Pakistani doctor is now behind bars, serving a 33-year sentence for treason and excoriated by fellow citizens.

His crime: helping the Americans track down the world’s most wanted terrorist, Osama bin Laden.

The physician organized a fake vaccination drive in Abbottabad, a leafy town about an hour north of Islamabad where the al-Qaeda chief had been bunked down, apparently for years. Nurses went from house to house, taking DNA samples. Among the doors they knocked on was that of bin Laden.

The sentence has been greeted by outrage in Washington, where relations with Islamabad are going from bad to worse. Americans believe they should at least get co-operation for the $1-billion in aid they dish out to Pakistan each year.

Pakistanis meanwhile are affronted by perceived infringements of their sovereignty — chiefly the US Navy SEALs’ raid that killed bin Laden, which was carried out without notifying Islamabad; but also U.S. drone attacks, a friendly fire accident that killed about 30 government troops, and the CIA’s continuing clandestine operations.

Reporting from Islamabad for The Guardian, Jon Boone explains the Pakistani position.

For some Americans the Pakistani doctor who worked on a clandestine operation to track down one of the U.S.’s greatest enemies is a hero who should be given citizenship. But for Pakistan’s security agencies Dr. Shakil Afridi, a 48-year-old physician who once led campaigns to vaccinate children against polio on the Afghan frontier, is a villain.

On Wednesday a representative of the country’s main spy agency said Afridi had got what he deserved when he was sentenced to 33 years in prison for conspiring against the state, for his role in trying to help the CIA track Osama bin Laden to his hideout in the garrison town of Abbottabad.
American lawmakers quickly responded, hitting Pakistan in the pocketbook, writes David Rogers at Politico.

Angered by the prosecution of a Pakistani doctor for helping the CIA locate Osama bin Laden, the Senate Appropriations Committee voted Thursday to cut another $33-million from an already much-reduced military aid package: $1-million for each of the physician’s 33-year prison sentence.
The 30-0 roll call followed a brief but often bitter discussion that underscored the deteriorating relationship between Washington and the Islamabad government, which remains an important ally in the war in Afghanistan.

“We need Pakistan. Pakistan needs us,” said Senator Lindsey Graham, who helped to craft the amendment. “But we don’t need a Pakistan that is just double dealing.” Judson Berger at Fox News believes the Obama administration was caught flat-footed by Afridi’s conviction.

Former U.S. intelligence officers accused the Obama administration of dropping the ball … — with one openly challenging the State Department’s claim that it pressed his case “regularly” with Islamabad.

Officials are now raising a slew of concerns with how the U.S. government has handled the case.
Peter Brookes, a former analyst and adviser with several intelligence agencies who is now a senior fellow with the Heritage Foundation, told Fox News on Thursday that the U.S. should have had a plan to get him out of Pakistan immediately following the raid.

But CNN’s national security contributor Fran Townsend told the program Starting Point Afridi probably thought he was “safe enough” in Pakistan and didn’t want to leave, especially without his extended family.

The United States is working to secure Afridi’s release, and Townsend confirms that [U.S. Secretary of ] State Hillary Clinton has intervened on the doctor’s behalf. Although she believes that Afridi may face some jail time, Townsend says that she ultimately thinks he’ll be released through negations between the U.S. and Pakistan.

“Pakistan will use it as a leverage point,” Townsend explains. “They’re going to want some concession, some commitment from the United States that there will be no use of Pakistani citizens inside their own territory by American intelligence.”

Her view of Afridi as a bargaining chip is confirmed by the BBC’s M. Ilyas Khan, who explains the significance of trying Afridi under Khyber Pakhtunkhwa tribal law .

A trial by a regular court could have gone on for months, involving a proper indictment, witnesses and lawyers, all under the glare of television cameras.

But the political officer in Khyber has made sure that it stays secret and swift … Analysts say the Pakistani establishment has done this not only to defy the Americans but also to send a message to all Pakistani contacts of American diplomatic missions to desist from repeating Dr Afridi’s “mistake.”

They also point to an enduring feeling in Pakistan that at some point it has to mend fences with its Western allies, in which case the release of r Afridi could be one of the bargaining chips.

As and when that happens, the governor of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province can legally order his release.

Pakistanis for Peace Editor’s Note- The jailing of Dr Afridi is not only another stain in the US-Pakistani relations, such as the hiding of OBL, but rather it is another carriage of injustice in a nation that is guilty of it daily with its population. From the lack of providing rights and freedoms to many of its citizens to the downright shameful behavior towards its religious minorities and women, it regularly is guilty of miscarriage of justice.

Please don’t even get us started on failing miserably to provide basics such as power, clean water, security from home grown terrorists or even a remotely functioning democracy. This action, as well as others in the last thirteen months illustrate, in our view, simply no reason other than, we are sad to say, that Pakistan has essentially told the Americans that we are not with you.

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Pakistan Blocks Twitter Over Cartoon Contest

By Salman Masood for The New York Times

The Pakistani government blocked access to the social networking service Twitter on Sunday, after publicly holding Twitter responsible for promoting a blasphemous cartoon contest taking place on Facebook, officials said.

A government spokesman was quoted by local news media as saying that the government had been in talks with Twitter to remove “objectionable” material but that there had been no results.

“The material was promoting a competition on Facebook to post images of Islam’s Prophet Muhammad,” said Mohammad Yaseen, chairman of the Pakistan Telecommunication’s Authority, was quoted as saying. He was also quoted as saying that Facebook had agreed to allay the concerns of the Pakistani government.

Blasphemy is an issue that roils sentiment easily in Pakistan. Blasphemy allegations have often resulted in violent riots, and religious minorities in Pakistan have long maintained that the country’s blasphemy laws are used to settle personal scores.

Facebook was banned for two weeks in 2010 after protests erupted in the country over a similar cartoon contest on Facebook to draw the Prophet Muhammad. After a high court ordered the government to ban Facebook, the government was quick to ban YouTube and hundreds of other Web sites and services.

Speculation that the government intended to suspended Facebook and Twitter again had been swirling around for the past couple of days. However, this time around there have been no major public protests over the contest that Pakistani officials have expressed concerns about.

The ban has caught Twitter users by surprise.

“I never heard of any caricatures on Twitter,” said Arif Rafiq, an adjunct scholar at Middle East Institute and a commentator on Pakistani politics, who has a Twitter following of more than 10,000 users. “Now this ban will be promoting whatever caricatures were posted on it.”

Responding to a question last night, Rehman Malik, the country’s interior minister, had denied that ban on social networking sites was in the offing.

“The government of Pakistan’s ban on Twitter is ill advised, counterproductive and will ultimately prove to be futile as all such attempts at censorship have proved to be,” said Ali Dayan Hasan, Pakistan director at Human Rights Watch, in a press statement. “The right to free speech is nonnegotiable, and if Pakistan is the rights-respecting democracy it claims to be, this ban must be lifted forthwith. Free speech can and should only be countered with free speech.”

Critics said that the blocking of the micro-blogging site could actually be a part of longstanding government plan to muzzle media freedom and could be related to the vociferous opposition and criticism that is heaped on the country’s security apparatus in Twitter debates.

“Twitter is a place where fierce opposition to Pakistan’s security agencies is expressed,” said Raza Rumi, a widely read columnist and an adviser at the Jinnah Institute, a public policy center based in Islamabad.

“There is a clear trend,” Mr. Rumi said, “that the Pakistani military and spy agency get a strong critique from Pakistanis themselves, something that does not happen in mainstream media where people are generally shy to express such views.”

Activists supporting minority rights have established a strong voice on Twitter, and advocates for the Baluch people, who are demanding greater rights and a share of the natural-resources wealth in the southwestern province of Baluchistan, have also used it to spread their message.

Panetta to Confront Pakistan at NATO Summit on Transport Costs

By David Cloud for New York Daily News

Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta heads to this weekend’s NATO summit prepared to confront Pakistan over what he considers price-gouging for transport of supplies to Afghanistan and hoping for a “consensus” among allies over the war effort.

In an interview before his arrival in Chicago, where the summit is scheduled to begin Sunday, Panetta all but ruled out paying Pakistan $5,000 for each truck carrying supplies across its territory for NATO troops waging the Afghanistan war. Pakistani officials have demanded that amount as a condition for reopening supply routes that have been closed to the alliance since fall.

“Considering the financial challenges that we’re facing, that’s not likely,” Panetta said of the demand.

Before the supply routes were closed in November after a mistaken U.S. attack on two remote Pakistani border posts that killed two dozen Pakistani troops, NATO convoys were paying an average of about $250 a truck, a senior U.S. official said.

U.S. officials say they remain hopeful they can resolve the dispute, perhaps at the summit. Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari accepted a last-minute invitation to attend the meetings, although he is not expected to meet one-on-one with President Obama, officials said.

Thousands of trucks a day carrying supplies would go through multiple border crossings from Pakistan to Afghanistan, making the fees a potentially massive source of revenue for the cash-strapped government in Islamabad.

The U.S. has shifted deliveries to different routes through Russia and other countries to Afghanistan’s north. But the massive withdrawals of equipment due to unfold over the next 21/2 years as troops leave the country will be “significantly” more difficult if routes in Pakistan aren’t used, the Pentagon acknowledged in a report last month.

The Obama administration hopes the two-day summit will highlight what Panetta called a “consensus” within NATO about how to disengage militarily by the end of 2014. Exhausted after more than a decade of war, the U.S. and its allies want to hand off responsibility for fighting the Taliban to Afghan President Hamid Karzai’s government, even though its army and police remain well short of being able to stand on their own.

“Everybody in the alliance recognizes that for this to work, we can’t pick up and leave. We’ve got to remain there to provide support and to assist them in that effort with training, with assistance, with advice,” Panetta said.

But he acknowledged that there would be difficulties, both on the battlefield and within the alliance. Those splits are exemplified by the new French president, Francois Hollande, the Socialist Party leader who campaigned on a vow to withdraw all 3,300 French troops by the end of this year. Hollande met with Obama at the White House on Friday.

Panetta, who plans to meet the new French defense minister, Jean-Yves Le Drian, in Chicago, indicated that the U.S. hopes France will agree to keep some forces in a noncombat role in Afghanistan for the next 2 1/2 years, even if they withdraw all combat troops early.

Yet a more rapid exit by France than planned could lead other allies to speed up their own troop withdrawals.

“There are some countries — Canada, France — that want to bring their combat operations to an end on a faster time track, but that doesn’t have to mean they won’t accept the responsibility to continue to provide the needed support,” Panetta said.

Panetta acknowledged that U.S. efforts to persuade other countries to make long-term financial pledges to fund Afghanistan’s army and police, a key objective of the two-day Chicago summit, is running into difficulties.

“Of course, it’s not easy considering the financial difficulties that a lot of these countries are going through,” he said. “Many of them have come forward and said they would be willing to make a commitment, and I really do think we will be able to achieve the support levels we need.”

In an effort to secure more pledges, the U.S. is asking other countries to commit to providing aid for only three years, though Afghanistan’s armed forces are expected to need foreign assistance for at least a decade, a Western diplomat in Washington said.

A year ago, the Obama administration was hopeful it could draw the Taliban into peace negotiations with Karzai’s government, but Panetta acknowledged that he didn’t see a deal to end the conflict happening “any time soon.”

India, Pakistan Ties Hinge on Hope

By Mir Ayoob Ali Khan for The Times of India

When hope is lost, everything seems to be lost. But when we hear the adage, Ummid pe dunya khayam hai (the world stands on hope), we visualize a ray of light at the end of a tunnel.

The rollercoaster ties between India and Pakistan are an unending reading in despair. It is hope that makes people believe that one day, some day, we will live like good neighbours. That someday becomes believably close when we hear that Indian and Pakistani politicians, officials and members of the civil society are ‘seriously’ talking about the benefits of developing stronger economic and commercial links between the two nations. Or, when the Supreme Court of India allows aging Pakistani virologist Mohammed Khalil Chishti, a murder convict, to visit his hometown Karachi.

It is an unprecedented move by the Supreme Court which took a humane approach in a murder case. The apex court spoke of Chishti’s age (82), his global reputation as an accomplished microbiologist and his previous clean record to say that he is free to go to his country but on certain conditions. He should be back in India in November to face trial in court. Though the Supreme Court’s order is solely based on the prudence of the judges, there is hope that Islamabad would show some reciprocation with regard to Indians stranded in Pakistan prisons. For instance, many are waiting to see if they would free Sarabjit Singh, an Indian convicted of life imprisonment in a case of mistaken identity.

Chishti and Singh have been in the public eye owing to the extensive coverage of their plight in the media. However, there are numerous Indians languishing in Pakistani prisons and vice versa who have hardly been covered by any media agency or their cases taken up by any human rights organization seriously. They too deserve attention as their loved ones are waiting to see them. In the meantime, the air over India and Pakistan is thick with hope that the two countries are about to enter into a new era of trade and commercial cooperation. Activity in this direction gained momentum ever since Pakistan decided to give the MFN-the Most Favoured Nation-status to India last year.

The two sides have realised that the trade volume was a paltry $2.6 billion in the year ending 2011. Officials and members of the trading community believe that this could be taken to $10 billion to $12 billion in the next three to five years. In the forefront of trade with Pakistan which is expected to grow in the coming weeks, not years, are tomatoes from Maharashtra. About 4,000 trucks carrying tomatoes have crossed over to Pakistan in the past three months. Lorries containing soya beans followed. Not to lag behind, Pakistan has started exporting cement and other construction material to India. Talks are on to allow 8,000 items from Pakistan to enter India in the next couple of years.

Hope is now fuelled by the foundation laying of an oil refinery in Bathinda, a town in Punjab which is160 km from Lahore, by billionaire Lakshmi Mittal and Indian Oil Company Ltd costing $4 billion. Pakistan that is already importing kerosene and diesel from India is hungry for petroleum products. The refinery in Punjab and another one owned by the Reliance Group in Gujarat which is close to Karachi could meet the fuel needs of Pakistan, at least to some extent. There are also talks to dismantle hurdles in matters pertaining to education and IT sectors, visa regimes, especially for the business community and tourists, opening of more land and air trade routes.

In India-Pakistan relations, hope is the key word. Let’s hope that it becomes a reality extending benefits to the people of the two neighbouring nations.

India, Pakistan Try ‘Trade Diplomacy’

As Reported by AFP

India and Pakistan, still at loggerheads on Kashmir and no closer to a full peace deal, are channeling their efforts into increasing trade in the hope that business can bring them together.

31-year-old Karachi food trader Kashif Gul Memom is among those eager to seize the opportunities offered by easier links between the estranged neighbours, which have fought three wars since independence in 1947.

“This is a change for the good. It’s an exciting time,” said Memom, one of the generation born after the painful partition of the subcontinent that gave birth to India and the Islamic republic of Pakistan.

“My generation of business people is putting the past behind us. We’re looking to the future, India is such a huge market for us,” Memom told AFP while at the largest ever Pakistani trade fair held in India.

The improved relations between the nuclear-armed rivals stem from Pakistan’s decision to grant India “Most Favoured Nation (MFN)” status by year end, meaning Indian exports will be treated the same as those from other nations.

In further progress, the neighbours opened a second trading gate in April along their heavily militarised border, boosting the number of trucks able to cross daily to 600 from 150.

India now also says it is ready to end a ban on investment from Pakistan and the countries are planning to allow multiple-entry business visas to spur exchanges — a key demand by company executives.

The warming commercial ties underline the new relevance of the private sector in the peace process, with prospects still low for any swift settlement of the “core issue” of the nations’ competing claims to Kashmir. The divided Himalayan territory has been the trigger of two of their three wars since independence.

Indian and Pakistani officials have been looking at the so-called “China option” as a model, with deepening economic engagement seen by experts as crucial to establishing lasting peace in the troubled region.

Beijing and New Delhi have been pursuing stronger economic ties while resolving outstanding political issues, such as a festering border dispute that erupted into a brief, bloody war in the 1960s.

“There is no other option but economic partnership between India and Pakistan — this leads on to other partnerships,” Indian Commerce Minister Anand Sharma said at the April trade fair in Delhi, a follow-on to a similar venture in Lahore earlier in the year.

“We have to recognise our true trade potential and leave our children with a legacy that ensures prosperity, harmony and peace.”
Some Pakistani businesses have protested against the trade opening, fearing they may be swamped by cheaper Indian goods, especially in drugs, auto parts and consumer goods. But others eye the possibilities India’s market offers.

“India with 1.2 billion people gives us great potential,” Mian Ahad, one of Pakistan’s leading furniture designers, told AFP.
Indian businessmen are equally enthusiastic, saying there is an opportunity for trade in areas from agriculture, information technology, pharmaceuticals, and engineering to chemicals.

Official bilateral trade between India and Pakistan is just $2.7 billion and heavily tilted in New Delhi’s favour.
But Indian business chamber Assocham estimates up to $10 billion worth of goods are routed illicitly — carried by donkeys through Afghanistan or shipped by container from Singapore and the Gulf.

Indian commerce secretary Rahul Khullar told AFP that Pakistan’s decision to grant India MFN status by the end of the year was “the game-changer.”
MFN status will mean India can export 6,800 items to Pakistan, up from around 2,000 at present, and the countries aim to boost bilateral trade to $6 billion within three years.

“I’m cautiously optimistic. Commerce is an excellent way to bring countries together,” Indian strategic analyst Uday Bhaskar told AFP.
“Once you institutionalise trade, it becomes hard to slow the momentum for cross-border exchanges. People say if there are onions or cement or sugar available next door, why can’t I have them? And why can’t I travel there too?”

Pakistan Reveals Efforts to Hunt Down Osama Bin Laden

Jon Boone and Jason Burke for The Guardian

For almost a year, Pakistan‘s security establishment has been in a state of deep fury and embarrassment over the killing of Osama bin Laden. But its annoyance, US diplomats note, has not been directed at how the world’s most wanted man could have lived inside the country for so long, but rather at how a US team could have got in and out of its territory undetected.

So far, there have been no arrests of sympathisers who might have helped Bin Laden move around Pakistan undetected before settling in the town of Abbottabad. Authorities appear more concerned with investigating what they see as a gross violation of sovereignty that badly damaged the prestige and reputation of the powerful Pakistani military.

The only known arrest has been of Shakil Afridi, a Pakistani doctor who worked in Abbottabad as part of the CIA effort to try to pinpoint the al-Qaida chief. A Pakistani commission investigating Bin Laden’s death recommended Afridi be charged with “conspiracy against the state of Pakistan and high treason”.

But amid efforts on both sides to improve the terrible state of US-Pakistani relations, bitter recriminations are starting to give way to a modest effort by Pakistan’s intelligence service to put itself a little nearer the centre of events that led to Bin Laden’s killing.

Last week, a security official in Islamabad gave the Guardian details of three hitherto unknown ground missions conducted by joint CIA-Pakistani teams to capture Bin Laden.

One was in the north-western mountainous area of Chitral in 2005, though the target turned out to be a “near identical lookalike”. Two were in 2006, including one in a village called Barabcha on the border between Afghanistan and Pakistan’s Baluchistan province.

A former US official confirmed there had been some joint operations in the past, particularly in Chitral, but was unaware of the specific incidents.

“The big picture is there have been cases where [the Pakistanis] have moved on information we have given them,” said the former US official in Washington.

According to the Pakistani security official, efforts by Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) to capture Bin Laden continued even after “the intelligence chief of a western country came to us and gave us a written report Bin Laden was dead” – in 2008.

He also said the al-Qaida operative who eventually led the CIA to Bin Laden was identified as the terrorist leader’s personal courier by Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, a senior detained militant in 2003, during interrogation by ISI. That information was passed to US agencies, he said.

This claim contradicts statements by US officials who say that Mohammed, the chief organiser of the 9/11 attacks, downplayed the importance of the courier, then known as Abu Ahmed al-Kuwaiti, and that it took several more years for his true importance to be recognised.

Shaukat Qadir, a retired brigadier who has launched a personal investigation into the Bin Laden case, has also been boosting the perception of Pakistan’s efforts as he prepares to publish a book on the subject. Based on briefings from intelligence officials, he said ISI had also been interested in Abbottabad in the months before the raid, and had even begun watching the man who would turn out to be al-Kuwaiti.

The agency became suspicious of the man, also known as Arshad Khan, when they ran a check on him after he told locals he had business interests in Peshawar, something that turned out to be false.

Their investigations became urgent when he was seen bulk-buying medicines in Peshawar useful for treating ailments Bin Laden was thought to suffer from.

“When they learned about the medicine, their suspicions were aroused and the passed those suspicions on to the CIA, probably around December 2010,” he said.

Bruce Riedel, a former senior CIA analyst and expert on Islamist militancy, said ISI’s three previous attempts to net Bin Laden “probably looked like wild goose chases from Washington’s perspective”.

“This is an effort by the Pakistanis to try to rebut the very widespread notion in the US that they must have been somehow willing accomplices of Bin Laden’s presence in their country,” he said.

Underlying the distrust between the two ostensible allies is the decision by the US not to share any of the material which the US Navy Seals took away from the house, including huge amounts of data on computer hard drives.

For its part, Pakistan is holding on to tens of thousands of documents taken from the Abbottabad house, although the Pakistani security official described these as mere “scraps” compared with the vast amount of information held by the US.

Some of the Pakistani-held documents are believed to have been seen by European and US intelligence services.

The Pakistani official said close counter-terror co-operation between the two sides was wrecked by the killing on the streets of Lahore of two Pakistani civilians by a CIA contractor, Raymond Davis, in January 2011.

“In 2009, there were 150 joint operations between us and the Americans, one every two days,” he said. “Raymond Davis put a stop to everything.”

But Riedel said Washington’s suspicions of Pakistan ran far deeper. There was “near total consensus” within the administration not to share any intelligence on Bin Laden, despite the damage they knew it would do to US-Pakistani relations.

“My judgment is that if we had told the Pakistanis in anything but the last five minutes, Osama would be alive today,” he said. “He would have escaped.”

Muhammad Amir Rana, director of a thinktank that tracks security trends, said it is much too late for Pakistan to try to take credit for tracking Bin Laden. He said the time to “reconcile and share responsibility” was in the immediate aftermath, when Barack Obama publicly thanked Pakistan for its support. “Unfortunately, they badly miscalculated – they thought Osama was a big figure, they were worried about the reaction of al-Qaida and the public in Pakistan,” he said.

But the wave of retaliatory attacks feared by some in Pakistan never happened, underling al-Qaida’s enfeebled state.

Weeping Relatives Demand Pakistan Crash Answers

As Reported by Agence France Presse

Dozens of coffins lined a hallway at Islamabad’s main hospital on Saturday as weeping relatives of the victims of the Bhoja Air plane crash slammed the authorities for the disaster.

All 127 people on board perished when the Boeing 737 from Karachi crashed and burst into flames as it attempted to land at Islamabad airport in bad weather on Friday evening.

The plane was smashed to pieces by the impact of the crash, with wreckage and human limbs strewn over a wide area of farmland on the outskirts of the Pakistani capital.

Staff at the Pakistan Institute of Medical Sciences (PIMS), their faces covered with masks, sprayed air freshener to mask the smell of burnt flesh in the room where the remains lay.

Some remains were no more than body parts, kept on stretchers and covered by white sheets.

The disaster is the city’s second major plane crash in less than two years — an Airblue plane came down in bad weather in July 2010, killing 152 — and victims’ families voiced fury at the authorities.

A visibly dejected woman identifying herself as Mrs Hassan, 45, said she had come to collect the body of her 45-year old cousin Mohammad Yunus, a Muslim scholar who had been running a madrassa (Islamic seminary) in Karachi.

“We could not get the full body. We recognized his hand and hair along with his jacket,” she said.

“It’s sheer incompetence of the government. This is the second major accident here in less than two years but the president and the prime minister remain unmoved.

“If the weather was bad why they did not warn the pilot. Why did they allow the plane to land?”

Abdul Raoof, 55, said he had come for the body of his cousin Ghulam Farooq, 45, who worked for the State Life Insurance Corporation in Islamabad.

“We have been roaming here since early morning. We go inside the mortuary and return in depression after seeing body parts and severed limbs lying there.

“We wait, get impatient and then go inside again only to return disappointed. We are traumatized. We want to get the body and leave this place as early as possible.”

Raoof blamed the airport control tower for negligence.

“If the weather was bad the plane should have been turned away,” he said.

“It is also a mistake of the airline. They sacrificed 127 lives just to save some fuel.”

Many of the family members flown from Karachi on a special Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) flight were inconsolable, too overwhelmed with grief to speak.

One young man wept bitterly for the cousin and aunt he lost in the crash, who were returning from pilgrimage in Saudi Arabia.

“I don’t want to talk, please leave us alone,” he told journalists.

Hospital staff sprinkled rose petals on some of the coffins as a gesture of compassion, while police and soldiers consoled relatives.

At the scene of the crash, sniffer dogs joined rescue workers as they resumed the operation to recover bodies.

Debris was scattered over a two-kilometer (one-mile) area, with torn fragments of the fuselage, including a large section bearing the Bhoja Air logo, littering the fields around the village of Hussain Abad.

Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani told reporters a judicial commission would investigate the crash

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