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The nation is in a state of mourning after the yesterday evening’s tragic crash of a PIA airliner near Havelian which was on the way to Islamabad from Chitral on Wednesday at 4:42pm PST that claimed 48 precious lives including celebrated figure Junaid Jamshed.

The Civil Aviation Authority confirmed there are no survivors from the ill-fated flight. The plane was coming from Chitral to Islamabad when it met with the accident and crashed into the hilly area of Abbottabad district.

Renowned Na’at Khwan and preacher Junaid Jamshed and his wife were among the ill-fated passengers, who lost their lives in the tragedy. Deputy Commissioner Chitral Usama Warraich also died in the crash.

‘Bodies burned beyond recognition’

A government official on the scene said all the bodies are beyond recognition.

“All of the bodies are burned beyond recognition. The debris is scattered,” Taj Muhammad Khan, a government official based in the Havelian region said.

Khan, who was at the site of the crash, added that witnesses told him “the aircraft has crashed in a mountainous area…before it hit the ground it was on fire.”

An eyewitness, Jumma Khan, said, “The bodies we have taken out are in pieces. They are beyond recognition. We cannot tell women from men… they are just legs and arms.”

Junaid Jamshed on board

Chitral airport sources and the passenger lists confirmed that Junaid Jamshed, his family, and Deputy Commissioner Chitral Osama Warraich were on board the flight and are assumed to be among the casualties.

Jamshed was in Chitral for a Tableeghi mission and was returning to Islamabad when the aircraft crashed. He was scheduled to deliver the Friday sermon at Parliament mosque. He was a prominent member of Pakistan’s Tableeghi Jamaat, a global Islamic revivalist movement urging Muslims to return to Sunni Islam.

Jamshed rocketed to fame in Pakistan in the 1980s and 1990s as the singer for the Vital Signs rock group, and later launched a solo career, with a string of chart-topping albums and hits.

Read more: Pakistani music icon dies in fatal air crash

Crew of the flight PK-661, which crashed on Wednesday.

Rescue operations hindered

The ATR turboprop aircraft crashed at Saddha Batolni village near the Pakistan Ordinance Factory, Havelian, PIA said.

Army troops and army helicopters were mobilised to the site and many bodies were recovered from the plane wreckage, Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) said.

There are 500 army troops, including doctors and paramedics, deployed at the crash site. ISPR added. Necessary vehicles and army ambulances are also taking part in the rescue operation.

The terrain is rugged and rescue and recovery operations were hindered because of nightfall and the cold. Sundown in Havelian took place at 4:57pm. Weather conditions were reportedly clear with almost no wind.

Ambulances were unable to reach at the site of the accident as the aircraft crashed on mountainous terrain.

What may have caused the plane to crash?

Global aviation watchdog Aviation Herald said that PK-661 crashed near Abbottabad due to engine problems. TV reports also point towards a fault in the left engine, and ascribe blame to a technical fault in the aircraft. These claims have not been verified by the PIA.

“It remains to be seen if this was a technical fault,” Air Marshall (R) Shahid Latif told Express. “In Pakistan, there is a big question regarding whether international safety standards are followed when it comes to aircrafts.”

“Did the pilot make a detailed call to explain what happened? We do not have this information at this point.”

He adds: “In an emergency landing, a plane is supposed to land at the nearest place. Perhaps they did not have this choice… perhaps the plane was not in good flying condition. If the pilot is not able to sustain the flight of the plane then a crash is inevitable.”

“The technical crew can diagnose a problem remotely but they cannot fix the issue till the aircraft lands.”

“Unfortunately, if an engine develops a fault mid-flight then tragedies like these take place.”

He also said Pakistan bought the ATRs some time ago. “We had smaller planes which were discontinued and got the ATR instead. They have been flying and there have no problems as such.”

He added that they are used on short routes routinely. “To my knowledge there has been no report of a technical problem in the ATRs.”

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