Helicopter crash that took precious lives by Tazeen Akhtar


 Crash of Helicopter in Naltar, Gilgit was an accident, which not only took lives of three ambassadors and two spouses of ambassadors but also raised many questions. First and foremost argument in this respect speaks about the need of such visits that include a large number of personalities who are of high importance. Whether the planners did not think where they are going along with a delegation comprising of not only the VIPs but their families as well? No one felt it is a risky thing ?

Let me to remind the air crash of Gen. Zia ul Huq in 1988 Aug 17 near Bahawalpur. When the incident happened, 28 very important army officials were flying with Gen. Zia in that plane. American Ambassador Mr Arnold Raphel was also accompanying them. First impression was sabotage and sensitive inquiries were conducted to find out what were the causes and who may be involved but no finding reports could come on surface. After the incident, it was noted that how and why such important persons were flying together in shape of a group. Thus it should have been established that not only a terror attack but chances of accident (that always exist) should also be considered as a security threat. Unfortunately, it has been taken easy by the responsible officials and institutions in Naltar case.Common sense suggests that important personalities should not be grouped at one place, as security threats always exist, especially in that area which has been hub of disturbances.

Gilgit: 8th May - Chief of Air Staff Air Chief Marshal Sohail Aman enquiring about the health of Malaysian Ambassador at CMH Gilgit.  DNA Photo
Gilgit: 8th May – Chief of Air Staff Air Chief Marshal Sohail Aman enquiring about the health of Malaysian Ambassador at CMH Gilgit.
DNA Photo

There is only a mountain gap between Gilgit and Naltar. Military officials rightly say that Naltar is safe. Yes it is if we talk about terrorists. But we can not say this for Gilgit and adjacent areas especially Kohistan and Shangla Districts. Then Some areas of Gilgit Baltistan region are also unsafe. Remember bus attacks. Killing the passengers by unknown armed men who never have been arrested and punished. Kohistan and Shangla are full of weapons. Amir Muqam advisor to PM has been attacked by terrorists many times. These armed people can easily approach to G.B region. There are sectorial enmities that have aroused clashes in the past claiming a large number of lives. I have talked with people living in G.B- Kohistan. They are not satisfied with the law and order situation in their areas and they demand de-weaponization or deployment of more security personel to keep armed men peaceful. Although , this situation has nothing to do with the Naltar incident but one can not say it is ok.

Another folly at the part of decision makers was gethering the diplomts with Prime Minister. Arranging a visit of Prime Minister along with diplomats accompanying their families is beyond common understanding. On the visit of such a ‘hot-spot, providing due security to PM only, is not an easy job, then why a group of VIPs were planned to accompany the PM?

Security is Security of life. Security does not mean security from terror attacks only. Security stands for protection from harm of any kind, whether it is caused by terrorism or any accident. Protection from accidents and untoward incidents is included in security.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs has said while confirming the incident an accident that such visits or tours of high officials have been planned more than once in the past, but this time, this untoward incident happened.

Tehreek-e-Taliban initially tried to take credit of the accident but with the timely intervention of the Govt functionaries and Ministry of Foreign Affairs this particular impression was obviated. Then the diplomats on board the ill-fated helicopter and in other helicopters also dispelled the impression as if any sabotage act was behind the crash of the helicopter.

Nevertheless even if it is proved that the helicopter crash was a mere accident and not because of any terrorist act, the government has made a big mistake by taking diplomats to Gilgit. We should not forget the killing incident of foreign hikers at Nanga Parbat whose responsibility was claimed by TTP.
Reference ; Gunmen dressed as paramilitary police killed nine foreign tourists in an unprecedented attack in the Himalayas of Nanga Parbat on 22 June 2013 , in a security failure bound to embarrass the new government just weeks after it took office. The night-time raid – which killed five Ukrainians, three Chinese and a Russian – was among the worst attacks on foreigners in Pakistan in a decade. One of the victims also held a US passport, a US official said, without giving further details.The deaths of the Chinese were a particular blow for Pakistan, which hosted Chinese Premier Li Keqiang last month in a bid to boost trade ties with the Asian giant via their shared border in Gilgit-Baltistan.
A report in this regard by Tazeen Akhtar was published in July 2003 Issue of Centreline and DNA ; here is the link (http://www.dnanews.com.pk/nanga-parbat-tragedy-who-let-the-killers-out/)

This type of incidents marked the area Gilgit Baltistan and Northern Areas as very dangerous for foreigners, therefore in this backdrop it was quite a risky business to send so many diplomats and that too in one group to the troubled area, although there was no terror attack this time as the forces had already cleared the area.

Besides these factors, we should also not ignore the elements who are not happy over China’s huge investment in Pakistan. These factors, whose interests have been affected by China’s investment in Pakistan, can take even cheap steps to harm Pak-China Dosti and to degrade Pakistan in international community. Gilgit Baltistan have a lot significant in Pak-China Economic Corridor, so they are under special threat and at high risk.

Although the incident has been proved as an accident but a country like Pakistan can never afford even accidents, because any unpleasant incident in this country will firstly be perceived as a terroristic activity.

The ceremony in Naltar was not as much important that high officials and diplomats would participate in it. Recently we hardly managed National Day Parade without any mishap but risking the security of VIPs for an unnecessary and unimportant event was not a good decision.

We know our area, our government and security institutions, but the world can take the incident from another perspective. They may be taking it as an attack on Pakistani PM in which foreign diplomats and their spouses lost their lives. Indian media also propagated that TTP was involved and it has claimed the responsibility of the attack. Naturally India will exploit such baseless claimes by terrorist groups working in Pakistan only to get some milage against Pakistan, in the world. These are mere rumors, but earning a bad name for Pakistan, affecting her credibility and image in the World. So now we have to prove it an accident which did not occur due to any mistake by Pakistan to save her face.

The writer is editorial advisor of Centreline.