(Deletes incorrectly-attributed tweet in paragraph 13)
By Asad Hashim
ISLAMABAD Dec 8 Pakistan on Thursday mourned
the 47 victims of its deadliest plane crash in four years, among
them a famed-rockstar-turned-Muslim evangelist, two infants and
three foreigners, as officials sought to pinpoint the cause of
Engine trouble was initially believed responsible, but many
questions remain, stirring new worries about the safety record
of money-losing state carrier Pakistani International Airlines.
The ATR-42 aircraft involved in the crash had undergone
regular maintenance, including an "A-check" certification in
October, airline chairman Muhammad Azam Saigol said.
"I want to make it clear that it was a perfectly sound
aircraft," Saigol said, ruling out technical or human error.
The aircraft appeared to have suffered a failure in one of
its two turboprop engines just before the crash, he said, but
this would have to be confirmed by an investigation.
"I think there was no technical error or human error," he
told a news conference late on Wednesday. "Obviously there will
be a proper investigation."
Outpourings of grief erupted online soon after flight PK661
smashed into the side of a mountain near the town of Havelian,
in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa province, late on Wednesday afternoon,
after taking off from the mountain resort of Chitral.
It crashed just 50 km (31 miles) short of its destination,
the international airport in Islamabad, the capital.
Much of the anguish focused on Junaid Jamshed, the vocalist
of Vital Signs, one of Pakistan's first and most successful rock
and pop bands of the 1990s, who abandoned his musical career in
2001 to become a travelling evangelist with the conservative
Tableeghi Jamaat group.
Many of the reactions on social network Twitter spoke to
this apparent dichotomy between his two lives, first as a
hearthrob pop sensation singing about love and heartbreak, and
later as a stern, bearded preacher admonishing youth for
straying from Islam.
"Junaid Jamshed's journey was so quintessentially Pakistani.
Conflicted, passionate, devoted, ubersmart, and so, so talented.
Tragic loss," Mosharraf Zaidi, an Islamabad-based development
professional and analyst, said in a tweet.
Others simply shared his band's many chart-topping hits,
such as 'Dil Dil Pakistan', which has become an unofficial
anthem, played at public gatherings since its release in 1987.
FOREIGNERS AMONG THE DEAD
Two infants, three foreigners and five crew were among the
passengers on the doomed flight, the manifest showed.
The foreigners included two Austrians and a Chinese man, the
airline said. Foreign tourists increasingly flock to Chitral
every year, besides thousands of domestic visitors, as Pakistan
emerges from years of violence caused by a Taliban insurgency.
A member of Chitral's traditional royal family, his wife and
family were among the dead, besides a Chitral administration
official, Osama Ahmad Warraich, whose wife and infant daughter
also died, the Dawn newspaper said on Thursday.
The aircraft, made by French company ATR in 2007, had racked
up 18,739 flight hours since joining PIA's fleet that year.
Its captain, Saleh Janjua, had logged more than 12,000
flight hours over his career, the airline said.
Concerns are growing over air safety in Pakistan as media in
recent years have reported near-misses following overshot
runways, engines catching fire and landing gear deployment
In the worst such disaster, in 2010, all 152 people on board
were killed when a passenger plane operated by airline Air Blue
crashed in heavy rain near Islamabad.
Two years later, all 127 aboard were killed when a plane
operated by Bhoja Air crashed near Islamabad.
(Additional reporting by Jibran Ahmad, Amjad Ali, Mehreen
Zahra-Malik Editing by Kay Johnson and Clarence Fernandez)