'It's not your time': Survivor recalls final moments of deadly Pakistan plane crash

Zafar Masud speaks to Arab News at his residence in Karachi on Nov. 14, 2020. (AN photo)
Short Url
Updated 29 March 2021

'It's not your time': Survivor recalls final moments of deadly Pakistan plane crash

  • Pakistan International Airlines crashed on May 22 during second attempt to land in Karachi, killing 97 people
  • Zafar Masud, president of the Bank of Punjab, is one of two survivors of the deadly crash

KARACHI: The last thing Zafar Masud can remember before he lost consciousness when the plane dived to the ground is a voice from within, saying that his time had not come yet.

Masud, president of the Bank of Punjab, is one of two survivors among the 99 people — 91 passengers and eight crew members — onboard the Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) plane from Lahore that crashed into a residential area of Karachi on May 22 after it failed on approach to the runway.

Masud was not supposed to be on the plane. His booking was for an earlier SereneAir flight, which he skipped, as being a night owl, he thought he might not wake up on time. When he arrived at the Lahore airport, "everything seemed to be in a hurry," he told Arab News in an interview at his residence in Karachi last week. "Everyone seemed to be rushing towards his destination, much faster than it's supposed to be."

Most of the passengers on the PK8303 flight were flying home to meet their families over Eid Al-Fitr after more than two months of coronavirus lockdown. The accident came days after commercial flights resumed ahead of the Muslim holiday.

"The flight was very smooth. But when it tried to land on Karachi airport, the first time there was a bump, it hit, you know, there was a bump at the landing," Masud recalled.

He remembered that the plane hit the runway two more times.

"By the time you could have reacted or, you know, thought about anything. The flight actually took back up again into in the air, which is again, very unusual, at least this is happened to me for the first time."

Initial reports suggested that as it neared landing, the plane’s ground speed was above the runway threshold. It lifted up from the runway surface and crashed over the Model Colony residential area while attempting another approach

"Since I was on the first seat, I don't know what was happening in the plane, the rest of the cabin, but I could see that the air hostesses were panicking. They started reciting Quranic verses," Masud said.

Moments later, he saw the cockpit door opening. "When the cockpit door opened, I could see from the windscreen, that the plane was, it appeared that the plane was nose diving ... I realized that the plane is crashing."

He started speaking to himself as his entire life flashed before his eyes: "I asked my God, God, so the plane is crashing, and I'm dying. I got this voice, literally from inside. My God tells me, 'no, it's not the time, you won't die.' And then I asked him again, I said, God, but you know, it is, it's inevitable. It cannot be avoided. It's crashing. He said, 'yes, the plane is crashing, it's not your time.'"

Then he passed out.

 




A child’s doll lies among the debris at Karachi’s Model Colony, which was the site of an Airbus A320 crash on Friday. May 23, 2020 (AN Photo by S.A. Babar/File)

Masud was told that his seat had as if flown out of the plane onto a house, a bit away from the fuselage that started to burn. People on the ground realized he was alive and helped him up.

"The moment I was put in the ambulance, my first reaction was 'what happened to the rest of the passengers?' That was my first question. And they told me, they don't know." He heard in response that he was the first one rescued.

"There was a lady doctor who came, she dialed the number for me, I remember the number of my mother. But my mother's phone was coming shut for some reasons ... I told her to call my father. I remember his number as well. She called up my father. I spoke to my father who sounded very composed."

Only later did he learn his mother temporarily lost her senses when she heard about the deadly accident. 

Masud escaped with a broken arm and bruises. The other survivor, Muhammad Zubair, a mechanical engineer, suffered burns to his hands and legs. 

The bodies of most of the plane's passengers were charred beyond recognition.

Asked whether the accident and unlikely escape have changed his life, Masud said: "I have no answer why my God let me live" and that he is now "more committed to doing the right thing."

Several months after the deadly crash, he decided to fly again to overcome fear and in late September boarded a flight from Karachi to Lahore, also with PIA.

"I took a very conscious decision, despite extreme opposition from my friends, my family. They did not want me to fly. And even if I fly, they didn't want me to fly on PIA," Masud said.

The flight he took was a return route of the tragic Lahore-Karachi flight.

The flight was fine, he said, until the plane approached Lahore and was preparing to touch down. When Masud saw the ground, he had a flashback from the crash: "It was a split second, it was a flash. But then otherwise, it was all okay."

"I wanted to do that. Because I wanted to alleviate that fear in my mind," he said. "I just wanted to be very clear that life could be normal."


Seven dead in Karachi in last 24 hours as death toll from Pakistan rains surges past 674

Updated 18 August 2022

Seven dead in Karachi in last 24 hours as death toll from Pakistan rains surges past 674

  • Bodies of two children recovered while five others still missing on Thursday after family's car swept away in Karachi flash flood
  • Another five people including two children died in Karachi in the last 24 hours, mostly in incidents of electrocution

KARACHI: The bodies of two children were recovered while five others, including their parents, were still missing on Thursday evening after the family's car was swept away in a flash flood in Karachi, rescuers said, as rain beat down in the capital of the Sindh province.

Flash floods caused by abnormally heavy monsoon rains have killed 674 people in Pakistan since mid-June, with remote communities in the impoverished southwestern province of Balochistan among the hardest hit.

On Wednesday, as the Pakistan Meteorological Department (PMD) warned heavy rains could trigger flash floods across Sindh, authorities announced that schools would remain shut across the province on Thursday.

In Karachi, besides the two children who were swept away in the car, another five people including two children lost their lives in the last 24 hours, mostly in incidents of electrocution, police surgeon Dr. Summaiya Syed told Arab News.

A man in Pakistan's Hyderabad city takes children to school on a motorcycle amid heavy rainfall in the southern province on August 17, 2022. (APP)

The National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) said total rain deaths Since mid-June had reached 674.  

"Body of two children, Muhammad Moosa, 10, and Hamna, 7, have been recovered whereas the parents and other sibling are still missing," Saad Edhi from the Edhi Foundation told Arab News, adding that rescuers had pulled out the car of a family that was traveling from Karachi to Hyderabad before it was swept away in rainwater.

Over 1,128 people have been injured since June 14, as per the National Disaster Management Authority. Balochistan has been the hardest hit province so far, reporting 202 casualties and 81 people injured.

In Pakistan’s southern Sindh province, 149 people have died and 573 are injured, Punjab has reported 144 deaths and 290 injured people while Pakistan’s northwestern Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province has reported 135 deaths and 161 injured since June 14.  

Thirty-four people have been killed and 19 injured in Pakistan’s Azad Kashmir northern region while nine people have been killed and four have been injured in the country’s northern Gilgit-Baltistan region since June 14.

Torrential rains in Pakistan have also triggered flash floods in several parts of the country, notably in Balochistan and Sindh, damaging crops, livestock and property.

A man in Pakistan's Hyderabad city takes children to school on a motorcycle amid heavy rainfall in the southern province on August 17, 2022. (APP)

Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif expressed "deep sorrow" over the loss of lives and property in Sindh on Thursday due to heavy rains, directing NDMA and other disaster management institutions to speed up relief activities in the province.

“The first priority in a flood situation is the rescue of the affected people and their immediate assistance,” the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) statement said, announcing a compensation of Rs50,000 per family.    

Sharif directed authorities to remain alert and make preparations to deal with floods in other parts of the country also, the PMO said.  

US Secretary of State, Antony Blinken, on Thursday announced the US was providing $100,000 to Pakistan in immediate relief to deal with the natural disaster.  

“We stand by Pakistan in hard times and offer our support to flood victims,” Blinken wrote on Twitter.

PMD’s Chief Meteorologist Sardar Sarfaraz told Arab News Karachi, Pakistan’s largest metropolis, would continue to receive heavy rainfall till Thursday night.

“A well-marked, low-pressure area still persists over Sindh and Rajasthan. So, heavy rain with thunderstorms [are expected to] to continue in Karachi till tonight, August 19, in the rest of Sindh,” he said, adding that heavy rains are also expected to continue in Pakistan’s southwestern Balochistan province till August 21.

Commuters travel on a street during a heavy rain shower in Hyderabad, Pakistan, on August 17, 2022. (APP)

In its Thursday forecast report, the PMD predicted widespread thunderstorms and rain with “heavy to very heavy” falls at scattered places and extremely heavy falls at isolated places in Sindh and eastern Balochistan.


Pakistan army chief holds wide-ranging talks with head of US Central Command

Updated 18 August 2022

Pakistan army chief holds wide-ranging talks with head of US Central Command

  • For decades, Pakistan has remained among the United States' top recipients of foreign military assistance
  • In April, Pakistan’s chief of army staff said the best military equipment Pakistan had came from Americans

ISLAMABAD: General Michael E. Kurilla, Commander United States Central Command (USCENTCOM), visited the Pakistan army's headquarters on Thursday and discussed a range of issues, including military ties and the war on terror, with Pakistan's army chief.

For decades, Pakistan has remained among the United States' top recipients of foreign military assistance.

In April, Pakistan’s chief of army staff (COAS), General Qamar Javed Bajwa, said the country had “excellent” ties with the United States and the best military equipment Pakistan came from the Americans.

"Commander CENTCOM had one on one meeting with COAS," the Pakistan army's media wing said in a statement on Thursday evening. "Matters of mutual interest, regional security situation & stability, defence and security cooperation particularly military to military ties were discussed during the meeting."

The one-on-one call was followed by a delegation-level meeting. 

"Pakistan Army’s counter terrorism efforts and significant contributions towards regional peace and stability were discussed," the Pakistan army said. "Pakistan-US military training exchange programme also came under discussion."

According to the Pakistani military, Kurilla acknowledged the army’s "commendable efforts in fight against terrorism, counter terrorism experiences and efforts for regional peace and stability."

In his April statement, Bajwa said: “The good army we have today is largely built and trained by US. The best equipment we have is American equipment. We still have deep cooperation with US and our Western friends.”


’Love and friendship’: Pakistan commiserates with All India Football Federation over FIFA suspension

Updated 18 August 2022

’Love and friendship’: Pakistan commiserates with All India Football Federation over FIFA suspension

  • FIFA suspended the AIFF with immediate effect due to “undue influence from third parties” earlier this week
  • Suspension means Under-17 women’s World Cup, scheduled for October, cannot be held in India as planned

ISLAMABAD: The Pakistan Football Federation (PFF) on Thursday expressed solidarity with the All India Football Federation (AIFF) after FIFA suspended it with immediate effect due to “undue influence from third parties” earlier this week.

The suspension means that the Under-17 women’s World Cup, scheduled to take place in India from October 11-30, cannot be held in the country as planned.

FIFA had also suspended PFF due to third-party interference last year but lifted the ban this June.

“Commiseration to the Indian Football Federation and all Indian fans, it hurts to not be able to watch your team play,” the PFF said in a statement quoted widely by Pakistani media. “Indian Football has always been defiant and resilient. Here’s hoping that Indian football comes out of suspension and continues to excite us in the coming years.”

“Sharing in your hard moments with love and friendship,” the PFF statement added.

On Wednesday, India's Supreme Court asked the federal government to take "proactive steps" to ensure that the suspension was lifted and the women’s World Cup went ahead according to plan.

The FIFA suspension occurred after India's Supreme Court disbanded the AIFF in May and appointed a three-member committee to govern the sport. But FIFA rules say its member federations must be free from legal and political interference.

While the suspension doesn't apply to domestic tournaments, it will affect India's participation in international matches and tournaments.


Rizwan, Salman guide Pakistan to seven-wicket win over Netherlands

Updated 18 August 2022

Rizwan, Salman guide Pakistan to seven-wicket win over Netherlands

  • Pakistan captain Babar Azam passed fifty for the 38th time in the last 89 ODI innings
  • Final match of the series will be played at the same venue on Sunday

ROTTERDAM, Netherlands: Mohammad Rizwan and Agha Salman made unbeaten half-centuries as Pakistan eased to a seven-wicket win over the Netherlands in the second one-day international in Rotterdam on Thursday to complete a series victory.

Pakistan captain Babar Azam, the world’s top-ranked ODI batsman, scored 57 off 65 balls before Rizwan and Salman led the tourists home in their pursuit of 187 with 16.2 overs to spare.

Dutch seamer Vivian Kingma removed openers Fakhar Zaman and Imam-ul-Haq cheaply as Pakistan stuttered early, but Azam and Rizwan steadied the innings before Salman finished it off by blasting his first ODI fifty.

Zaman, who made 109 in the first ODI, was caught and bowled by Kingma for three and Imam was lured into a loose drive four balls later to reduce Pakistan to 11-2.

Azam passed fifty for the 38th time in 89 ODI innings but top-edged off-spinner Aryan Dutt to Bas de Leede at midwicket, ending an 88-run stand with wicketkeeper Rizwan.

Rizwan adopted a relatively cautious approach as he compiled 69 off 82 deliveries, in contrast to the fireworks delivered by Salman, who clubbed the final ball of the match for six to finish 50 not out in just his second ODI.

Haris Rauf and Mohammad Nawaz took three wickets apiece to dismiss the Netherlands for 186 in the second of a three-match series.

De Leede (89) and Tom Cooper (66) struck battling half-centuries to lift the Dutch from 8-3 but only one other batsman passed double figures for the hosts.

Naseem Shah removed Vikramjit Singh in the second over as the teenage opener edged behind and Max O’Dowd followed when he drove Rauf straight to Azam at mid-off.

The 38-year-old Wesley Barresi was bowled by Naseem for three, two days after scoring just two in his first international innings since 2019.

De Leede and Cooper set about restoring order and put on 109 for the fourth wicket.

Cooper hit seven fours and two sixes before falling for 66 when he offered left-arm spinner Nawaz a simple return catch.

His dismissal precipitated the loss of three quick wickets, with captain Scott Edwards caught behind off Nawaz for five and Teja Nidamanuru going in the same manner without scoring after glancing Rauf down the legside.

Logan van Beek holed out to Naseem on the long-off boundary for 13 to give Shadab Khan his first wicket.

Tim Pringle went for a second straight duck after Mohammad Wasim pinned him leg before and Nawaz claimed his third scalp by sneaking one past the defense of Dutt.

De Leede was last man out for 89, caught by Zaman trying to clear long-on as Rauf finished with 3-16 after wrapping up the Dutch innings in 44.1 overs.

Pakistan won the first match by 16 runs. The series finale is scheduled for Sunday at the same venue.


Pakistan, Iran express desire to sign free trade agreement within six months

Updated 18 August 2022

Pakistan, Iran express desire to sign free trade agreement within six months

  • Pakistani Minister for Commerce Syed Naveed Qamar meets Iranian Road and Urban Development Minister Rostam Gasemi
  • Gasemi is in Pakistan with a delegation of 57 dignitaries to attend 21st session of Pakistan-Iran Joint Economic Commission

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan's commerce ministry said on Thursday Islamabad and Tehran had expressed a desire to sign a free trade agreement within six months to increase bilateral trade.

Pakistani Federal Minister for Commerce Syed Naveed Qamar met Iranian Road and Urban Development Minister Rostam Gasemi on Thursday and signed several MoUs at the 21st session of the Pakistan-Iran Joint Economic Commission.

Ghasemi is in Pakistan with a delegation of 57 dignitaries.

"Qamar said that although current trade volume between the two countries does not commensurate with the true potential of the two countries, yet Pakistan is committed to take all possible measures to increase the bilateral trade volume to the level of $5 billion," the Pakistani commerce ministry said in a statement. 

"In order to increase bilateral trade both sides expressed their desire to finalize and sign the Free Trade Agreement within the next six months."

At Thursday's meetings, the two countries also decided to work together to operationalize barter trade as per an agreement signed between the Quetta and Zahidan chambers of commerce. 

"Both sides further agreed to discuss removal of Tariff and Non-Tarrif Barriers to enhance bilateral trade ... the apex Chambers of Commerce from the two sides decided for more frequent business to business integrations," the statement said. 

"In order to facilitate trade an additional border crossing point at Gabd (near to Gwadar)-Reemdan has recently been operationalized by Pakistan. In addition, the purpose of agreement on International Transport between Pakistan and Iran aims to facilitate trade traffic from Turkey to Pakistan through Iran, while Iranian goods and passengers can have access to China through Pakistan. Pak­istan will have the benefits of access to other Central Asian Republics and Europe through Turkey with operationalization of the decisions taken in the 21st session of JEC."