The Mushaf Ali Mir plane crash report and findings of the Public Accounts Committee of the National Assembly of Pakistan has brought terrible revelations about negligence, possible corruption, and a faulty organism within the top level of the system.
The former Pakistan Air Force (PAF) Chief, Marshal Mushaf Ali Mir, and his wife, Bilquis, died in a Fokker F-27 crash that was being used by Pakistan Air Force. The incident took place near Kohat on February 20, 2003, and this scribe visited that mountain top along with his staff the same week after this crash happened for a television report.
We have been waiting for the truth to come out, and it took 12 years and 6 months to know what could be real reasons behind this terrible crash, although the PAF blamed the pilot immediately after crash (that is a normal procedure in air crashes). Hailing from the walled city family of Lahore, Musaf Ali Mir was known for his upright stances in war against terrorism and his bold and outspoken personality.
Many “could bes and possibilities” came to the surface, including conspiracy theories about this crash that was of course a stigma on the face of PAF, because his own chief (along with his wife and senior officials) were killed in an aircraft crash being used as carrier of the Air Chief staff. Pakistan was virtually ruled by army rulers when the incident took place, and the then Chief of Pakistan, Army Gen. Musharraf, was ruler of the country, therefore, nothing came out of this tragic incident, except to blame the deceased pilot, who was of course not alive to narrate the story and shun off blames against him.
On October 5, 2015, a subcommittee of the Public Accounts Committee of the National Assembly of Pakistan held a briefing from the Director General Audit of Defense Services, Malik Farrukh Abbas, about the crash of the Fokker-F-27 that caused the death of the then Air Chief Mushaf, Ali Mir. The Fokker F-27 Friendship 200 was being operated by the Pakistan Air Force under registration number 10254. It took its first flight in 1964, and it was an exceptionally old aircraft that was still being used until it eventually crashed. At the time of crash, it was using 2 old Rolls-Royce Dart 532-7 engines. Eight crew members and 9 passengers, including Mushaf Ali Mir and his deceased wife, were onboard. It was scheduled to land at Kohat but crashed 32 kilometers (20 miles) east of Kohat at 0830 hours Pakistan Standard Time (PST). Among the casualties were other high-ranking officials of the Air Force, including two Principal Staff Officers – Air Vice Marshal Abdul Razzaq, DCAS (Training), and Air Vice Marshal Saleem Nawaz, DCAS (Administration) – and the air crew.
The investigation conducted by the Director General Audit of Defense Services office revealed that the Pakistan Air Force had been providing dubious data about the aircraft to auditors.
The audit report said:
On December 22, 1991 that Fokker aircraft (F-27) was purchased from Maritime Security Agency (MSA) for Chief of Army Staff (COAS) at a cost of $1.50 million. An amount of $0.574 million was further incurred on procurement of 2 engines for the aircraft.
On December, 23 1991, the very next day of conclusion of the contract, the GHQ declared the said aircraft as surplus to the requirement and asked the DG Defense Production for its disposal. National Carrier, Pakistan International Air Lines (PIA), was approached for sale of the aircraft but it did not respond in this regard. The DG Defense Production approached the GHQ and asked to intimate their willingness for sale of the aircraft on an open-tender basis. The GHQ in its letter dated May 10, 1993 intimated that the disposal of the Fokker aircraft be pended until the finalization of the contract for the purchase of a new executive aircraft for the COAS and sale of the old aircraft be linked with the procurement of new aircraft by incorporating a necessary clause in the contract.
A buy-back condition for the JPC-840, Cessna Golden Eagle 421C and Fokker (F-27) was incorporated in the tender floated for purchase of the executive aircraft for the COAS, but none of the firms showed interest in purchasing the old aircraft.
After inspection by a team of the Pakistan Navy in June 1993, it appeared that the condition of the aircraft was alarming. The air worthiness of the aircraft was doubtful. Since induction in the Army, the aircraft had only flown 11 hours only until it crashed.
The aircraft was very old, with 46,865 airframe hours against the Pakistan Navy requirement of a maximum of 20,000 hours.
On January 22, 1994, the then Director General Defense Productions recorded his views that he had inquired from various organizations and companies about the sale of the F-27, and it looked impossible to recover even 10 percent of the price if it went for sale.
The Director General Defense Audit claimed in his report that the Defense Service in 2008, through a letter, confirmed that the same Fokker aircraft crashed in which former Air Chief Marshal Mushaf Ali Mir was traveling along 15 other officers while DG Defense Purchase Major General Naveed Ahmed contested the allegation that said they had no knowledge that the same Fokker aircraft crashed as pointed out by an audit official.
The DG Defense Audit in his report said that the aircraft was very old, unserviceable, and was purchased against Rs83 million. The DG Defense Audit said that after the inspection of a Fokker F-27 by a team of the Pakistan Navy on June 1, 1993, it appeared that the condition of the aircraft was alarming and its air worthiness was also doubtful.
The Audit report is now here to understand how purchases are done in the Defense sector and how facts are covered or halted for decades if matters are related to the Ministry of Defense.
We will see what actions would be taken against those who are indirectly and directly involved to buy an old aircraft for a higher price and for those who allowed it to be in skies though it was nothing but a flying coffin due to its unworthiness to fly.
The author, Agha Iqrar Haroon, is a Development Observer. His area of work includes Central Asia and Eastern Europe region.