By Zia Ur Rehman

KARACHI – A mournful cloud has descended on Karachi, hometown to most of the 152 dead from the July 28 Jetblue plane crash in Islamabad.

The air of tragedy was highly evident at the Karachi airport, where numerous citizens joined relatives of the dead to receive the remains.

Authorities handed over the remains of 30 victims to their relatives July 30. PIA, the state-owned airline, and some private airlines transported the bodies, according to a PIA spokesperson.

We received dead bodies at the airport, where hundreds of people including officials, were also present. After (the mourners prayed) Namaz-e-Janaza, these bodies were sent to their homes for burial in nearby graveyards”, said Masood Alam, a city government official.

Youth Parliament members among dead

Among the victims, six were members of the Youth Parliament, a project of the Pakistan Institute of Legislative Development and Transparency (PILDAT), a non-governmental organisation that seeks to expose Pakistani youth to healthy discourse and the democratic process.

All of the members were under 30. They were travelling to Islamabad to attend a parliamentary session. The youth parliamentarians aboard the plane were Hassan Javed Khan (Youth Prime Minister), Rabab Zehra Naqvi (Youth Information Minister), Bilal Jamaee (Youth Shadow Minister for Information), Prem Chand (Youth Minister for Culture, Sports and Youth Affairs), Owais Bin Laiq (Member of Youth Parliament, Standing Committee on Information) and Syed Arsalan Ahmad (Member of Youth Parliament, Standing Committee on Information), said Goran, a noted social activist and cousin of Prem Chand.

“I was so traumatised when Chand’s mother called me up and started crying, ‘My son has gone,’ ” Goran told Central Asia Online.

Chand was a smart student with a master’s degree in social work who was pursuing a law degree, he added. Jamaee was a third-year student pursuing a degree in mass communication at the University of Karachi.

“I am so proud of my son for becoming so successful at such as young age,” Jamaee’s father, Naseer Rajput, said, “Among the youth parliamentarians, including Oxford students, my son gave his speeches in Urdu.”

Recently Jamaee came back from a trip to the United Kingdom, where he visited the House of Commons, Rajput added.

A large number of Jamaee’s classmates, teachers and friends visited the traumatised family at their residence in the area of Gulistan-e-Johar to express condolences.

Oil tanker truck industry representatives also died

Another four victims were leaders of the oil tanker truck industry in Karachi, which provides transport for NATO supplies.

Afzal Mehsud, Haji Ataullah Hashmi and Haji Syed Mehboob were officers of the All-Pakistan Oil Tankers Owners Association (APOTOA), while Ainullah Agha headed the Oil Contractors Association (OCA), according to Sakhi Afridi, a leader of the APOTOA.

The deceased leaders were heading to a meeting with government officials in Islamabad to discuss the problems oil tanker drivers face when transporting NATO supplies from Karachi to Afghanistan, Afridi told Central Asia Online.

Mehsud, who was president of the APOTOA, had received death threats from Baitullah Mehsud, former head of the banned Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), and then from succeeding TTP leader Hakeemullah Mehsud, keeping him from visiting his ancestral village in South Waziristan, a relative said.

Thanks to the four men’s efforts, oil tanker owners receive adequate compensation if Taliban militants set their vehicles ablaze while they are delivering supplies to Afghanistan, said Afridi.

Asif and Amisa, a newlywed couple, made for another tragic story — they were planning to honeymoon in Muree.

Ansar Abbas, 25, a captain in the Pakistani army, was also on board. His superiors had selected him for prestigious SSG training. “He came to Karachi to celebrate his weekend with us in Karachi, but after receiving a call from his boss, he flew to Islamabad on that unfortunate plane”, said Muhammad Waseem, his cousin.

Abbas was the son of Sar Zameen Khan, a noted political leader associated with Swabi Qaumi Mahaz.

“Life is in God’s hands. It is he who gives and it is he who has taken it away from us”, Waseem told Central Asia Online.

Misha Dawood, 19, a young woman footballer, was travelling to Islamabad from Karachi to attend the National Women’s Football Championship. She had returned from her studies in the United States only three days ago.

One family lost five members on the flight; they ironically were heading to a funeral in Peshawar. All came from the Mohmand Agency but had permanently settled in Karachi. They were Hajam Khan, 35; Zaitoon Bibi, 50; Jannat Gul, 55; Syed Azam, 45; and Zameen Khan, 48.

Airblue says plane had no faults

In Islamabad, meanwhile, Airblue’s chief executive Shahid Khaqan Abbassi dispelled the impression that the plane had any technical faults.

Officials also said they were looking for the plane’s black box. Pakistani officials had earlier reported that it had been recovered, but they were mistaken.

Pakistan Interior Minister Rehman Malik, calling the event “most tragic,” said the government is making every effort to find the flight recorder, which could help investigators determine the cause of the crash.