- Rubbishes TTP’s claim that it had shot down the helicopter carrying diplomats
- Says PM was flown back to Islamabad after news of accident was broken
Foreign Secretary Aizaz Chaudhry has ruled out the possibility of terrorism in causing a Pakistan Army helicopter to crash in Naltar valley of Gilgit-Baltistan on Friday morning, terming it an accident.
Addressing a press conference on Friday evening, Chaudhry dismissed as “bogus” a claim made by the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan that they had shot down the helicopter carrying diplomats. Seven people, including two diplomats and two pilots were killed when the helicopter crashed into a school in the scenic valley.
He added that there was no security lapse with nearly 1,000 soldiers deployed and all heights (high vantage points) occupied by security forces.
“It was purely an accident, and accidents do happen,” he said adding that the ill-fated helicopter had suffered a technical fault near the site of landing.
Commenting on the condition of the helicopter, Chaudhry said that it was regularly serviced with the last one just 11 hours before the crash.
Chaudhry said that the blackbox of the helicopter had been found and that the Chief of Army Staff General Raheel Sharif had constituted a board of enquiry which will be headed by a Brigadier. He added that the results of this inquiry will be made public.
The trip was of a diplomatic nature and was planned to highlight development activities in the Gilgit-Baltistan region, said Chaudhry. Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif was to inaugurate a Ski chairlift in the area, where Islamabad-based diplomats and their wives were also invited.
Four helicopters were carrying diplomats and officers to the event and one of them, which was carrying 19 people including high-level diplomats, met an accident just yards away from its landing site, said the foreign secretary.
Of the 19 people on board at the time of the crash, 12 were foreign dignitaries, two pilots and five crew members, he added.
The prime minister was also scheduled to land in Naltar, but after news of the crash, he was flown back to Islamabad. “PM Nawaz did want to go to the crash site, but his visit would have required many security formulations that are currently being utilised in the relief and rescue operation, which is why he cancelled his plan,” said Chaudhry.
The Air chief, however, did make it to the spot and closely monitored the operation, said Chaudhry.
The foreign secretary said that the priority at this point was to bring the injured and the dead to Islamabad as soon as weather allowed.
Giving details of those injured, he said that the Indonesian ambassador had suffered 75% burns and was in critical condition. The Dutch and Polish ambassadors, who had suffered neck and head injury and spinal injury respectively, were both out of danger.
Ministers to accompany dead bodies of envoys, spouses:
Meanwhile, Prime Minister Sharif on Friday tasked three cabinet ministers to accompany the dead bodies of diplomats and spouses who had lost their lives in the tragic helicopter crash in Naltar.
Ministers Lt Gen (r) Abdul Qadir Baloch (Norway), Ahsan Iqbal (Malaysia and Indonesia) and Khurram Dastagir Khan (Philippines) will accompany the dead bodies on special flights as a gesture of respect and to convey the heartfelt condolences from the government and people of Pakistan.