A plane carrying 47 people, including one of Pakistan’s most famous singers, has crashed on its approach to Islamabad from Chitral, a mountainous region popular with tourists.
Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) said a small turboprop ATR-42 had lost contact with aircraft controllers shortly before police confirmed that an aircraft had crashed near the town of Havelian.
Havelian lies 30 miles north of the capital’s airport and far away from the high peaks of the Hindu Kush mountain range in which Chitral is nestled.
The army said it had dispatched troops and helicopters to the scene, but an official told Reuters there were unlikely to be any survivors. “All of the bodies are burned beyond recognition. The debris is scattered,” said Taj Muhammad Khan. Images shown on Pakistani TV channels and circulated on social media showed a trail of wreckage engulfed in flames on a mountain slope.
The military said 21 bodies had been recovered.
Kurshid Tanoli, a police official in Havelian, said recovery work was hampered by a fire at the crash site and the hilly terrain.
“The nearest village to the site is Batolani and is deep in the hills,” he said. “Vehicles and ambulances can only go to Batolani and then it is a 30-minute walk.”
A manifest for flight PK661, obtained by local media, showed that in addition to five crew there were 42 passengers on board, including Junaid Jamshed, a pop star turned evangelical Muslim cleric and fashion designer, who ran a successful chain of boutiques across the country.
Jamshed had abandoned his music career after becoming a follower of the Tableeghi Jamaat, a highly conservative, proselytising Islamic movement. Quaid-e-Azam, manager of the Hindukush Heights hotel in Chitral, said Jamshed had been in the town as part of a preaching tour.
Also on board, according to the manifest, was Osama Warraich, the senior civilian bureaucrat for Chitral, who was travelling to Islamabad with his wife and son.
Pakistan’s last major air disaster was in 2015 when a military helicopter crashed in a remote northern valley, killing eight people including the Norwegian, Philippine and Indonesian envoys and the wives of Malaysian and Indonesian envoys.
The country’s deadliest crash was in 2010, when an Airbus 321 operated by the private airline Airblue and flying from Karachi crashed into hills outside Islamabad while about to land, killing all 152 on board.
The government has vowed to privatise troubled PIA, the national carrier, which has been losing money.