Pakistan International Airways crash leaves no survivors

Media caption,
Footage on social media shows what appears to be the crash site

All 48 people on board a Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) plane were killed when it crashed in the north of the country, officials say.

Flight PK-661 from Chitral to Islamabad went down in the Havelian area, about 70km (43 miles) north of Islamabad.

Famous pop singer turned Islamic preacher, Junaid Jamshed, was on board.

The national carrier has been accused of safety failures in the past, but insisted strict checks on this plane left "no room for any technical error".

"It is a tragic accident and we are not trying to absolve ourselves of responsibility," PIA chairman Muhammad Azam Saigol said.

"We accept that it was our aircraft, and these were our passengers, and what happened is very sad."

Mr Saigol said the company would be carrying out an investigation but the "focus at the moment is to retrieve dead bodies from the wreckage, transport them to Islamabad and hand them over to their families".

Image source, AFP
Image caption,
A full investigation is to be carried out

There were 42 passengers, five crew members and one ground engineer on board, the airline confirmed.

Three foreigners were among the dead, with Austria's foreign ministry later confirming two of its nationals were killed and Chinese state media saying one of its nationals was also among the victims.

'A great hero'

The plane took off from Chitral at about 10:00 GMT (15:00 local time), losing contact 90 minutes later, shortly before it was due to arrive at its destination.

Junaid Jamshed and his wife were on the flight's passenger list and multiple sources have confirmed to local media that he was on board.

Some of Jamshed's nearly half a million Twitter followers have been paying tribute to the former Vital Signs singer, whose 1987 hit Dil Dil Pakistan has been described as the country's "unofficial national anthem".

Image source, Twitter

Among them, British boxer and Olympic silver medallist Amir Khan, who tweeted: "PIA plane crash in Pakistan. My friend @JunaidJamshedPK was on the flight also, My heart goes out to all families who lost their loved 1's".

Mr Jamshed's uncle, Sahibzada Jehangir, who was on his way to Pakistan to attend the funeral, told BBC Asian Network: "It's not only a personal loss but a national loss. And a great loss to humanity. People are still in shock. I've been talking to people all afternoon. Some have not even eaten. They are crying.

"What a contribution he made to humanity. We've lost a great hero, a great legend. A very, very sad day."

Junaid Jamshed: Pop star turned preacher

Image source, AFP

Junaid Jamshed was one of the pioneers of Pakistan's pop scene that took off after the 1988 death of the country's conservative military dictator, Gen Ziaul Haq. Vital Signs, of which he was the lead singer, is still considered one of the best bands of that era.

After the 11 September attacks in the US, he gradually moved away from music and closer to religious circles. Influenced by Tablighi Jamaat, a global Islamic missionary movement that encourages Muslims to be more religiously observant, he grew a long beard and switched permanently to the local kurta-shalwar dressing and a preacher's turban. In this new incarnation, he evolved into a singer of na'at, or devotional Islamic hymns praising God and the Prophet Mohammad, which are sung without musical instruments.

During this period, he started a fashion-design chain called J. (J-Dot) which created fusion clothing - traditional garments with a modern touch. The chain has branches in all the major Pakistani cities, as well as in the Middle East and UK. He had three wives, the youngest of whom was with him on the ill-fated flight.

Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif expressed his "deep grief and sorrow" over the crash.

Pakistani TV images showed a trail of wreckage engulfed in flames on a mountain slope.

The last major crash involving a PIA aircraft, in 2006, left 44 people dead.