NEW DELHI: A Pakistan International Airlines plane with 48 people on board crashed near Abbottabad in northern Pakistan on Wednesday. There are no survivors.

The flight, PK 661, was on its way to Islamabad from Chitral when it crashed. Pakistan International Airlines, the country’s national carrier, released a statement saying that 42 passengers, five crew members and one ground engineer were on the aircraft. The statement said the plane went down near the city of Havelian, in Abbottabad district.

Pakistan’s Civil Aviation Authority confirmed that there were no survivors.

Pakistani media reported that 46 bodies have been recovered, as recovery operations involving the army are still underway. Inter-Services Public Relations said in a statement that troops and army helicopters were mobilised to the site and many bodies were recovered from the plane wreckage. A total of 500 army troops, including doctors and paramedics, have been deployed in the operations, the statement added. The site of the crash is a rocky and difficult terrain, making rescue and recovery operations difficult.

Officials, however, have ruled out the possibility of rescuing anyone alive. “What locals from the crash scene are telling us, the passengers are all burned,” Saeed Wazir, the deputy inspector general of police in Abbottabad district, told the media. Other reports have corroborated this. "All of the bodies are burned beyond recognition. The debris is scattered," Taj Muhammad Khan, a government official based in the Havelian region said (as quoted in Dawn News). An eyewitness, Jumma Khan said, "The bodies we have taken out are in pieces. They are beyond recognition. We cannot tell women from men... they are just legs and arms."

At a press conference on Wednesday evening, PIA chairman Azam Saigal confirmed that all onboard have been killed in the crash. The PIA chairman added that the ATR-42 aircraft had gone through a detailed inspection in October, and that it was unclear what had caused the crash. Saigal added that the pilot flying the aircraft had flying experience of more than 12,000 hours. At 4.09 PM, the pilot told the control tower that one of the engine’s had developed a technical problem, and minutes later, followed up the information with a “mayday call.” “Investigations will establish the cause of the incident and why the plane was unable to fly on the remaining engine,” Saigal said.

PIA’s passenger list stated that there were 31 men, 9 women and 2 infants on board the flight, including singer-cum-evangelist Junaid Jamshed and his family, and three foreigners. Media reports mention a senior government official in Peshawar saying the three foreigners were Australian, Chinese and Korean.

According to Dawn News, “Jamshed was in Chitral for a Tableeghi mission and was returning to Islamabad when the aircraft crashed. He was scheduled to deliver the Friday sermon at Parliament mosque. He was a prominent member of Pakistan's Tableeghi Jamaat, a global Islamic revivalist movement urging Muslims to return to Sunni Islam. Jamshed rocketed to fame in Pakistan in the 1980s and 1990s as the singer for the Vital Signs rock group, and later launched a solo career, with a string of chart-topping albums and hits.”

The crash has once again brought back focus to Pakistan’s troubled aviation industry. PIA has for years been faced with controversies over mismanagement, corruption and safety.

There has been a failure in Pakistan to implement procedures and rulings calling for better safety and management practices. For instance, a judgement of the Peshawar High Court and recommendations of the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) to make the Civil Aviation Authority’s (CAA) Safety and Investigation Board (SIB) an independent and autonomous body -- was never implemented.