Pakistan Eight Zero Five


Please read the account of PIA’s flight PK 805 where the Captain was refused landing at Karachi Airport by the order of the Director General Civil Aviation Authority  Pakistan. What has intrigued me:

The decision to apprise the VVIP travelling on board by the captain about the refusal of landing rights at Karachi Airport. By this act, the pilot lost all rights as a captain and was following orders of his peers on board the aircraft.

The complete lack of attention given to the resources available to the aircraft in the air.

Two of Pakistan’s major Air Force bases are situated in the Karachi area, Faisal and Masroor. Why did the pilot not go there in this dire emergency?

A possible explanation could be the army directive of those on board. The Air Force and the Army were not on the same page regarding the government of the prime minister; the Air Force Chief had been picked by the prime minister. The Air Force had not taken part in the Kargil operation where the army was slaughtered while vacating the occupied areas by the pounding of Indian artillery and the deployment of the Indian Air Force.

This question was asked of a PIA pilot by me and he replied that most probably it never occurred to the captain that these bases were available to him.

While I was a Fokker F-27 copilot, I prevailed upon Captain Teherani to divert to Masroor as a thunderstorm was active at Karachi Airport and the landing could have dangerous consequences. He complied and we landed at the Air Force base and later departed with no problem


One Hundred Minutes to Touchdown

Participants on Transcript

  2. YOUSAF ABBAS COO (In charge for airfield closure)
  8. ANWAR (FOO)
  11. ANWAR
  16. ARMY HQ

The following is the transcript of Pakistan International Airline’s flight, PK 805,  in which former President Musharraf was travelling from Sri Lanka to Karachi on October 12, 1999. An unlawful attempt was made to prevent it from landing at Karachi Airport, in fact at all airports in Pakistan. I have tried to make the radio telephony (R/T) clearer for the common man. This is one of the darkest chapters in the history of civil aviation in Pakistan. The DG CAA should have walked away from his job instead of participating in this criminal activity. I have included pertinent excerpts from General Musharraf’s book, “In the Line of Fire” about this aerial piracy.

A commercial jet airliner operates on an instrument flight plan which mandates a fuel requirement of roughly destination + 2 hours. But in the transcript we are informed by the pilots that they have fuel for destination + 1 1/2 hour, which includes holding fuel. They have taken Nawabshah as the alternate airfield in the filed flight plan at Colombo with an enroute stopover at Male (Maldives).Nawabshah is only 104 nm from Karachi Airport as the crow flies. It is not necessary to descend and divert to alternate in case the destination is below weather minimums as an airliner loses a lot of fuel in climbing to altitude again after the diversion. This has to be avoided if fuel has to be conserved. An alternate may not even be required if the destination has the weather parameters permitting this, but in this case the pilots will take destination + 2 hours of fuel at a minimum. At MARVI position this aircraft had about an hour of fuel left which would have exhausted by 2000 PST. It landed at 1950PST.

People have floated the story that the COAS in the aircraft was waiting for confirmation of the coup and if it had not succeeded then they would have sought asylum somewhere. The answer is where was the fuel going to come to go anywhere?

It has also been suggested in the media that Karachi has two air force airfields. One of them is at Faisal (Drigh Road) Air Base, adjacent  to Karachi International Airport (Jinnah International). The other is Masroor (Mauripur) Air Base about 14 miles away from Jinnah International. Obviously these two airfields would have been blocked as we are similarly informed about Nawabshah.

I am convinced as a former commercial pilot with PIA that this aircraft was placed in a grave situation by this act out. The events unfolded in this manner:

The DG ISI had been away to the US for three weeks to consult with CIA on the war on terror and drugs, returning on Oct 8. The same evening he briefed the PM on his visit to the US and Rome and the stopover in London to meet Kashmiri leaders. He also mentioned that he was due to retire in 3 months time and requested the PM to release him as a good job was waiting in the civilian sector to be filled. He added that he had informed the COAS who had agreed.

  • Oct 9 was a Saturday where he (DG ISI) caught up with backlog of work at the ISI. He also learnt of a meeting at the PM’s Secretariat in the afternoon for Oct 12 which he was supposed to attend to discuss the law and order situation. The chief minister of Punjab would also attend.
  • Oct 10 was spent at the funeral of Gen.Gul Hassan, a former COAS in 1971.
  • Oct 11 was the visit with the PM to the UAE. He accompanied the PM on his request (DG ISI) to continue the briefing of his visit abroad,  on the flight. The PMs party returned the same evening on Oct 11 from UAE.

The Prime Minister acted in haste on a tip off that a coup had been set in motion while he was at a political event in Shujabad, near Multan. He returned to Islamabad immediately, and appointed Gen.Ziauddin Khawaja, the DG ISI as the new COAS. The ex-DG ISI (now) was a PM man, and not to the liking of Gen. Musharraf. .

I cannot understand why the government could not wait for the aircraft to land on Oct 12 at Karachi in which the COAS Gen. Musharraf was travelling and then do whatever had to be done. The only scheming is evident in Islamabad and not with the COAS who was away in Sri Lanka. The DG ISI brought the retirement issue on Oct 8 as a pressure on the PM, and had earlier informed him that Musharraf would topple him for the Kargil lapse. I leave it to the readers to reach their conclusions but the smoking gun is clear to me.

Timings below are in GMT & Pakistan Standard Time (PST)

It was 1740 in Karachi when the Karachi Corps Commander Lieutenant General Muzaffar Usmani was called by Lieutenant General Aziz Khan and told to secure the airport and receive the chief when he landed there. Things started moving very fast after that as Usmani issued rapid-fire instructions. He ordered Brigadier Tariq Fateh, the Director of Karachi Airport to take over air traffic control and coordinate his actions with Brigadier Naveed Nasar, the commander of airport security. It will remain my abiding regret that all Tariq Fateh did was to go to the airport and sit inert in the office of the Director General of the Civil Aviation Authority. This was a man whom I had helped considerably to get ahead in his career, but when the time came for him to stand up and be counted, he remained seated, waiting to see which side of the fence I would fall on–the winning side or the losing side.

At the beginning of the newscast at 1800 the prime minister had panicked. My plane would land in Karachi in less than an hour, and the army would have its leader back. Any chance of defeating the counter coup would evaporate. I think it was at this point that Nawaz Sharif came to the conclusion that I must be prevented from landing in Pakistan. He telephoned his adviser for Sindh, Ghous Ali Shah who was stationed in Karachi. The prime minister instructed Shah to go to the airport immediately with a heavy police contingent to ensure that my plane did not land there. And in case its landing could not be prevented, the aircraft was to be parked in an isolated place-a “dumble”, as it is called–and refueled immediately and sent out of the country.

Ghous Ali Shah was the de facto chief minister of the province. He had replaced the elected chief minister. He left for the airport accompanied by a strong police party and some of the provincial ministers and officials. 

Next the prime minister telephoned the Director General of the Civil Aviation Authority in Karachi with the same instructions: don’t let Pervez Musharraf’s plane land anywhere in Pakistan at any cost. Force it go somewhere, anywhere, as long as it goes out of the country.

Five minutes late the prime minister repeated the same instructions to the chairman of Pakistan International Airlines (PIA), telling him to order his pilot to leave Pakistan. The chairman of PIA heard the instructions but remained neutral. As they were talking my flight established initial contact with air traffic control at Karachi and informed the controllers that our ETA was 1855.

Director General: Which international flights do you have coming in at this time?
Nadeem: There is none on the board right now
Director General: Is there any coming in from Colombo?
Nadeem: Colombo? Hold on for a minute, I’ll check.
Director General: You check everything. Don’t put the phone down.
1810-PK-805: Any station in contact with Karachi on 126.5. This is PK-805 for relay.
Radar: PK-805 do you read Karachi control?
PK-805: Affirmative Sir. Loud and clear, from Male to Karachi 290 (flight level), and we are east of SAPNA at time 1330 (18:30 PST). MINAR next, arrive Inshallah 55 (18:55 PST).
Radar: Confirm ETA [expected time of arrival] 55, PK-805 cleared (MINAR-2 Arrival) for ILS 25 Right (Instrument Landing System Approach Runway 25 Right), maintain level 290 report position SAPNA.

At 1810 the Karachi Corps Commander, Lieutenant General Usmani ordered Major General Malik Iftikhar Ali Khan, the person who spoke with me in the plane from air traffic control tower to send the Immediate Reaction Group to Karachi Airport to ensure that my flight would be able to land there.

Farooq: Find out from someone what the position of PK-805 is on the ground.
Nadeem: It is coming from Male. The ETA is 1850 (6.50 PM)
Farooq: Where is it right now? If you don’t see it on the radar then check with India on the land line.
Nadeem: I’ll call back.
Farooq: No, I will hold.
Nadeem: It is south of Karachi.
Farooq: OK tell me. How to declare the airfield closed. What is the procedure?
Nadeem: Procedure Our COO closes the airfield.
Farooq: Do you give the diversion to the pilot or he does it himself?
Nadeem: If all the airfields are closed, then all aircraft are informed. Accordingly, it is aircraft responsibility whether they decide what to do.
Farooq: Where does PIA normally divert?
Nadeem: PIA? Dubai, Lahore, Islamabad.
Farooq: The plane that is coming is a 747?
Nadeem: It is an Airbus 300.
Farooq: Then it won’t go to Dubai?
Nadeem: It can go to Dubai also or it can be diverted to Lahore.
Farooq: No. It cannot go to Lahore. You keep giving me its update. Do not give him landing till you get a message from DG CAA.
Nadeem: OK fine.
1816-Radar: PK-805 squawk 7245 (transponder code for radar identification)
PK-805: 7245 Roger Sir.
1818–Radar: PK-805 radar contact position, 77 nautical miles south of SAPNA, from SAPNA, proceed direct MARVI.
PK-805: Read back (PK 805 reads back the clearance)
1819–Radar: Confirm type of aircraft Airbus 300?
PK-805: Affirmative.
1822–Radar: PK-805 radar contact position 45 miles south of SAPNA (aircraft identified by radar)
PK-805: Roger and confirm are we cleared direct MARVI?
Radar: Standby, confirm you have coordinated your descent with Bombay?
PK-805: We are (have) relayed by (to) Bombay, and I was informed by you that after SAPNA, direct MARVI. Direct MARVI not approved?
1823-Radar: PK-805, request your alternate and endurance?
PK-805: Endurance standby.
Radar: PK-805, from SAPNA cleared on MINAR-2 Arrival (STAR)
PK-805: That is affirmative sir. Already acknowledged MINAR-2 Arrival from SAPNA.

Yousaf: Did you get any instruction?
Sarfraz: No instructions. DG called. He said to standby for the instructions. He was asking about some international flight. There was no ETA till then. Now the international ETA has come
Yousaf: What is it?
Sarfraz: After 20 minutes, PK-805.
Yousaf: Where is it coming from?
Sarfraz: Coming from Male.
Yousaf: OK. Call Anwar Sahib to the Tower.
1825-Radar: PK-805 standing by for your alternate and fuel endurance and souls on board.
PK-805: Souls are 198. We are east Karachi at 1358 (18:58 PST), and correction 1355(18:55 PST), because SAPNA is now 27 so Karachi will be now 55, standby for endurance. If we have to hold over MARVI at 3,000 feet, we have endurance (fuel remaining) of one hour and 20 minutes.
Radar: Reads back, and request your alternate.
PK-805: Our alternate field is initially Nawabshah and standby Nawabshah.

Farooq: You got the message?
Asif: About airfield closure sir? Yes. The supervisor has received it, sir.
Farooq: OK. Have you announced it?
Asif: Yes sir. Announcing it, sir.
Farooq: Do it quickly. Confirm it to me on 1012
1827-Radar: Your first alternate Nawabshah and what about your second alternate?
PK-805: At the moment Nawabshah is the only alternate. We don’t have any other alternate field.
Radar: Alright according to your endurance, I think you cannot proceed except Nawabshah.
PK-805: Affirmative, because we have full commercial load on board so we are trying (flying) on required fuel only and Nawabshah was the only alternate field, and if we have to go to Nawabshah then endurance reduce at MARVI down to 45 minutes only.
Radar: Copied.
1828-PK-805: Approach (Radar) we are 14 miles from SAPNA and requesting descent from 290.
1828: Radar: Standby for descent.

Asif: Runway is closed; airfield is also closed since time 29 as per instructions by DG CAA. And runway is not available.
Manzoor: Runway is closed 18:29. What reason has been given?
Asif: No reason has been given.

1828–AQEEL to ASIF
Aqeel: Aqeel speaking. Unable to contact the shift supervisor right now. Have you received any instructions?
Asif: Yes. Farooq sahib sent a message for airfield closure.
Aqeel: OK, you close it immediately.
Aqeel: Divert Pakistani flights to their fields and hold the international. Anyone who wants to go out, can go.
1829–Radar: PK-805 we cleared flight level 100.
PK-805: Reads back, leaving 290.

Farooq: Nadeem, Farooq speaking. What was the announcement?
Nadeem: Sir, what?
Farooq: The airfield that has been closed. What announcement has been made about it?
Nadeem: Sir, we have told the aircraft from the tower that it is temporarily closed. We don’t know the reason for the closure yet.
Farooq: No reason has been announced yet?
Nadeem: No reason has been announced yet. Flight hasn’t been told.
Farooq: Operational reason is to be given. Has Yousaf Abbas arrived?
Nadeem: Yes sir, he has arrived.

Yousaf: Yes sir, I’m here aslamalaikum.
Director General: You are on the tower?
Yousaf: Yes sir.
Director General: Now you stay here till I tell you to go back.
Yousaf: OK sir.
Director General: The thing is that the pilot should not know anything what the reason is.
Yousaf: OK sir.
Director General: Otherwise, he will try to land somewhere.
Yousaf: Yes sir.
Director General: The second thing is that I have closed the rest also. Divert it. It will either go to Abu Dhabi or Muscat. So has he been told about the diversion yet or not?
Yousaf: I will just find out. OK, Dubai or Muscat.
Director General: That’s right. No, not Dubai.
Yousaf: Sir, OK, Muscat or Abu Dhabi.
Director General: Yes.
Yousaf: OK sir.
Director General: Don’t give him the reason.
Yousaf: OK sir.
Director General: Because I have alerted the other airports also.
Yousaf: OK sir.
Director General: OK. Thank you and you remain there.
Yousaf: OK sir.
Director General: I’m in my office. Thank you.
1833-PK-805: Sir, we were monitoring your transmission to the other flights. Advice we have COAS (Chief of Army Staff) with us and like to know what is the status of airfield.
Radar: PK-805 change over to approach on 125.5 (radio frequency) for further instructions.

PK-805: Karachi Approach this is PK-805 Asalamalaikum. We are out of 180 for 100 MINAR-2 Arrival.
Controller: Asalamalaikum. PK-805 radar contact on hand over (from) Approach, 50 miles East South East of the air field, follow MINAR-2 Arrival descend level 100, proceed MARVI, hold over MARVI level 100
PK-805: Reads back ( the clearance is read back to avoid mistakes in hearing)
Controller: PK-805 affirmative. Go ahead with your remaining fuel endurance and persons on board.
PK-805: We have 198 souls on board and we do have COAS with us, and overhead MARVI. Keeping Nawabshah as alternate, we will be able to hold for about 40 minutes.
Controller: Reads back and confirm your alternate as Nawabshah.
PK-805: That is affirmative.
Controller: Report overhead MARVI and stand by for further instructions.

OP: Are you speaking from ATC. Who’s speaking?
Nadeem: Nadeem speaking.
OP: Wanted to find out about the flight coming from Sri Lanka. What time is it landing?
Nadeem: Who is calling?
OP: Operator of General Iftikhar speaking from Malir.
Nadeem: Yes.
PA to General Iftikhar: Nadeem bhai, the delay in the flight or when is it coming is not confirmed?
Nadeem: No. Don’t know the time. Yes, there is some delay. Find out after some time.
PA: Hold for a minute. General Iftikhar Sahib will speak to you.

Anwar: OK don’t give him any reason. Don’t let any international flight land. There is no arrival at this time, is there?
Manzoor: Just this one, PK-805
Anwar: Yes. No airport in Pakistan.
Manzoor: Not allowed landing on any airport in Pakistan.
Anwar: All international flights.

Gen. Iftikhar: Hello, hello. Yes, who’s speaking?
Nadeem: Yes? Nadeem.
Gen. Iftikhar: Son, I’m General Iftikhar speaking.
Nadeem: Yes sir?
Gen. Iftikhar: What time is the Sri Lanka flight coming?
Nadeem: The thing is sir, that it is delayed for some time.
Gen. Iftikhar: How much?
Nadeem: I am not sure. I really can’t say right now correctly.
Gen. Iftikhar: Did the pilot contact?
Nadeem: The pilot is in contact. It might divert to some place. But it is right now we can’t say.
Gen. Iftikhar: Son, do this.
Nadeem: Yes?
Gen. Iftikhar: It must not be diverted.
Nadeem: Uh!
Gen. Iftikhar: It must not be diverted.
Nadeem: May I know who is speaking?
Gen. Iftikhar: General Iftikhar
Nadeem: Just, just hold on a second, sir.
Nadeem: Hello, hello?
Gen. Iftikhar: Yes.
Nadeem: You do this. The number is 1612

Gen. Iftikhar: No, no … 1612? …I will do it. No.
Nadeem: Yes. Wing Commander Farooq Sahib is there. He has given us instructions. right now he is complete authority.
Gen. Iftikhar: Yes.
Nadeem: You talk to him, whatever it is. Whatever it is.
Gen. Iftikhar: 1, 2?
Nadeem: 1612.
Gen. Iftikhar: OK.
Nadeem: OK.
1840–Controller: PK-805 report remaining fuel endurance now.
PK-805: Standby sir. We are in contact with our company and the problem is that we have definite holding at MARVI. We can easily hold for 30-35 minutes but after that we must proceed to Nawabshah.
Controller: Roger, it means that you have only remaining fuel up to one hour.
PK-805: Affirmative, little more than one hour and trying to keep a little reserve for the approach to Nawabshah.
1843-Controller: PK-805 if your alternate is Nawabshah then Nawabshah airfield is also closed.
PK-805: OK, sir we understand the situation very, very clearly now, standby one, fuel for any other place except Nawabshah at this moment at 10,000 feet. I will get back to you when joining the hold (Hold at MARVI). Give me a moment please.
Controller: Roger.

General Iftikhar smelled a rat and immediately issued orders to his Brigadier Abdul Jabbar Bhatti to go to Karachi Airport and take over the air traffic control tower. Tariq Fateh was also told to get to Karachi Airport immediately and use force if necessary to ensure safe landing of PK 805. But as I said, Tariq Fateh did nothing.

Yousaf: Yes Farooq. He has some fuel, for around an hour or so.
Farooq: Yes. Then tell him to divert from here.
Yousaf: We can tell him that, to divert. He has just been told that the airfield is closed.
Farooq: Tell him that Nawabshah is also closed.
Yousaf: OK. OK.
Farooq: Tell him that if Nawabshah is the alternate, it is also closed and it is also not available.
Farooq: Indefinitely. This is OK. Turn off this frequency. Close the airfield.
Yousaf: OK. That’s all right Farooq sahib. OK I will let you know.
1847-Controller: PK-805 overhead MARVI holding now, go ahead remaining fuel endurance now.
PK-805: OK, sir, if we have Nawabshah for landing we can hold from now for another half hour, then we have to go to Nawabshah. If we do not plan to go to Nawabshah and land at Karachi I have one hour and 10 minutes.
Controller: Confirm now total fuel endurance one hour 10 minutes.
PK-805: That is affirmative, sir.

Islamabad: After the scuffle on the prime minister’s porch, Lt. Col. Shahid Ali and some of his soldiers entered the house and went to the private area, which is called the family wing. In his living room there, he saw Nawaz Sharif sitting with Ziauddin, Akram, Nawaz Sharif’s son Hussain (who had gone with him to Abu Dhabi and Multan), Saeed Mehdi and Saifur Rahman–the dreaded chairman of the Accountability Bureau, who had hounded many opponents of Nawaz Sharif and used to strut around like a latter-day Robespierre. In the gallery Shahid Ali saw someone rushing forward wit a message from the Director General of the Civil Aviation Authority that the aircraft was short of fuel, could not be diverted out of Pakistan, and might crash if not permitted to land. Later, it was discovered that this was the third such message that went unheeded.

Shahid Ali entered the room and placed everyone under arrest. “Has martial law been declared?” asked Nawaz Sharif plaintively. Shahid Ali said that he did  not know. Saifur Rahman started crying. Nawaz Sharif looked dazed.

The prime minister’s brother Shahbaz Sharif was nowhere to be found. Shahid Ali was told that he was in the bathroom. He asked Shahbaz to come out. Shahbaz shouted his acquiescence but did not come out for an inordinate amount of time. So Shahid Ali forced the door open to find Shahbaz Sharif standing in front of the toilet, flushing down the speech that Nawaz Sharif was to deliver after his coup had succeeded. Shahbaz was, in turn flushed out of the bathroom. He insists to this day that he knew nothing of the coup plan. The prime minister’s speech writer, on the other hand, insists that Nawaz Sharif took no important action without first consulting his brother. God alone knows the truth. 

While all this had been going on at the prime minister’s house, many things started happening together in Karachi. Lt. Gen. Usmani along with his personal escort and military police reached Karachi Airport. 5 minutes later, troops from Karachi’s Malir Garrison also arrived. It was precisely at this time that air traffic control informed our pilot that Nawabshah Airport like all the airports in Pakistan–was closed to our aircraft. And it was after this that the pilot called my military secretary, Nadeem Taj, into the cockpit to tell him about the unbelievable situation.

“Sir, the pilot wants you in the cockpit,” my military secretary Nadeem Taj said to me in a hushed tone. It was October 12, 1999. The time 1845. The flight was PK 805. The plane was an Airbus. There were 198 passengers on board, many of them school children. We were due to land in ten minutes. “Sir, the pilot wants you in the cockpit,” repeated my military secretary, his voice now even more insistent. There was definitely something strange going on. He motioned me to the front of the aircraft and told me the news: the pilot informed him that our plane was not being allowed to land at any airfield in Pakistan and was being ordered to get out of Pakistan’s airspace immediately. Only one hour and ten minutes of fuel remained. I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. It seemed preposterous.

When our pilot informed air traffic control at about 1848 that he could not go to Muscat owing to his critically low fuel, the Director General of the Civil Aviation Authority asked his air traffic controller an amazing question: could my plane go to Bombay? I have seen idiots and more idiots, but this question was beyond belief. The controller replied in the negative.

What happened next remains one of the mysteries of that day. An air traffic controller elsewhere in Karachi, at Faisal Air Base run by PAF asked the controllers at Karachi Airport about the ETA of an air force B737 VIP flight inbound from Islamabad. The controllers at Karachi Airport could not confirm the flight’s arrival. I wonder what that was all about. Who was to come on that flight? Or was it sent to take me somewhere in case I landed in Karachi despite the best efforts to keep me away?

Yousaf: Hello Farooq? There is one hour 10 minutes endurance. He can’t proceed to Muscat in any case.
Farooq: OK.
Yousaf: He has to either go to Nawabshah and that is all.
Farooq: Can’t he go to Bombay?
Yousaf: No.
Yousaf: There is 504 (PK 504) from Turbat also. They have Nawabshah as alternate.
Farooq: Send them to Nawabshah. Do it after changing the frequency.
Yousaf: Farooq, if the frequency is changed, they will also monitor it. What frequency should we use? Now everyone is monitoring.
Farooq: How many planes are there right now?
Yousaf: There is 592, just a minute. 805, 554, 592 (PK 805, PK 554, PK 592)
Farooq: Hello sir. The DG (DG CAA) is saying tell him you cannot land in Pakistan.
Yousaf: OK fine.
Farooq: You have to go somewhere, find out the place and go.
Yousaf: OK. OK.
Farooq: Give him the directive and then let me know.
Yousaf: Farooq, I’ve told him. We have told him. Exact time 1353. But you see, [he is] probably gaining time.
Farooq: He should not.
Yousaf: That’s it. We have told him. But we cannot force him to do something else.
Farooq: If it crashes, then?
Yousaf: We cannot take the blame if it crashes.

Asif: OK. Ask PK-805, can he proceed to Bombay?
Manzoor: If there isn’t enough fuel, how can I ask?
Asif: Don’t ask, don’t ask.
Manzoor: Bombay, Muscat, they can’t get anywhere in one hour 10 minutes.
1851-Controller: PK-805 you cannot land in Pakistan at any airport.
PK-805: Standby one. That is not possible. We only have fuel for Karachi or Nawabshah and now we cannot standby. I will come back to you later. Standby one.
Controller: Roger.
1853-Controller: PK-805 go ahead your intentions now.
PK-805: We are talking with the company and we allow the higher authorities to take a decision at this moment. We are keeping our options open. I may stay over Karachi for one hour or I can divert to Nawabshah and please standby one. The decision has to be taken at another level.
Controller: Roger.

Yousaf: Nadeem? Alright, DG Sahib (DG CAA) is saying you tell them. Airfields of Nawabshah and Karachi are closed for operational reasons. It is not possible to accommodate. So whatever you have to decide, [decide] it at your own risk … you transmit it.
1856–PK-805: Karachi, this is PK-805, info from our company that we are allowed to proceed to Nawabshah and land. So is that OK with you?
Controller: PK-805 negative. This is not OK with us. Message just received Nawabshah airfield is also closed for you and decide on your own risk, advise.
PK-805: OK sir, then we has no other option. Either we hold over Karachi and declare an emergency and land or we take a direct route to any closer airfield in or out.
Controller: PK-805 standby.

Director General : Make it clear to him that for certain operational reasons, the airports at Karachi and Nawabshah are closed. He can seek his orders from his own persons. We cannot tell him anything. Or just make it absolutely clear that he is doing it at his own risk and that the airports are closed for operational reasons, whatever the reasons are. What can we do now?
Yousaf: Yes sir.
Director General: OK.
1859-Controller: PK-805, it is up to you. You have to decide what you have to do. Proceed as per your decision.
PK-805: We understand that, Karachi, very well. The point is we have limited fuel either we run out of fuel or that’s the end of the story or you allow us to land and then we can decide. The problem is that we are running out of fuel at this altitude very fast and no airfield except Nawabshah is available to us at the moment.
Controller: PK-805, you cannot land at any airport in Pakistan and you can proceed outside Pakistan.
PK-805: OK sir, standby one.
1900-Controller: PK-805, climb flight level 200.
PK-805: Reads back.

Yousaf: Yes Farooq? You see, time is being wasted this way … We have to have a decision, yaar (friend).
Farooq: We are waiting actually. Have to talk to chairman PIA. He is talking to somebody.
Yousaf: OK then, after this, he will not go. He will declare an emergency and [if] he wants to land then we cannot stop him.
1905-Controller: PK-805 climb flight level 280.
PK-805: We will like to maintain 210 at the moment, standby.
Controller: Maintain 210.
1907-PK-805: Karachi can you advise the authorities that this aircraft is on bare minimum fuel. We have lost lot of fuel during climb to level 21,000 feet. We have to land at an airfield, otherwise we have 198 souls at risk.
Controller: Roger, what is your remaining fuel endurance now?
PK-805: We have 45 minutes fuel.
Controller: Read back standby.
1908-Controller: PK-805 can you divert to Nawabshah now?
PK-805: Affirmative.
Controller: Standby.

Farooq: Put me through to Abbas Sahib, Farooq speaking.
Yousaf: He has just come on [saying] that [I have] got only 45 minutes of fuel left and there [are] 198 souls on risk. I have [to] land at this airfield.
Farooq: Can’t you send him to Nawabshah?
1910-Controller: PK-805, now proceed direct to Nawabshah.
PK-805: Thank you very much, we are 210 maintain (maintaining). We are proceeding direct to Nawabshah. We have 95 DME to run (Nawabshah is 104 NM from Karachi Airport).
Controller: That is correct, standing by for you ETA (expected time of arrival) Nawabshah. Your position is now 93 miles south of Nawabshah with me.
PK-805: That is affirmative.
1911-Controller: PK-805 when ready descend to flight level 160 initially.
PK-805: Thank you, will call you leaving 210 for 160.

Brig. Jabbar: Who’s speaking?
Aqeel: Aqeel speaking.
Brig. Jabbar: What is your appointment?
Aqeel: GMATS (GM Air Traffic Services)
Brig. Jabbar: This flight that is coming from Sri Lanka, it has to be brought back here.
Aqeel: Where are you calling from?
Brig. Jabbar: I am calling from the tower here.
Aqeel: Should return to Karachi?
Brig. Jabbar: Yes.
Aqeel: Now heading for Nawabshah.
Brig. Jabbar: No, no. You call him. Send a message, call it back. Ask if there is any doubt.
1914-Controller: PK-805, descend to flight level 100.
PK-805: Read back.

Farooq: Where is Abbas sahib? Yousaf sahib, talk to DG sahib.
Director General: Do it like this…
Yousaf: Sir.
Director General: He has enough fuel. Send him halfway and then call him back to Karachi. Let him land and park at the dumbbell, right at the end.
Yousaf: OK sir.
Director General: Airport is not to be opened. What will be the precautionary measures that we will take here? You understand?
Yousaf: Yes sir.
Director General: And it has to be refueled with the bowser right at the end.
Yousaf: Yes sir.

Director General: And ask him to take off again. No passenger is to be disembarked. Send him to Sharjah.
Yousaf: Sir
Director General : Or Sharjah to wherever.
Yousaf: Brigadier Jabbar sahib and his team are here.
Director General: Yes.
Yousaf: And they have said to bring it back to Karachi.
Director General: Uh, OK
Yousaf: Yes sir.
Director General: I see, if they are saying this … And I am going to say that he has to be offloaded also, that man.
Yousaf: So far they have asked for its landing.
Director General: OK, OK. I see. Then you let it land, yes.
Yousaf: OK sir, OK sir.

Yousaf: Yes sir, you call it back.
Aqeel: Call it back?
Yousaf: Yes sir.
1915-Controller: PK-805, position 44 miles East North East of the airfield, now turn left heading 250, vectoring for ILS runway 25 right Karachi International.
Controller: Left heading 250 initially, vectoring for ILS runway 25 Right.
PK-805: Reads back.
Controller: Position 46 miles East North East of the airfield and continue descent to 3000 feet on QNH 1008 HPA.
PK-805: Acknowledged.
1916-Controller: PK-805 continue left heading 235.
PK-805: Reads back.
Controller: Approx 50 miles to go, confirm if OK for your descent?
PK-805: Affirmative, sir we are already out of 135.
1917-Controller: PK-805, confirm your ETA Karachi is 33?
PK-805: Affirmative.
Controller: Roger, then on heading (on this heading) intercept localizer, cleared for ILS approach runway 25 Right, report established, no speed restrictions.
PK-805: Reads back.

Farooq: This is Farooq speaking. Put me through to Abbas sahib.
Yousaf: Yes.
Farooq: Sir, what is the position?
Yousaf: Yes. He is coming back to land.
Farooq: OK. Don’t talk, just keep listening. Do you have somebody with you?
Yousaf: Yes.
Farooq: They have taken over.
Yousaf: Yes, yes.
Farooq: OK, so, they are indicating that he will get off board.
Yousaf: Yes.
Farooq: And that means there is something beyond this. OK.
Yousaf: Bay 24
Farooq: We are in the office.
Yousaf: Bay 24
Farooq: OK. We are in the office. DG has gone home.
Yousaf: OK.
Farooq: Keep me informed.
Yousaf: OK. OK.
1921-Controller: PK-805. What is your heading now?
PK-805: Standby we are turning 130 now. We are in contact with our company (PIA). They are advising us.
Controller: PK-805 you are unreadable, request your intentions and heading now.
PK-805: Standby.
1924-Controller: PK-805, you are climbing again and heading towards north. Request, reason and intentions.
PK-805: We are trying to save fuel. We are just climbing to 10,000 feet. We [are] saving fuel, sir, I have to speak to company also, standby one. We let you know.

Gen. Iftikhar: Who’s speaking?
Aqeel: Aqeel speaking.
Gen. Iftikhar: I’m General Iftikhar speaking. Put the plane [PK-805] directly through to ATC Karachi.
Aqeel: OK. Who should it contact?
Gen. Iftikhar: Tell the aircraft he will [be] guided by ATC Karachi.
Aqeel: But sir, he is saying he is climbing and he will let you know.
Gen. Iftikhar: Just tell the pilot to get directly in touch with the Karachi ATC.
1926–Controller: PK-805 I am getting you out 120 climbing. Request intention.
PK-805: Sir, at low level we are burning fuel very, very fast. We are climbing higher to save fuel. We need some time over here to decide with the company.
Controller: PK-805 turn left heading 240 vectoring for Karachi for landing.
PK-805: Standby, sir.
Controller (Gen. Iftikhar): PK-805, this is Karachi ATC, over.
PK-805: Go ahead, over.
Controller (Gen. Iftikhar): This is General Iftikhar, you are hereby directed to please land at Karachi airport. The Karachi control tower will guide you. There is no need to divert anywhere. Is that clear? Over.
PK-805: Standby.

Brig. Jabbar: Hello, see, listen to me. Just spoke to you. I am Brigadier Jabbar speaking. Our men have reached everywhere now. We will blow you up. You have to get that plane to land. Send it a direct message. Do whatever. It must not be diverted anywhere else. And our men are standing on your head. They will not let you go. I am telling you that you tell
Aqeel: We’re telling him.
1927-Controller: PK-805 please contact Karachi tower 118.3 for an important message.
PK-805: Standby, Karachi control tower, this is PK-805 go ahead
Controller (Gen. Iftikhar): PK-805, this is General Iftikhar. Please approach Karachi airport and land at Karachi airport. Karachi airport is clear for you and Karachi control will direct you in. Is that clear?
1928-PK-805: I have been asked to confirm where the corps commander is, General Iftikhar?
Controller (Gen. Iftikhar): The corps commander is with me. I am speaking on his behalf. Please land at Karachi without any further argument, over.
PK-805: That is affirmative sir, we have received instructions. We are coming back to
Controller (Gen. Iftikhar): Good, well done, Karachi control tower will direct you in, over to him.
Controller: PK-805, establish on the ILS report leaving 3000 feet on the glide slope.
PK-805: OK sir. We are now turning left for standard ILS approach into Karachi.
1930-PK-805: I have been directed by the chief, that, corps commander should come on line.
Controller (Gen. Iftikhar): Please convey to the chief this is General Iftikhar, I would like to speak to him.
PK-805: Standby, we will get the general. (COAS) ‘Iftikhar this is Pervez .Where is Usmani?’
Controller: PK-805, go ahead.
PK-805 (COAS): This is Pervez, message for Iftikhar. General Iftikhar, where is Usmani?
Controller (Gen. Iftikhar): Sir, Iftikhar is on the set. General Usmani is in the VIP lounge. He is waiting at the gate for you. I am here in the control tower.
PK-805 (COAS): Where is Iftikhar now? Is that Iftikhar speaking?
Controller (Gen. Iftikhar): Affirmative.
1932-PK-805 (COAS): Iftikhar, what is the problem?
Controller (Gen. Iftikhar): I am sure you would not know. About two hours back your retirement was announced and you were to be replaced by Zia. The army has taken over and, they were trying to divert your plane, so that it does not land here. We have taken over the airport and you are coming in now.
PK-805 (COAS): Iftikhar thank you. Tell Mehmood and Aziz nobody will leave the country.
1932-Controller (Gen. Iftikhar): Right sir, we are waiting for you sir.
Controller: PK-805 report position.
PK-805: We are 42 on the DME and descending slowly, out of 116 for 5,000 feet, crossing radial 045 and will be intercepting the localizer.
Controller: Report when established localizer.
1933-Controller: PK-805 switch on your landing lights.
PK-805: Acknowledge.
1935-Controller: PK-805 confirm established on the localizer?
PK-805: We will call you when established on the localizer, we are 33 on the DME.
Controller: Roger, surface wind is light and variable and you are clear to land runway 25 Right (25R)
1937-Controller: PK-805 report distance from Karachi.
PK-805: 26 on the DME and out of 5,000 feet.

Nadeem: Sir, I’m Nadeem speaking.
Yousaf: Yes.
Nadeem: Landing?
Yousaf: Landed.
Nadeem: Landing up final.
Yousaf: After these people go, OK.
Nadeem: Yes?
Yousaf: Then call me at my office.
Nadeem: OK.
Yousaf: All right.
1946-Controller: PK-805 landed at 48, taxi at the end to stand 64.
PK-805: Acknowledged

Nadeem: Get the VIP lounge opened. It’s an emergency.
Anwar: VIP lounge? That is open.
Nadeem: That’s alright then, sir.
Anwar: Who is the VIP coming?
Nadeem: It is an emergency, sort of. Right sir, thank you.
1948-Controller: PK-805, please make sure nobody else disembark (s) except General Pervez and keep the doors closed after his disembarkation.
PK-805: Acknowledged

Controller: Asalamalaikum.
Army HQ: Walaikumasalam. Bhai jaan, I’m calling from Army HQ.
Controller: Yes.
Army HQ: Need to know if PK-805 has landed.
Controller: Yes.
Army HQ: Need to know if PK-805 has landed.
Controller: Yes, it has landed.
Army HQ: How long?
Controller: Just now, three minutes ago.
Army HQ: Three minutes ago?
Controller: Yes.

Courtesy: Including excerpts from: In the Line of Fire by Pervez Musharraf, Free Press, NY 2006

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