Pakistan’s national airline has been mocked after a goat was sacrificed to ward off bad luck following one of the country’s worst air disasters.
Pictures went viral showing PIA ground staff slaughtering a black goat next to an ATR-42 aircraft which was about to leave for a domestic flight.
It was the first such flight since PIA grounded its ATR fleet for tests after a 7 December crash killed 47 people.
In Pakistan killing a black goat is supposed by many to ward off evil.
But the move by ground staff in Islamabad prompted hoots of incredulity once it was established the images were genuine and had not been photo-shopped.
A Pakistan International Airlines spokesman was swift to point out the goat had been slaughtered by employees on their own initiative and the airline management had no hand in it.
The Dawn newspaper covered the event in a front page story headlined “PIA: on a wing and a prayer“. The headline of the Express Tribune newspaper read: “PIA lampooned for bizarre goat slaughter”.
The Express Tribune commented that the “ritual sacrifice shows fear besetting the PIA employees associated with flight operations, especially those assigned to ATRs”.
Comments on social media were mixed – while many mocked PIA for indulging in superstition, others defended the slaughter as a practice endorsed by Islam.
“Good move. Fresh mutton on flight menu,” joked Nadeem Farooq Paracha, a Dawn blogger and columnist, in a tweet.
Another journalist, Fasi Zaka, tweeted: “PIA sacrifices a black goat before resuming ATR services, they take their historical nickname ‘Please Inform Allah’ (PIA) very seriously.”
Television anchor Ejaz Haider tweeted: “When Charles Perrow was working on his theory of normal accidents, he totally missed out on ‘kala bakra’ [black goat] as a hedge against accidents.”
Meanwhile, one Twitter user by the name of MisBis spoke for many when she wrote: “There’s nothing wrong in giving Sadqa [sacrificial offering]… Sadqa bari balao se bachata hai [it hedges against many troubles]… stop making it a joke”.
PIA had 11 ATR-42 planes in its fleet – the one that crashed in the Havelian region on 7 December killed all those on board.
Days later, the pilot of another ATR had to abort take-off due to a malfunction in one of the engines, leading PIA to ground the rest of its ATRs for tests.
This affected PIA operations to smaller destinations such as Chitral, Gilgit, Gwadar and many other destinations in Balochistan, Sindh and Punjab where small air strips and lack of technical cover do not allow larger planes to land.
Did Sunday night’s sacrifice help?
All we can say is the flight departed safely for Multan, and later returned to Islamabad.