The Pakistani military has reported the death of three generals, including the commander of the Pakistan Army’s XII Corps, also known as the Quetta Corps, in the Monday crash of a helicopter conducting flood relief operations in Balochistan. Initial investigations of the crash that killed all six on board suggest bad weather as the main cause of the crash.
A Pakistan Army spokesperson confirmed on Tuesday that the wreckage of the helicopter had been found in Musa Goth, in Balochistan’s Lasbela district. In an announcement, the Army identified the six occupants of the helicopter, including XII Corps commanding officer Lt. Gen Sarfaz Ali, saying that they had ’embraced shahadat’ (martyrhood).
The helicopter had been conducting flood relief operations in Lasbela when it lost contact with local air traffic control on Monday. Lt. Gen. Sarfaz Ali had been supervising flood relief operations in Balochistan, following the start of the monsoon season. Pakistan Army helicopters have been regularly engaged in delivery of aid and other relief operations following heavy flooding in Balochistan, with Pakistani Minister for Climate Change Sherry Rehman saying on July 14, that monsoon rainfall by that point was 501% above the 30 year average for the province.
Dawn’s police sources told the newspaper that the crash site was in mountainous terrain without even jeep paths, making search and rescue an arduous process. “Either you go on foot or motorcycles or conduct aerial surveillance”, said a senior official to the newspaper. Other complications included a lack of cell phone coverage and electricity supply.
The XII Corps, led by Lt. Gen. Sarfaz Ali, is stationed in Balochistan, deployed both on Pakistan’s southern border with Afghanistan, and in a long-running counterinsurgency campaign against Balochistan separatists. The Lt. Gen. had previously been one of former prime minister Imran Khan’s candidates to lead Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence, although the process got no further than an interview before a parliamentary vote of no confidence in Khan passed in April.
In a statement posted on Twitter, Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif said:
“Nation is deeply grieved on the martyrdom of Lt. General Sarfraz Ali & 5 other officers of Pakistan Army. They were doing a sacred duty of providing relief to flood affectees. Will remain eternally indebted to these sons of soil. My heartfelt condolences to the bereaved families!”