ISLAMABAD: A Pakistan Army aviation helicopter carrying six senior military officers, including a top commander of XII Corps, is feared to have crashed while on a flood relief operation in Balochistan province after losing contact with air traffic control.
"A Pakistan army aviation helicopter which was on flood relief operations in Lasbela, Balochistan lost contact with ATC. 6 individuals were on board including Commander 12 Corps who was supervising flood relief operations in Balochistan. The search operation is underway," Major General Babar Iftikhar, Director General Inter-Services Public Relations -- the media wing of Pakistan's armed forces -- said in a tweet on Monday.
The six individuals on board included Commander XII Corps Lt Gen Sarfraz Ali, who was supervising the flood relief operations in Balochistan province.
Incidentally, General Sarfraz was one of the contenders interviewed by former prime minister Imran Khan for the post of director General Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) in October last year, according to the Express Tribune newspaper.
He has served as Pakistan's defence attache in the United States.
The others on board included Major Syed the pilot, Major Talha the co-pilot, Director-General of Coast Guards Brigadier Amjad, Engineer Brigadier Khalid and Chief Naik Mudassir.
A police source said the helicopter had apparently crashed near a place called Sassi Pannu in a mountainous region in Lasbela on Monday.
The helicopter took off from Uthal at 5:10 pm on Monday and was supposed to land in Karachi at 6:05 pm, but it lost contact with the air traffic controller, officials said.
On Tuesday, Army officials and police were busy combing the area to locate the helicopter. Their efforts, however, were hampered due to the treacherous mountainous terrain and the damaged roads due to the floods in the region.
Pakistan Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif expressed concern over the incident.
"The reports of a missing helicopter of Army Aviation are very concerning. The whole nation bows in front of Allah for safety and return of personnel involved in flood relief operations," he tweeted.
Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf chairman Imran Khan tweeted: "Disturbing news of army aviation helicopter missing and praying for all those on board."
Heavy rains and flash floods have wreaked havoc in Balochistan, claiming 147 lives. The civil authorities and the Pakistan Army are currently providing relief programmes to the displaced in the province.