‘Living on borrowed heaven’

I was one of only two miracle survivors of a plane crash that killed 98 people, a last-minute decision saved my life: Zafar Masud

Zafar Masud was one of only two people that miraculously survived the horror crash in Karachi, Pakistan, in May 2020.

The Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) jet came down in a residential area after an aborted landing where it had already scraped along the runway at high speed.

Witnesses reported the aircraft, which had lost two engines, circled Jinnah International Airport two or three times before plummeting and destroying several buildings.

And Zafar credits his lucky escape from certain death to his decision to swap from a place by the window, to aisle seat 1C on that terrible day.

In a tragic twist of fate, the passenger who he switched seats with was one of the many who perished in the devastating incident.

Zafar told the Telegraph: “I think that in my survival that the location of that seat plays a very significant role.”

Passing out as the Airbus A320 crashed, his seat flew onto a house and landed on a car which cushioned the impact.

And his luck didn’t run out there with brave bystanders on the ground realising he was alive.

Three people in the vehicle he hit pulled him out of the flaming wreckage as he came to his senses.

Zafar was later pictured smiling on a stretcher in disbelief after managing to escape with just scratches and broken bones despite the severity of the crash.

The lucky survivor recalled how he started speaking to himself as his entire life flashed before his eyes.

He told Arab News last year that the last thing he heard before he lost consciousness was God telling him “it’s not your time, you won’t die”.

Zafar told of how he could see through the cockpit door the plane was nosediving and it looked like he had no chance of survival.

He said: “I asked my God, God, so the plane is crashing, and I’m dying. I got this voice, literally from inside. My God tells me, ‘no, it’s not the time, you won’t die.’

“And then I asked him again, I said, God, but you know, it is, it’s inevitable. It cannot be avoided. It’s crashing. He said, ‘yes, the plane is crashing, it’s not your time.'”

Muhammad Zubair, the only other passenger to survive the crash, was seated a few seats back from Zafar.

In the past two years, the president of the Bank of Punjab has come to terms with the life-changing event.

Amidst the huge tragedy, Zafar’s near impossible survival gave him a new perspective on the value of life.

He said: “I have no doubts about the fact that it was a miracle. It can’t be named anything else.

“What is the probability when the plane was crashing in that area, that someone would have been sitting in their car as well? Very remote right?

“This is a bonus life that I am leading. I am living in borrowed heaven.

“I have to make sure that I do all of that stuff, that I am required to do, that leaves a positive impact on people in their lives.”

Zafar had only taken charge of the prestigious bank a few weeks before the crash, after a glittery career at firms such as American Express, Citibank, Barclays and more.

He flew to Lahore to lead the bank in person and was due to fly back to Karachi for the celebration of Eid.

On the fateful morning of May 22, 2020, he had actually been due to take an earlier flight from Lahore but changed his ticket to a later one.

A new assistant, who did not know his preference for sitting on the aisle, had booked him a seat next to the window but the banker luckily asked him to change it.

Zafar also spoke of how he “avoided other families” due to the intense survivor’s guilt that followed.

He said: “I started avoiding the families of the victims and the other survivor.

“By default, it makes those ask questions to their God: ‘If this man can be given a miracle, why not our loved ones?’

“This is something that bothered me a lot.”

Zafar later forced himself to fly again, taking the same flight on the same route in order to psychologically recover from the incident.

He once again sat in seat 1C and has since flown dozens of times.

His experience has led him to set up a foundation that raises awareness for passenger safety and campaign for new laws where needed.

Zafar said: “By doing all this stuff that I think, and I think my God agrees with me, are the right things to do. I keep on thanking my God all the time.”

Courtesy: The Sun

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