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Black Goat Is Sacrificed On Tarmac Of Pakistani Airport

One of the fleet of turboprop ATR planes from Pakistan International Airlines. After a Dec. 7 crash, the ATRs were grounded — and resumed flying (after a goat sacrifice) on Sunday.
Farooq Naeem
AFP/Getty Images
One of the fleet of turboprop ATR planes from Pakistan International Airlines. After a Dec. 7 crash, the ATRs were grounded — and resumed flying (after a goat sacrifice) on Sunday.

Sunday was a bad day for a certain goat in Pakistan.

Employees of Pakistan's national airline took a black goat to the tarmac, near an ATR-42 aircraft that was ready to depart on a domestic flight from the Islamabad airport, and sacrificed the animal.

"PIA lampooned for bizarre goat slaughter," read the headline in Pakistan's Express Tribune .

PIA is Pakistan International Airlines, which had grounded its fleet of ATR turboprop passenger planes after a Dec. 7 crash of an ATR killed all 47 people on board. The flight on Sunday was the first by an ATR since then.

It wasn't PIA's idea to bring a goat into the mix. Airline spokesperson Danyal Gillani issued what was no doubt the first airline statement about goat sacrifice in the history of aviation: "It was done by some local employees as a gesture of gratitude over the clearance of the first ATR [for flying]." Animal sacrifice is a part of Islamic tradition and can be found in other religions as well (see Leviticus 23:19).

And the goat's color was significant. Some Pakistanis believe that a black goat is particularly effective as a way to counteract black magic and the evil eye.

In defense of the sacrifice, a Twitter user who goes by MisBis wrote: "There's nothing wrong in giving Sadqua [a charitable offering] ... Sadqa bari balao se bachata hai [it hedges against many troubles] ... stop making it a joke."

But the Pakistan International Airlines Pilots Association was not happy. "When you slaughter an animal in the middle of a major airport next to an aircraft, it is bound to attract attention," said a representative.

That it did, thanks to Twitter. And of course many people couldn't resist cracking wise.

A blogger for the Dawn newspaper, a national English-language daily in Pakistan, noted:

(Editor's note: Yes, I always thought "mutton" referred to sheep meat, but in Pakistan, India, Bangladesh and some other countries, "mutton" refers to goat meat and "lamb" refers to a sheep dinner.)

And some folks were just sad for the goat. A commenter on the Times of India website wrote: "Poor Goat! But, breaking coconut [another type of sacrificial offering] is cheaper and less messy."

Meanwhile, the BBC asks: "Did Sunday night's sacrifice help?" Their answer: "All we can say is the flight departed safely for Multan, and later returned to Islamabad."

Copyright 2020 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Marc Silver
Marc Silver, who edits NPR's global health blog, has been a reporter and editor for the Baltimore Jewish Times, U.S. News & World Report and National Geographic. He is the author of Breast Cancer Husband: How to Help Your Wife (and Yourself) During Diagnosis, Treatment and Beyond and co-author, with his daughter, Maya Silver, of My Parent Has Cancer and It Really Sucks: Real-Life Advice From Real-Life Teens. The NPR story he co-wrote with Rebecca Davis and Viola Kosome -- 'No Sex For Fish' — won a Sigma Delta Chi award for online reporting from the Society of Professional Journalists.