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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 2021 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.