The Civil Aviation Authority confirmed there were no survivors, said Dawn newspaper, adding 36 bodies had been recovered from the site.
The passengers on the small plane operated by the state-run Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) included noted “Vital Signs” singer-turned-evangelist Junaid Jamshed and his family, Chitral Deputy Commissioner Osama Warraich, and three foreigners including a Chinese man, Dawn said.
It said the aircraft crashed on way to Islamabad from the northern town of Chitral after losing contact with the air traffic control.
Citing global aviation watchdog Aviation Herald, the newspaper reported that the plane went down near Abbottabad “due to engine problems”.
Laiq Shah, a police official in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, said the plane crashed in Havelian area. PIA identified the site as Saddha Batolni village near the Pakistan Ordinance Factory, Havelian.
Soldiers and army helicopters were mobilised to rush to the crash site, said Inter-Services Public Relations, the army’s media wing.
Rescue operations were however hindered due to the rugged terrain as well as cold and dark conditions with sundown in Havelian taking place at 4.57 p.m.
Ambulances were unable to reach at the site of the accident.
Government official Taj Muhammad Khan, who was at the site, said all the bodies had been “burned beyond recognition”.
He added that witnesses told him “the aircraft has crashed in a mountainous area…before it hit the ground, it was on fire”, reported Dawn.
The ATR-42 aircraft departed from Chitral at 3.30 p.m. and was to land at Islamabad’s Benazir Bhutto International Airport around 4.40 p.m. But it went missing from the radar around 4.30 p.m.
PIA spokesperson Daniyal Gilani said the plane had 42 passengers, including nine women and two infants, and five crew members.