December 2001 News

Musharaf's 'truth'

10 December 2001
The Pioneer

New Delhi: Pakistan's President Pervez Musharraf has never found himself so trapped in his own web of lies as he does now, hemmed in from all side by the rising spectres of his past misdeeds. Last week, he had to contend with the rather embarrassing news of 8,000 or more Pakistani citizens being killed or missing while fighting alongside the very forces of terror that the General had vowed to help finish. Now comes another news item from Kabul about documentary evidence that establishes his government's role in the hijacking of the Indian Airlines Flight IC-814 in December 1999. The anti-Taliban forces, now in control of the better part of Afghanistan, have found detailed accounts of terrorists, their hideouts, instructions, methods and other crucial operational secrets, all on paper, from their offices in Kabul. These offices and papers were, incidentally, maintained by none other than the Inter Services Intelligence (ISI). The evidence includes four ticket stubs from the ill-fated flight, two boarding passes, Indian railway tickets and a list of terrorists, their addresses and codenames. For intelligence and security agencies in India, the Kabul evidence only confirms what has been known to them from the second day of the hijacking-that the hijackers had direct links with the ISI. Several radio intercepts, made while the hijacking drama was on, clearly established that the entire operation was masterminded by someone very close to General Musharraf. Another element that linked the hijackers with Islamabad was the fact that the father of Syed Umar Sheikh, a UK national of Pakistani origin, was released from Tihar jail in exchange for the passengers. Sheikh's father is a rich businessman in London, and a known financier of the ISI and the Taliban. Several intercepted messages from the ISI headquarters indicated that these messages originated from the Sheikh's London office. The Sheikh facilitated the relaying of messages between the ISI and the hijackers. The hijackers were picked up from Pakistan-occupied Kashmir (PoK) and specially trained for several months by a special ISI group chosen by General Musharraf. They were well-acquainted with the anti-hijacking drill followed by all major airlines in the world. They knew the Airbus' interiors like the back of their hands. Authorities at the Tribhuvan International Airport in Kathmandu were paid and briefed to let in the hijackers and store weapons inside certain holds in the aircraft. So meticulous had been the planning that the names of three militants to be released were also short-listed in case India bargained hard during the negotiations. One of them was Maulana Azhar Masood who was not only allowed, post-release, by President Musharraf's regime to roam freely in his country, but also encouraged to set up a terrorist organisation, Jaish-e-Mohammad, with the specific purpose of fanning terrorism in India. Masood had close links with the now-vanquished Taliban and spearheaded a movement of violence against civilians in Kashmir, abetted and encouraged by General Musharraf.


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