17 Sep, 2009
21 Years back; it was 17 August afternoon, when a C-130 Aircraft of the PAF, known for its established standards/records of stability and safety, was made a target of sabotage subversive act of terrorism. By employing the process of elimination, it was established by the Board of Enquiry that there is no doubt about the cause of crash and it is the result of a sabotage act.
In addition to 29 Military Shuhada, two US Nationals, Ambassador Arnold Raphael and Brig Gen Herbert Wassom were killed. Pakistan’s top military hierarchy was eliminated. The mystery is that the VCOAS, Gen Aslam Beg, having himself hovered over the disaster site and preferred to fly back to Rawalpindi. Major General Mehmud Durrani, the host of the whole episode moved to Multan for a comfortable sleep.
Now, claiming credit for democracy and decorated with Democracy Medal, General Aslam Beg did not feel obliged to care for the fallen comrades. Without knowing about the survivors and with an urge to take over, he rushed to Rawalpindi where in a high level meeting he faced tough resistance from powerful personalities.
The mortal remains were shifted to CMH Multan. The Doctors performed post mortem on Brig Gen Wassom which revealed that he had died while in the air and before the plane hit the ground. For rest of the victims, the doctors were stopped from conducting the post mortem. If done, it could have determined their cause of death. The Board of Inquiry had confirmed the presence of sulphur, antimony and other lethal chemical agents on the damaged parts of the wreckage. It is also suspected that some odourless poisonous gases were leaked inside the cockpit rendering the crew unconscious and unable to act or speak. That is how, it is deduced No “Mayday” signals were received at the Control Tower.
The US Law requires mandatory FBI investigation into the killing of any US National in any part of the world. In this case, when an FBI Team was about to leave for Pakistan, in a mysterious manner, it was stopped by US Secretary of State. It is also surprising that the Team which had already arrived to assist in the investigation was without any formal request by the Government of Pakistan.
Ten months after the crash, an FBI Team of only three Americans without any assistance from an air-accident expert or forensic expert arrived. It only recorded the verbal statements of a few concerned individuals without any worthwhile effort to go into the detailed investigations. By then PPP had come to power and it was futile to expect any cooperative move from the government. Colonel (Retd) Ghulam Sarwar Cheema, Minister of State for Defence in response to a question about the outcome, replied that anyone interested to know the outcome of the investigations should make a telephone call direct to Allah, who alone and only can tell the details about the outcome. Such callous was the attitude of those government functionaries who were responsible for conducting the enquiries and investigations!
The FBI Team which had arrived as mentioned above was found to be without any explicit mandate by both Governments of USA as well as Pakistan. The team was handed over a list of 25 individuals who should have been questioned/interrogated for their possible involvement in the conspiracy and criminal act. None of them was confronted. After a trip to Taxila and Murree, the Team left at its leisure.
In 1979, Z A Bhutto, the executed leader of the PPP, in one of his writings had threatened that “If I am assassinated, my sons will take revenge”. Even before his hanging, his sons and siblings formed a terrorist network “Al-Zulfiqar” (AZO) which carried out a series of terrorist attacks in the country. Die hard political workers and estranged youth were recruited in its ranks and taken to India, Afghanistan, Libya and Syria for terrorist training. One such Draft was arrested by Pakistan Navy when found voyaging towards Indian shores. The Al-Zulfiqar had gained in strength and capabilities and had effectively joined hands with enemies of Pakistan, RAW, Mossad, KGB, Afghan Intelligence and any other outfit willing and working to weaken Pakistan. It fired a missile on President’s aeroplane at Rawalpindi which missed the target. Another aeroplane of the PIA was hijacked to Kabul and Damascus. From the manifest Murtaza Bhutto singled out Major Tariq Rahim, had him killed and threw the dead body to the tarmac at Kabul Airport. This ill fated young officer was son of a retired General and had served as ADC to Murtaza’s father. Travelling together in a car, Ch. Zahoor Ellahi and Justice Maulvi Mushtaq were ambushed at Lahore. Justice Maulvi Mushtaq was Chief Justice Lahore High Court who presided over the trial of Mr. Bhutto and awarded him the death sentence. In the attack Ch. Zahoor Ellahi was killed while the Chief Justice sustained serious injuries.
Soon after the destruction of Pak-I and its passengers, Murtaza Bhutto claimed that his Organisation was responsible for the crime but detracted his claim when came to know about killing of American nationals. Similarly, an earlier caller to a local newspaper, hours before the crash called to know whether the President’s plane had crashed or not? A credible story is also that the plane was hit with a missile causing inward impact and damaging its cargo door.
The criminal act had been executed with complete sophistication and accuracy to ensure that the target is achieved through multi-layered employment and execution.
General Zia ul Haq lived and died for Islam and Islamic cause. Having defeated and disintegrated Soviet Union, he was dreaming of Islamic reminiscence and translating Muslim unity into one ummah. This could have caused alarm for those believing in the opposite. The Plant at Kahuta, still in its infancy needed to be nursed and fertilized with blood. For his patriotism, commitment and aspirations, President Zia ul Haq was a willing donor. Pakistan under him could not be deterred from pursuing nuclear path without his taking. India could not control Khalistan movement without his taking. Soviet Union’s festering wounds could not be cured without healing touch by the blood of one who bled its nose.
Soviet Union through its Friendship and Defence Treaty with India had broken Pakistan into two. Ziaul Haq had paid back to the Soviets in the same coins and was determined to pay back the Indians.
Rajiv Gandhi had threatened Pakistan that it should stop interfering in Khalistan movement or else it will repent for generations. The Soviets resolved to punish Pakistan for the defeat and festering wounds the Polar Bear suffered in Afghanistan. Pakistan under Mr Bhutto during his last days in office was about to be annexed with the Soviet Block. There was a strong nexus with Syria, Libya and Palestinian leaders trying to woo away Pakistan to the Soviet Union. The game plan was reversed under General Zia ul Haq. It could not have pleased the Soviets being global hegemonic power. Israel could not remain aloof and unconcerned from the emerging potential threat of Islamic revival. The relevant quarters interested and anguished could not sit back in inertia to see the fast changing scenario in the global context. Mr John H. Dean, a Jew and then US Ambassador to India testified Israel’s involvement in the crash. He was later declared insane and sent to Switzerland for recovery and recuperation. Israel’s involvement, by logic means American consent and Indian connivance and collaboration.
An interesting yet mysterious fact about Mr. Dean is that he suspects that Israeli agents may have also been involved in the mysterious plane crash in 1988 that killed Pakistan’s President General Muhammad Zia ul Haq led finally to a decision in Washington to declare him mentally unfit, which forced his resignation from the foreign service after a 30 year career. Later he was rehabilitated by the State Department, given a distinguished service medal and the insanity charge was confirmed to be phony by a former head of the department’s medical service.
Various Commissions were formed by the Government to investigate the disaster without pinpointing the criminals who had destabilized Pakistan via sabotage. Mr FK Bandiyal, Ch Shujaat, and later Justice Shafi ur Rehman Commissions. No discreet Inquiry or criminal investigations were ordered by the then COAS who instead was fast enough to cover up the tragedy and NOT preserving the evidence. Justice Shafi ur Rehman himself mentioned to me that the debris of the ill-fated C-130 had been removed and disposed off from the hanger thus denying any examination/evidence. Zia ul Haq was a human and all humans have friends and foes including friends turned foes. Carrying and concealing his knife, through centuries, Brutus is always in attendance, in the Court of Caesuras. What services rendered endeared Major General Mahmud Durrani to Benazir to the extent that even after her death, he could not be left unrewarded and was made the National Security Advisor? Was it not already the highest for him that he could have hardly achieved?
It was a conspiracy. And it was an International conspiracy too. But certainly it could NOT have been carried out in practical terms without active and acquired assistance through local collusion. The crime could not have been committed without the cooperative involvement of local hands.
A young officer of the PAF arrested in May 1988 – Pilot Officer Akram Awan was under interrogation by the ISI for being an agent of Raw and Mossad. This Officer was working in collaboration with enemy Agencies to plan and execute an air strike on Kahuta Nuclear Plant by Israel in connivance with India. He was arrested a few months back and was in perfect incommunicado custody. He had not known anything about the Bahawalpur crash. He was shown a movie/ video cassette covering the plane crash. When he came to know that among those killed along with the President was Maj Gen M. H Awan also, he suffered emotional breakdown and started crying. It is mentioned that General Awan had helped Akram Awan in his education and career. He thus developed a deep emotional attachment with General Awan. Upon knowing the death of his benefactor, he wept and cried. It was confirmed by the experts that this reaction was instant, genuine, natural and unfeigned gesture. In this instant reaction, he uttered, “Sir I never knew these bastards would do it.”
Akram Awan stated that he had been handed over some match box looking device of chemical material by a Mossad Officer in New Delhi to be delivered to Air Martial (Retd) Agha Zulfiqar Ali Khan in Pakistan. The device once placed in the cockpit would render the crew incapacitated in less than 25 seconds. He deposed that meetings took place at the residence of said retired Air Marshal and attended by Indian envoy, US Army Colonel and an Agent of Mossad who had travelled to Pakistan on an American passport. Photographic videos and other confessional material were handed over by ISI to General Aslam Beg. Akram Awan was eventually imprisoned and is undergoing sentence in Jail. However, the case with solid leads is pending. Where are these files now? When the person involved is alive and available, why investigations cannot be carried out? Why was the retired Air Marshal not questioned is a mystery. Instead he was allowed total access to intelligence agencies to further destroy the evidence.
The event scheduled at Bahawalpur did not require a Presidential participation. Munitions pieces are put to test and trial before induction in the armed forces. It is a normal practice. Why was VCOAS so keen to have invited the President at this particular point in time? Why Gen Durrani insisted so much almost prevailing on the President to attend the event? Why and who persuaded the Chairman JCSC to join the Presidential entourage? Why the doctors were not allowed to carryout post mortem on the dead bodies? Why were those having inkling or air about the details of the incident transferred to far off places? Why not a military enquiry was ordered? The then VCOAS insists that an inquiry was ordered and conducted. If so where are the findings and results of such a Military inquiry? What are the results of Punjab Police investigation? Who benefited the most is the fundamental lead to any commission of crime. Those who killed Zia ul Haq could have done so any time much earlier. Why was this moment selected to eliminate him? Had the dismissed government of Mr. Junejo been in place, none could have gained by this crime. Both the ISI and IB had informed in advance of a possible threat to the person of The President and The President was cautious enough not to have left Rawalpindi after 29 May 2009 i.e. after dismissal of the Government. Our frequent approaching the Americans in connection with the investigations irked them to the extent that they blatantly told us that if we have to play any positive role in the service of our country, then we will have to bear with this personal loss. These all and such other countless questions remain yet un-answered.
Having been disappointed we contacted a well known US Law Firm F. Lee Bailey for legal assistance. They opined that if we sue the Lockheed Inc, the onus will be upon them to prove that the crash was not due to any mechanical failure or any such technical reasons. This in turn will strengthen our plea of a conspiracy and terrorist act of subversion and sabotage. The lawyers were thrilled and exclaimed that they have got a case of the Century. He informed me that the Head of the Civil Aviation of the USA had called and invited him to a Lunch for a discussion over the issue. But having met the said gentleman, he expressed his inability to further pursue the case for unexplained reasons. Another mystery!
All through her life Ms Benazir Bhutto had been talking of a Truth and Reconciliation Commission to cover and examine our national history. I agree and join the demand. The Commission should examine and investigate the national disasters, like deaths in misery of Quaid-e-Azam, Maadr-e-Millat, murder of Liaquat Ali Khan, Rawalpindi Conspiracy, Secession of East Pakistan, Ojhri Camp, the Conspiracy leading to martyrdom of Shuhda-e-Bahawalpur, Kargil Crisis, Lal Masjid and killings of Akbar Bugti and Benazir.
It is strange that Mr Zardari has claimed that he knows the killers of his wife. Still millions of US dollars are being spent from the State exchequer by taking her case to the United Nations. Similarly President Pervez Musharraf is alive and kicking, enjoying the luxuries of life at London. Still some of his killers have been sentenced to various imprisonments, with at least one executed. Interestingly, he himself would NOT know the exact number of his killers and the names of cities/Towns and the types of courts where those accused of his murder are being tried. Similarly in the case of Mr Shaukat Aziz, his alleged murderers have been tried and stand convicted. Conversely NOT a single individual involved in the case of Shuhda-e-Bahawalpur or other such incidents has been caught.
I had much earlier warned that if the murder of top military hierarchy is NOT investigated and its planners and perpetrators not accounted for, such and similar incidents would recur. It has since happened in the case of Benazir while Musharraf and Shaukat Aziz had narrow escape.
In my own capacity I would NOT wish to point an accusing finger in any direction. It is for the Government (which otherwise keeps contemplating re-opening of a Court executed case of their leader) to fulfil its obligations by investigating this national loss and broad day light murder of so many senior military leaders.
Being son of the Shaheed General, I am proud that he died with his boots on, in full military fatigue and in the performance of his duty to the country. I alone do not represent his legacy. There are millions in the Country and outside who stand by his ideals, achievements, services and sacrifice. They admire and adore him. He died a hero’s death. While embracing Shahadat he was carrying Quran- a rare blessing. His funeral to the final abode was unprecedented in history with millions of fellow countrymen from every stratum of society paying homage and mourning over loss of their hero. The funeral prayer at two holy mosques and Masjid-e-Aqsa is a rare honour for any Muslim.
On behalf of all those millions, I demand of the Government of the day to bring to book the enemies of Pakistan who by their act of subversion and sabotage have executed the conspiracy. By targeting Zia-ul-Haq, they targeted the soul, spirit and survival of Pakistan. He was a Dictator. Yes, I agree, accede, accept, acknowledge, admit, concede and confess that he was a Dictator. Dictionary or literary meanings apart, it is the mentality or mental attitude that determines the definition. What is a Dictator, Democrat, Bureaucrat, Aristocrat, Autocrat, or a Theocrat? Anyone can be a Dictator. A down to earth Democrat can turn into a worst Dictator. We have already experienced these ourselves. People knew that he was a Dictator. And they also knew that he was a benign Dictator. He ruled not only Pakistanis but ruled their hearts and minds also. He worked very hard for betterment of his people. Burning midnight oil, he could sleep very less to see that his people could sleep well.
Ever since his departure, the country is in constant crisis, slide and siege. The government, with begging bowls held in both hands, is engaged in asking everyone for assistance, alms and charity. Life for an ordinary soul is a night mare. He is unable to earn and arrange two simple square meals for the family. We have lost our national dignity and have destroyed our own selves. With Friends of Democratic Pakistan (FoDP) not listening and trusting our rulers, IMF is back in business. The country has been denied and deprived of its Islamic identity, sovereignty and Statehood!
Muhammad Ijaz ul Haq is Former Minister for Religious Affairs and son of General Zial-ul-Haq