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November 11, 1999
Musharraf was dead against landing in India
When the Pakistan International Airlines plane carrying General Pervez Musharraf home from Colombo was denied permission to land by the Karachi control tower, India was definitely not on the army chief's list of favoured destinations.
''This can happen only over my dead body,'' the chief of army staff told the pilot when he was informed that the plane had just about enough fuel to reach India. The Ahmedabad airport across the Rann of Kutch was the closest from the port city of Karachi with facilities to handle jet passenger aircraft.
General Musharraf said the pilot told me: ''Sir, we have one hour's fuel left and with this kind of fuel we can either go to India or Muscat. A little while later he said he was in the process of diving and that there was just about enough fuel to take us to India. I told him: over my dead body. We are not going to India.''
General Musharraf, who was recounting the events that unfolded in the dramatic hour after his dismissal as COAS to Associated Press of Pakistan, said he was sure the Karachi airport was getting instructions from Islamabad at the highest level.
''I took about three to four minutes (to react). Actually, we were just relaxing coming back from Sri Lanka when my private secretary Brig Nadim said the pilot was inviting me to the cockpit for something urgent.''
When Musharraf went to the pilot he was told that they were not being allowed to land. And worse, there were instructions that they get out of Pakistan as soon as possible.
''By this time we did not even have the fuel to go to India. We had got, maybe, thirty-five minutes to land. So, I said, OK. To hell with everything, land at Karachi,'' Musharraf said.
The pilot, however, told Musharraf that the landing lights on the runway must have been switched off and that there must be something across the runway which would not allow them to land.
''I had to accept that. I said paint this picture immediately to the ATC. We don't have the fuel to go anywhere.''
The ATC came back on air minutes later and said the plane had been permitted to land at Nawabshah.
''I said: let's go. We have the fuel, we can reach Nawabshah.''
However, as they flew over Hyderabad on their way to Nawabshah, the general officer commanding Gen Iftikhar came on air and said he wanted the aircraft to return immediately to Karachi and that everything was alright.
''Initially, I had a little bit of suspicion on who was speaking. However, then I myself took the mike and asked for the corps commander who was not there. Then, Gen Iftikhar told me that everything was OK. I asked him what had happened. He told me that I was fired at 5-o'clock and he didn't knew what was happening.
''Gen Iftikar told me that the army had reacted and everything was alright now. He also said the army was now in control of the Karachi airport.''
General Musharraf said all this transpired while none of the passengers knew what was happening. ''Even my wife didn't know. She was fast asleep. She came to know when we almost landed at Karachi. When I told her what had happened she began crying.''
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