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October 15, 1999
PIA pilot who changed Pakistan's course
Deposed Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharief is expected to stand trial along with former Inter Services Intelligence chief Lieutenant General Ziauddin Butt and Pakistan Airlines chief Shahid Abbassi for conspiring to physically liquidate Chief of Army Staff General Pervez Musharraf while he was on his way back from Colombo on a PIA plane with 200 other passengers on board.
As the PIA plane hovered over Karachi airport, it was initially denied permission to land despite an emergency with only seven minutes of fuel left.
The others expected to be tried are Sind inspector general of police Maqbool Rana, Sharief's principal secretary Saeed Mehdi and military secretary Brigadier Javed Malik. All three have been arrested.
Rana was supposed to arrest General Musharraf at Nawabshah, the nearest airport from Karachi, where the prime minister's plane was parked in readiness to take away the ''sacked'' army chief.
General Musharraf, however, finalised a mid-air plan to take over the reins of the country. After being denied permission to land, Gen Musharraf talked to Lt Gen Usmani, corps commander, Karachi from the cockpit of the aircraft with the help of the PIA pilot who established a high frequency contact through the Dubai exchange.
The Karachi control tower had instructed the pilot to land at Ahmedabad in India due to unavoidable circumstances. The pilot sent a message for the army chief who immediately came over to the cockpit and orchestrated the dramatic military takeover.
The runway on which the plane was to land was blocked by police trucks, which were cleared by the army on the corps commander's orders, and the army chief was the first person to alight from the aircraft, which landed after one and half hours.
Pleased with the performance of the pilot and co-pilot of the PIA aircraft, the new PIA management has sent them to Saudi Arabia to perform umra (pilgrimage).
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