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Rediff.com  » News » Mehran base was left unprotected despite forewarning: Report

Mehran base was left unprotected despite forewarning: Report

January 09, 2012 13:18 IST

Pakistani authorities failed to protect the Mehran naval airbase in Karachi from a terrorist attack last year despite having knowledge since 2009 of al-Qaeda's plans to attack the National Defence University in Islamabad and naval installations.

Junior naval officer Mohammad Israrul Haq, who was court-martialled, has been given a 15-year prison term for planning a series of attacks on the NDU and important naval installations like the Naval Headquarters in Islamabad, the Dawn newspaper reported on Monday.

According to the officer's confessional statement, al-Qaeda was planning to attack the NDU and hold senior officers hostage to use them to negotiate the release of detained militants.

A group of heavily armed terrorists attacked the army's General Headquarters in Rawalpindi in 2009 and took several military officers hostage.

Despite this attack and the knowledge that similar attacks had been planned, the government and military authorities failed to foil the attack on the Mehran naval airbase.

Journalist Syed Saleem Shehzad, who was kidnapped and killed last year, went missing days after he alleged in an article that al-Qaeda had penetrated the navy. Mohammad Israrul Haq was sentenced to 15 years' rigorous imprisonment on May 6, 2010 and dismissed from service.

He served in the navy for 19 years and his last posting was the PNS Zafar base in Islamabad.

In his confessional statement, which played an important role in his conviction, Haq admitted to meeting al-Qaeda members in Makeen and Angoor Adda in the tribal belt and discussing the location of important naval installations.

Haq said Zafar Iqbal, the son of a former naval officer, was his childhood friend who had introduced him to Azmy, a local al-Qaeda leader living in Makeen area of South Waziristan Agency.

Azmy planned a series of attacks on naval offices but after he died in a US drone attack, Sheikh Ahmed replaced him. The location of the meetings then shifted from Makeen to a spot near Angoor Adda.

According to his statement, Haq organised a surveillance visit for his friend Iqbal to the environs of the NDU. He claimed that though al-Qaeda had arranged 12 fighters

for the attack on the NDU, Haq backed out at the last minute because he was unwilling to participate in an attack on his homeland. Instead, Haq offered help to attack North Atlantic Treaty Organisation forces in Afghanistan.

Haq's family denies he is guilty and his lawyer has described the court martial proceedings as unjust and demanded that the naval chief re-investigate the matter.

According to Haq's mother Khatima Bibi, the widow of Lt Amanul Haq of the Pakistan Navy, some unidentified men took away her son on June 4, 2009 in a car that belonged to the navy. He has been missing since then, she said.

After Haq's disappearance, she repeatedly contacted naval officials for her son's whereabouts but got no information.

She then approached the Supreme Court, which referred the matter to a commission investigating the case of persons being held without charge by security agencies.

After Haq's conviction, his lawyer requested the naval court for details of the trial proceedings but this was turned down. The authorities finally provided the details to the lawyer, who then pointed out violation of human rights in the military trial.

After getting details of the court martial, Haq's lawyer filed an appeal in the naval appellate court in December. In a letter sent to the naval chief, the lawyer alleged

Haq was picked up by naval intelligence personnel in June 2009 and his trial commenced in March 2010. The lawyer was of the opinion that Haq's conviction was based on his confession that was not recorded before a court and was recorded after 96 days of illegal confinement.

Rezaul H Laskar in Islamabad
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