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January 3, 2000
Hijackers with Pak military intelligence, says ISI ex-chief
Tara Shankar Sahay in New Delhi
Senior officials of the external affairs ministry today asserted that the hijackers of Indian Airlines Flight IC-814 are in the care of Pakistan's military intelligence and that is why the former Inter-Services Intelligence chief, Lieutenant General (retd) Hameed Gul, has revealed that they had gone from Kandahar to a territory held by his country.
"Pakistan's ISI and MI are at loggerheads, especially since Premier Nawaz Sharief was ousted by General Pervez Musharraf," the sources pointed out. "That is why Gen Hameed has not hesitated to spill the beans about the hijackers being in the MI's care. Our information is that even the US knows about this," the sources said.
External affairs ministry spokesman Raminder Singh Jassal, when asked about Gen Gul's statement that the hijackers had left Kandahar for Pakistani territory, quipped: "Sometimes he speaks the truth."
Jassal, however, refused to elaborate, contending that the intricacies of the hijack would eventually be unearthed.
Ministry officials referred to General Musharraf's adviser, Javed Jabbar, who had initially denied any Pakistani role in the hijack and had, instead, alleged that it was an act sponsored by India's Research and Analysis Wing. But later, Jabbar climbed down after realising that the US, India and others knew where the hijackers were. "After Gen Hameed made his statement, which is very damaging to Pakistan, the officials in Islamabad are suddenly keeping silent," they pointed out.
Going into the genesis of the ISI-MI tussle, they pointed out that both are military organisations but with some significant differences. The ISI director-general was traditionally appointed by the prime minister in consultation with the chief of the army staff but reported directly to the prime minister, not the army chief. In contrast, the director general of military intelligence reported to the army chief through the chief of the general staff.
The dismissed ISI chief, Lt Gen Khwaja Ziauddin, was appointed ISI chief by Nawaz Sharief without consulting Gen Musharraf, the offficials contended. That is why Pakistan's corps commanders began to take a dislike to the ISI, which had become a powerful organisation. The commanders obviously resented the ISI as a parallel centre of power in the army and felt threatened.
"Gen Hameed is a former ISI chief and he wanted to expose the MI and that is why he made his recent statement," the officials pointed out.
The external affairs ministry spokesman, meanwhile, drew attention to the arrest today by Nepalese police of a Pakistani embassy official in Kathmandu, Asam Saboor, a clerk in the visa section, for trying to pass off counterfeit Indian currency with a face value of Rs 50,000.
The spokesman pointed out that the Pakistani ambassador in Kathmandu and other senior officials had tried to bail out Saboor, saying he could not be arrested because of diplomatic immunity, even though Saboor has no such immunity.
According to Jassal, Saboor was caught while trying to give the fake currency notes to a Nepalese undercover agent. "There is a history of such illegal and criminal activities by Pakistani officials in Nepal, including the circulation of counterfeit Indian currency notes," Jassal said.
He pointed out that according to the agreement between India and Nepal, each country is to co-operate and give information if terrorist activities are being carried out on the other's soil. Saboor was caught in a "sting operation", he added.
Referring to Saboor's involvement in other illegal activities in Nepal, Jassal pointed out that he had contacted the terrorist Lakhbir Singh, who had been arrested from a hotel in Nepal with RDX and other explosives. Other Pakistan embassy officials in Kathmandu also contacted Singh, Jassal said. The terrorist, who was arrested in November last year, belonged to the Damdami Taksal.
Jassal told reporters that despite the conflicting reports about the hijackers not being in Pakistan, New Delhi has definitive information that they are under the protection of the authorities in Islamabad.
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