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An 'opportune' revelation

New testimony given by Zia-ul-Haq’s son implicating India and Israel in his father’s unexplained demise raises many questions about the timing of his allegations

An opportune revelation

One wonders why late military dictator, zealot and Pakistan President General Zia-ul-Haq's son Mohammad Izaz-ul-Haq chose this time to give an interview (February 23) to a prominent media house, reiterating old allegations against two high profile Pakistani individuals holding them responsible for the fateful air crash of Zia in Bahawalpur on August 17, 1988.

The fresh allegations are directly targeting former Army Chief, Mirza Aslam Beg and erstwhile National Security Advisor, Mahmood Ali Durrani, holding them directly responsible for the air crash as part of the perceived conspiracy. Mohammad Izaz-ul-Haq further that India and Israel were part of this conspiracy. More significantly, Izaz claims that he has collected substantial evidence to prove that lethal nerve gas was sprayed in the cockpit of the ill-fated C-130 Hercules aircraft which crashed within eight minutes of taking off as the pilots were paralysed. Such a graphic description is akin to a sensational movie plot or a spy thriller.

While dwelling upon the air crash story, reading 'The case of the exploding mangoes' can't be left out and more so that almost after 12 years of it being written by Mohammad Hanif, it's Urdu translated copies were seized in Karachi by suspected ISI operatives. Interestingly , no questions were raised when the original book hit the stands way back in 2008.

What could be the motive on part of Izaz to rake the much dead issue now and drag in India and Israel? Timing, therefore, looks important and as knowledgable sources suspect, its ISI which is prompting Izaz to stir a controversy drawing India into the limelight.

Now that Izaz-ul-Haq decided to open the can of worms, it's important to discuss the questions raised in the right perspective. Supporters of the

C-130 Hercules accident theory which includes at least four ex-Hercules pilots believe that the aircraft came down due to a technical snag and prima facie there was no conspiracy. Another section of the aviators said that that the aircraft had developed hydraulic flight control problem.

Izaz has blamed Army Chief Aslam Beg for part of the gameplan resulting in the crash. As is already known to most, General Beg had politely spurned Zia's offer to travel with him on grounds that he had other official commitment so he would travel by a smaller aircraft to Lahore first then reach GHQ Rawalpindi. Critics of Beg, however, felt that it required a lot of guts to decline a Presidential offer to travel with such a high and powerful dignitary.

General Beg, when airborne, saw the President's air crash site from above and had gone on record saying he saw only smoke and ash. Confirmed by the news of the crash, Beg flew back to Rawalpindi possibly to take stock of the developments that would ensue in the wake of the exit of the dictator from the political and military scene.

An illustrious officer of the infantry arm, Beg was fond of his scotch and contrary to the thoughts of the military hardliners, he preferred a military solution to the Bangladesh issue. For some diverse opinions, he never remained in the inner coterie of Zia-ul-Haq though he served as the army chief under Zia. Insiders always thought Zia had distrusted him. And in 1987, just one year before the crash, he had sharp differences with Zia.

Later, during Benazir's rule, Beg was suspected in the infamous Mehrangate scandal of 1994. Beg was seen as a tainted official, possibly due to traces of political nuances in him.

Another villain in the eyes of Izaz for the plane crash is then-National Security Advisor, Mahmood Ali Durrani. Major General Durrani was a great favourite of Pervez Musharraf and was posted to Riyadh as Pakistan's Ambassador to Saudi Arabia because Nawaz Sharif was then exiled in Saudi Arabia and to develop a deep-rooted strategic relationship between Saudi Arabia and Pakistan, Musharraf thought in Durrani as the best bet to take the relationship forward. He is the same Durrani who was removed by the Prime Minister, Yusuf Raza Gilani, as the NSA following mounting pressure in 2009 when during a TV interview, Durrani didn't rule out the involvement of Pakistan in 26/11.

His proximity to the top leaders of the political and military establishment notwithstanding, Durrani was viewed with suspicion for his extensive contacts in the US political and military circles which he had laboriously cultivated during his assignment in Washington. He was always branded as a man of America. Possibly due to his closeness to the US, Izaz thought it prudent based on his 'evidence' collected, that Durrani had a hand in the air crash.

Interestingly, Izaz claimed in his interview that a full-fledged autopsy was carried out on US Brigadier General, Herbert M Wassom who also died in the crash which provided vital leads to the joint investigation carried out by the US and Pakistan which needs to be made public and withholding of the same makes the whole matter more suspicious.

Izaz has also blamed a PAF officer, Akram Aman for having procured the nerve gas which caused the crash. He also alleged that Akram was arrested on charges of espionage, making him more of a suspect.

All the pieces raised by Izaz could perhaps be joined together to get a holistic picture. Bringing India into the blame game now cannot be the brainchild of Izaz alone. There must be powerful invisible men behind him prompting him to read the script. Izaz's sensational narratives on his father's mysterious death in the air crash has naturally sparked off speculations of wider dimensions.

Mention of India makes the whole thing even more enigmatic. Unless the dead dictator's son comes out with details of his research and evidence, things will remain as vague as they were in August 1988.

The writer is a retired IPS officer, a security analyst and a former National Security Advisor to the Prime Minister of Mauritius. Views expressed are strictly personal

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