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The truth behind the 'hijack' of flight IC-814

Excerpts from 'a terrifying thought' by Brian Cloughley:

"Indian authorities were notified of the hijack at 1655 hrs (Indian time) on December 24. Pakistan refused permission for the plane to land at Lahore, and it landed at Amritsar at 1905 hrs. So New Delhi had over two hours to consider what action should be taken if the aircraft landed at an Indian airport, or, indeed, what to do if the hijackers had taken any other action that might have been imaginable in the circumstances. There is a high-level Special Action Group for this purpose. No matter what oratorical tactics have been employed by Mr Jaswant Singh and the host of spokesmen who have commented on the matter, the fact is that the aircraft was on the ground in Indian territory for forty minutes and nothing whatever was done to intercede with the hijackers The unravelling began when the plane was allowed to leave Amritsar. It would have been a simple matter to stop the takeoff: there are any number of ways that this could have been done, and there can be no excuse on the part of the Indian government for failing in its duty to its citizens."

"India then asked Pakistan to permit the plane to land at Lahore, which it did. Pakistan, knowing well that whatever course of action it took it would be blamed by India for the entire episode, wanted nothing more nor less than the plane to leave its territory as quickly as possible ... So the plane was refuelled and allowed to leave. It was then that farce began to intrude on human drama.

There were statements in India from anyone and everyone who wanted to open his mouth. The prime minister informed the nation that the hostages were "safe and sound" which was a singularly fatuous phrase given the shrieking terror of their circumstances"

"Jaswant Singh was everywhere, saying everything, and, not surprisingly, there were contradictions. His embrace of the Taliban on Monday was an interesting change to his former position, and Reuters reported that he gave a briefing that day to "senior editors of domestic media organisations," after which one of them, the United News of India, promptly reported that "highly placed government sources" stated that "the entire operation was fully facilitated by Pakistan." The man wasn't even trying to disguise his tracks, and it was a self-demeaning attempt to deflect enormous criticism from the incompetent manner in which Mr Singh and the government were handling the whole affair.

Television cover around the world showed relatives of the hostages being menaced by lathi-carrying police outside Delhi airport at the same time as yet another spokesman was saying that India did "not rule out the possibility that certain elements of Afghanistan, hand-in-glove with Pakistan's ISI, were sympathetic to the hijackers." Anything for a cheap headline, apparently - especially if it might help disguise gross and embarrassing inefficiency.

This has been a terrible affair, and it has shown that the higher echelons of Indian government and officialdom are clumsy and incapable of crisis management. Nothing worked and Mr Jaswant Singh sowed his venom in the hope he might appear squeaky-clean against the justifiable clamour of the victims' relatives. It was almost inevitable that the plane sent to Afghanistan broke down, and predictable that a back-up was not available. But the thing that should really worry everyone is that this is a country that says it is capable of commanding and controlling a diverse arsenal of nuclear weapons in a national emergency. If they can't manage to take the initiative during a hijack, with over two hours' notice to act (and a further forty minutes while the plane was in Amritsar), what hope is there of balanced response should there be a nuclear crisis requiring instant decisions? This is a terrifying thought."

India stages another "hijack"

By M. Zubair for The Indian Terrorism Page

Jan 05, 2000

The dramatic "hijacking" of Indian Airlines flight IC-814 is now over. Luckily, only one passenger was killed during this entire affair. The hijackers have slipped away mysteriously after having achieved their goal ie the release of some Kashmiri freedom fighters from Indian jails. Although India first tried to blame Kashmiri freedom fighters, then Pakistan and finally Afghanistan's Taliban government for the hijack, the entire drama was staged in such a crude and ridiculous manner that it was very obvious to the world that this "hijack" simply was a ploy being used by the Indians to further their own sinister agenda.

Several questions come to one's mind in order to establish the facts with regard to what really was going on:

Why was the plane allowed to take off from Amritsar by Indian officials?

Why did not Indian officials try to negotiate with the hijackers at all in Amritsar?

Why wasn't the plane stormed by Indian security forces even though it spent 47 minutes on Amritsar Airport?

Why did India request Pakistani authorities to prevent the plane from leaving Lahore at all cost when India herself did not prevent the plane from leaving Amritsar airport a few hours earlier?

When the plane left Lahore, nobody knew where it was headed, yet the Indian officials were stating very confidently that the plane was heading for Dubai, as Kabul did not have night landing capacities. How could they know where the plane was going when the hijackers had given no indication about their destination?

Why wasn't such a request to prevent the plane from taking off made to Dubai officials as well?

Why was India blaming Afghanistan for not doing enough when India herself had declined to negotiate with the hijackers for so long, criminally ignoring the safety of the hostages?

Why had Indian officials/negotiators been sitting tight in New Delhi instead of being in Kandahar?

Why did India decline to communicate with the hijackers through UN?

Why was it being said that a Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) plane in Khatmandu somehow was involved in this whole situation when the fact of the matter is that this PIA plane had taken off from the airport 5 hours before the IA plane landed there? This can easily be verified by checking the airport records.

Is it really possible for several passengers to get off one plane, wait aorund on the airstrip for several hours, and then board another plane several hours later, without being discovered or checked by security personnel?

Why was India preventing international media from contacting the released passengers in order to clarify what really happened on the plane?

If Masood Azhar was such an important scholar/islamic idealogist, then why had nobody heard of him before? Please keep in mind that he was arrested in India in 1994 due to some visa problems. Having been born in 1968, that means he was about 25 years at the time of his arrest. He certainly must be a prodigy to have attained such a central position with regard to academia as well as mentorship of the Kashmiri freedom struggle at such a young age!!!

Masood Azhar's family in Pakistan categorically denied that Masood's brother Ibrahim was one of the hijackers, yet India insisted it was so. Why?

If the Kashmiri freedom fighters wanted to use hijackings to highlight their struggle, why didn't they do it before? They are certainly motivated and strong enough to easily have done so over the past decade.

India desperately tried to link this "hijacking" to the hostage-taking of six Western tourists in Kashmir a few years ago by the "Al-Faraan" group. Before that, nobody had even heard of this group, not even the Kahsmiris themselves!!! And after the disappearance of the tourists, "Al-Faraan" has not been heard of again. It is certainly an odd "militant group" that was created just to execute one single act of militancy, and then dissolved!!! Could it have been a plot by the indian security agencies to discredit the Kashmiris' struggle against Indian occupation?

This entire drama has chilling similarities to the RAW-orchestrated 1971 "hijack" of an Indian Airlines plane. That plane was also taken to Lahore, Pakistan, and the Indian authorities blamed it on the Kashmiris, thus labelling the Kashmiri struggle for freedom as "terrorism". Also, by involving Pakistan into this affair, India justified its decision to enforce a blockade between West Pakistan and East Pakistan. This blockade came in handy when India decided to invade East Pakistan shortly after this "hijacking".

Indian media had been claiming since the very start of this drama that Pakistan, Afghanistan, Kashmiri freedom fighters, and Osama bin Laden were responsible for this tragedy. Yet they produced no proof whatsoever. Why? Could it be because there is no involvement by the above-mentioned parties?

Also, it is clear now that among the passengers, out of the five Indian officials from the Indian embassy in Nepal, at least one person, SBS Tomar, was a RAW agent. Coincidence?

There can be no doubt with regard to the fact that acts of terrorism such as this hijacking are deplorable and not justifiable. However, looking at the events surrounding this recent drama, it certainly seems odd that the Indians have behaved the way they actually have. The explanations, actions and accusations of the Indian government officials were totally incoherent, even rabid at times. Could this "hijacking" be a secret Indian plot to achieve some ulterior motives? All the circumstancial evidence suggest that this is the case. It would not be the first time a government has used its own innocent citizens as bait to achieve its goals, nor will it be the last.

Excerpts from 'After the airline hijack ends, India steps up its verbal attacks on Pakistan' by Peter Symonds:

5 January 2000

'The hijacking of Indian Airlines Flight 814 ended last Friday with the freeing of 155 hostages in exchange for the release of three Kashmiri separatists held in Indian jails. But the political repercussions within India and throughout the subcontinent are far from over. The eight-day standoff at Kandahar airport in Afghanistan has provoked sharp criticisms of the Indian government of Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee by opposition parties and the media, and further heightened tensions between India and Pakistan.

Immediately after the end of the siege, India stepped up its verbal attacks on Pakistan. On Saturday, Foreign Minister Jaswant Singh said that there were "sufficient" indications to believe that Pakistan was behind the hijacking, claiming that during negotiations the hijackers had been consulting with a "third force". Singh pledged that India's fight against terrorism would continue and the hijack would be "retributed and justice sought".

The following day, Brajesh Mishra, National Security Advisor to the prime minister, said on the Star TV network that India had "clear evidence to prove Pakistan's involvement.... the Pakistani establishment is certainly responsible for this." He repeated claims that the hijackers were Pakistani nationals, that two of the three prisoners exchanged by India for the hostages were Pakistani-nationals, and that the group, after leaving the plane, was heading towards Pakistan.

But Mishra failed to offer any firm proof of the Pakistan government's participation in the hijacking, simply referring to further evidence including Indian intelligence intercepts of conversations between Kashmiri separatist groups within Kashmir itself. Few details were provided and no transcript of the electronic intercepts has been so far released.

Pakistan's Foreign Minister Abdul Sattar dismissed the Indian allegations as "trumped-up charges" and retorted said that India itself had "an abhorrent record of state terrorism". Indian security forces seeking to stamp out Kashmiri separatist groups have a long record of torture, disappearances and abuse of democratic rights in the Indian-controlled state of Jammu and Kashmir. He reiterated that Pakistan had condemned the hijacking and would arrest the hijackers if they entered its territory'

'One little publicised fact is that the three prisoners Masood Azhar, Ahmed Umar Saeed Sheikh and Mushtaq Ahmed Zargar released in exchange for the hostages had never been tried or found guilty of any crime in an Indian court. They had all been held without trial for lengthy periods for their alleged connections to the armed Kashmiri separatist group Harkat-ul-Mujahadeen.

Under India's draconian security legislation, the police and military are effectively able to round up and imprison suspects indefinitely. The Public Safety Act allows for two-year detention without trial. However if detainees are due to be released, fresh charges are concocted and the prisoner is "re-arrested" before ever being set free. Others are still being held under the Terrorism and Disruptive Activities (Prevention) Act (TADA), even though it lapsed in May 1995. According to an editorial in the Hindu, there are still as many as 4,958 TADA cases under trial or investigation throughout India, including 684 in Jammu and Kashmir'

Source: World Socialist Web Site

The Los Angeles Times, Sunday, January 9, 2000

Hijacking: Freed 'terrorists' were never even charged, despite years in detention.

By Rohan Oberoi

The US State Department describes the first tenet of its counter-terrorism policy this way: "Make no concessions to terrorists and strike no deals." So why didn't the State Department complain when the Indian government struck a deal with the hijackers of Indian Airlines Flight 814 and agreed to release three prisoners in exchange for 155 hostages? If you believe the reports, three dangerous terrorists walked free in exchange for the hostages. Yet State Department officials did not point out that the release may encourage more terrorism. Nor did they call for hunting the three down, though they did call for the hijackers to be brought to justice. In fact, they said nothing at all about the prisoner release. This doesn't begin to make sense until you realise what was left unsaid and why. It is this: The three men were not terrorists. Not only were they never tried or convicted of any act of terrorism, but they never even were charged. All three were arrested in 1994 or earlier, so the Indian government had enough time to file charges, if it wanted to.

Their long detention was in stark violation of international law, which prohibits arbitrary arrest, requires charges to be filed "promptly" and requires trial or release within a "reasonable time." Recognising this, the British Foreign Office announced that the one Briton among the three, 26-year-old Ahmad Omar Sayed Sheikh, is free to return to Britain, like any other British citizen who faces no criminal charges. If Sheikh does return to Britain, Indian officials could not seek his extradition without bringing formal charges. If they did, Sheikh's family, who have always protested his innocence, could contest the extradition on the grounds that charges not filed during the six years he was in custody but suddenly filed after he escaped are in all likelihood specious. The whole thing could blow up in India's face, and Sheikh's case could become a public reminder to the West of India's regular violations of international law in its treatment of those it arrests, particularly supporters of Kashmiri independence.Those simply detained indefinitely are the lucky ones. Many are killed as soonas they are arrested, while others die in custody.

The government can pin wild charges on them because it never has to actually file the charges or try to prove them in court. For example, Mushtaq Zargar, another of the three released, was arrested in 1992 and accused of being the "chief commander" of a terrorist group called the Umar Moujahedeen. The same year, police arrested another man, Mohammad Zargar, and accused him of being the "deputy chief" of the same Umar Moujahedeen. The day after confirming his arrest to the press, Indian officials announced Mohammad Zargar had been killed in an encounter "soon after his arrest." It was an official admission of custodial assassination and was reported in the Indian press and picked up by Amnesty International.

Mushtaq Zargar merely languished in detention for eight years, until his release after the hijacking. Since neither he nor his dead "deputy" was charged or tried, we don't know if they really were terrorists or just Kashmiris whom the Indian government wanted to put away. Another man, Sajjad Afghani, also imprisoned without charge for several years, was killed last June "while trying to escape" from a high-security prison. His death may have motivated this hijacking, according to sources in the Indian press. The hijackers demanded Afghani's body and also the release of his colleague, Maulana Masood Azhar, whom they may have feared would be the next person to die "while trying to escape."

All this raises troubling questions, such as: When a state shoots people or locks them up indefinitely without due process, how is that state distinguishable from a terrorist organisation? Or when a state indiscriminately wields deadly violence against guilty and innocent alike, would it not generate such hatred against itself as to provoke desperate, irrational and dangerous responses? Like, say, hijacking a plane?

So, if we want to prevent international terrorism, shouldn't we be trying to prevent violations of international law by the Indian government as energetically as we try to chase down hijackers? Such inconvenient questions might stand in the way of the State Department officials' stated goal of "working with India" to "combat international terrorism." And so they keep quiet.

[Rohan Oberoi, an Indian Citizen, Is a Software Developer in Cambridge, Mass. E-mail: ]

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