viernes, 22 de marzo de 2019

Once upon a hijack | The Indian Express

Once upon a hijack | The Indian Express

Once upon a hijack

Could the Punjab Police have prevented the hijacked IC 814 flight from taking off to Kandahar? The then Punjab DGP recalls the sequence of events on that fateful day in December 1999.

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Could the Punjab Police have done something to prevent the flight from taking off? (Illustration by Suvajit Dey)

A lot has been written about the dramatic hijacking of the Indian Airlines flight from Kathmandu in December 1999. There is currently a political blame-game on. The then BJP-led NDA government is accused of surrendering to the demands of the hijackers. They are accused of escorting the Jaish-e- Mohammad supremo, Masood Azhar, to Kandahar after releasing him from Kot Bhalwal jail in Jammu. Senior intelligence officers were involved in the negotiations with the hijackers and the release of Azhar and the two others, who were exchanged for the hostages.
It is a matter of public record that the then foreign minister, Jaswant Singh, went with the three to Kandahar, where they were released to the Afghan Taliban. In all this revived interest, the apparent failure of the Punjab Police to take action at Amritsar, the only point in India where the hijacked flight landed, has also been dredged up.
As the then Director General of Punjab Police, I would like to place on record my version of the events of that fateful day. There has been much finger pointing against the Punjab Police. But barring a report in one national magazine, then based on a perfunctory talk with me, and A S Dulat’s remarks in his book, Kashmir: The Vajpayee Years, based on an afternoon lunch on the banks of the Serpentine in Hyde Park, London, no one has bothered to check with me as to what happened at Amritsar that day.
For what it is worth, here’s my version.
I had come home to my official residence, in Chandigarh, from a dental appointment that evening. Switching on the television, I saw the news of the hijack. For a few minutes initially, I was blasé about it. In any case, there were few details then. But my own training as a pilot (I hold a private pilot’s licence) made me realise that owing to the flight being on a possible flight path to Pakistan, there was a more than even chance that Amritsar might come into the picture, as in an earlier incident.

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