Mangoes, nerve gas, projectile killed Ziaul Haq: Ejaz

Accuses Gen Beg, Gen Durrani, Indian and Israeli agents of killing his father in 1988

February 22, 2020 05:29 AM

Ever since former military ruler General Muhammad Ziaulhaq was killed along with several senior military officers and US envoy in a plane crash 32 years ago, conspiracy theories have held mango crates loaded in the plane guilty. However, American and Pakistani investigators over these years have repeatedly concluded that plane crash was an accident, resulting from a technical error.

Confirming that there was evidence that mango crates did carry explosives, Muhammad Ejazul Haq, former federal minister and Ziaul Haq’s son claimed that nerve gas was also pumped into the cabin to maim pilots. “Conspirators did not want to leave anything to chance. They used nerve gas, explosives and fired a projective also from outside,“ he claimed.

In an exclusive interview with Turkish news agency Anadolu, Ejazul Haq, 67, pointed finger of suspicion to Gen Aslam Beg, who succeeded his father as army chief and Gen Mahmud Ali Durrani, then commander of the Multan-based armoured division, besides the sleuths of Israeli and Indian intelligence agencies.

On August 17, 1988, Gen Ziaul Haq, along with five of his generals and the US Ambassador Arnold Lewis Raphel died, when the C-130 plane crashed near Bahawalpur. They had gone to the desert test site to watch a demonstration of the M-1/A battle tanks, which the US was pressing Pakistan to buy.

Ejazul Haq, who is writing a book unveiling the cover-up and fledgeling investigations into the killing of his father, said before the explosion pilots had lost control, because of inhaling certain gas in the cockpit. “Bringing down a four-engine plane like C-130 is not an easy task. Conspirators were working at many layers," he said.

Backed by the US, Ziaul Haq played a key role in the Soviet-Afghan War, systematically coordinating the Afghan Mujahideen throughout the 1980s.

Lamenting at the lack of will exhibited by successive Pakistani governments to conduct a probe into his father’s death, Ejaz said the Americans from the beginning were bent to dismiss crash as an accident. Further, as per their protocol, the FBI is mandated to take up probes within 72 hours, in case of the killing of any American citizen anywhere in the world.

“In this case, where their envoy had died, they took up the case after 11 months, when every trace of evidence was removed from the ground," he said.

President of his faction of Pakistan Muslim League, Ejaz’s party office is in Rawalpindi. While at the entrance of the building a big portrait of his father welcomes the guests, inside walls are decorated with big and small pictures of Gen Zia, either in military uniform or performing duties as president.

Tests prove sabotage theory

The former minister said even those officers who tried to unveil the truth were harassed and transferred. He said that Air Commodore Zaheer Zaidi against all odds took parts of the plane to a laboratory and quietly examined debris and mango peers.

“The chemical tests found traces of antimony, phosphorous and other chemicals used in explosives. These tests had proved sabotage theory,“ he said. But, the successive governments never showed stamina to probe further and pinpoint the culprits.

Ejaz said Zaidi had also confirmed the use of nerve gas. The revelation almost confirms the fears of John Gunther Dean, then US ambassador in India, who also believed that VX gas might have been used to kill the Pakistani president and his colleagues in Islamabad.

According to information that he had gathered in New Delhi, not many countries possessed the VX gas at that time. Patented by Ranajit Ghosh and J.F. Newman in 1952, the gas attacks a person's nervous system and prevents their body from functioning properly.

He said even as Zaidi’s account formed part of a Justice Shafi-ur-Rehman Commission report, it was never made public.

Charging Gen Durrani, for forcing the president to attend the trial of tanks, Ejaz said his father was never interested to attend the function. He said according to the register of the Army House, where his father was living, Durrani had called 16 times to convince his father to fly to Bahawalpur.

It is believed that Zia was not enthusiastic about procuring these tanks and was much more interested in acquiring AWACS (Airborne Warning and Control System).

Ejaz claimed that even post-mortem of the dead bodies was stopped as part of the cover-up. “He (Zia) never wanted to make this trip. But he was forced to go there. The then Interior Minister Aslam Khattak had even warned him that there is a threat to his life and he should not be travelling,” he said.

Ejaz also revealed that an air force officer Akram Awan arrested three months before the crash for espionage charges had admitted having brought the nerve gas with the help of sleuths of the Israeli spy agency Mossad and India’s external intelligence agency Research and Analysis Wing (RAW). He said the Mossad agent was the US passport holder.

Claiming that he also received threats for pursuing investigations into his father’s death, Ejaz even named the US intelligence station chief in Islamabad for suggesting him to concentrate on his political career rather than hunting the truth.

“He (American intelligence man) conveyed to me through my brother, to concentrate on my political career and stop pursuing the case, “he said.

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