New Delhi: Maulana Masood Azhar, chief of Pakistan-based terror group Jaish-e-Muhammad, has claimed that India had offered money to the then Taliban government in Afghanistan to arrest and hand over him and two others after they were exchanged for passengers and crew of the hijacked Indian Airlines flight IC-814 at Kandahar in 1999.
Azhar has claimed that the then External Affairs minister Jaswant Singh made the offer to Mullah Akhtar Mohammad Mansur, the then civil aviation minister of Taliban’s Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan, reported Indian Express.
The claim was made by Azhar in an obituary of Mansur, the Taliban chief who was killed in a US drone strike last month. The Obituary was published under his pen name Saidi in the June 3 issue of Al Qalam Weekly, online mouthpiece of Jaish-e-Muhammad.
In exchange of the passengers and crew of the hijacked Indian Airlines flight IC-814, Azhar along with Mushtaq Ahmed Zargar and Ahmed Omar Saeed Sheikh were released by India. Mansur had received Azhar on the Kandahar airport tarmac and driven him out of the airport in his white Land Cruiser.
In the obituary written in Urdu, Azhar said, “Once I had a meeting with Mullah Akhtar Mohammad Mansur at Kandahar airport. This airport came under his ministry. I was part of a delegation from Karachi. Taliban had provided a plane to bring the delegation from Kabul to Kandahar where Mullah Akhtar Mohammad Mansur welcomed us. He took the guests to the VIP lounge… Mullah sahib made me sit next to him on the sofa. Then he told me that Indian foreign minister Jaswant Singh sat on the same sofa when he brought you to drop you at Kandahar.”
Azhar added: “… he (Mansur) started repeating the story of that day with a lot of pleasure. He said that Jaswant Singh had told him that our prisoners (Azhar, Zargar and Sheikh) would still be in Afghanistan and you arrest them and hand them over to us, hum aap ki hukumat ko malamaal karengey (we will make your government rich).’’
Quoting Mansur, Azhar wrote: “…’I (Mansur) told him that if you are able to return (to India) safely, even that would be a big thing’.”
A S Dulat, the then chief of India’s Research and Analysis Wing (R&AW) has denied any such discussion taking place.
Former diplomat Vivek Katju, who was heading the Pakistan-Afghanistan-Iran desk at the Ministry of External Affairs at the time, termed the allegation as “baseless canard”.