Terror outfit Jaish-e-Mohammad’s chief Maulana Masood Azhar has claimed that soon after the Kandahar swap of 1999, India offered money to Taliban for re-arresting him, according to a report in The Indian Express.
Azhar is the prime mastermind of the Pathankot airbase terror attack. Seven security personnel were killed in the attack. Four bodies of terrorists were recovered from the encounter site which lasted for nearly 80 hours.
JeM chief Maulana Masood Azhar dnaindia
The report said that the alleged offer was made by the then External Affairs minister Jaswant Singh to Mullah Akhtar Mohammad Mansur, the Taliban chief who was killed in a US drone strike last month.
Azhar made these claims in an obituary of Mansur, posted under his pen name Saidi in the June 3 issue of Al Qalam Weekly (Jaish’s online mouthpiece), the report said.
Masood Azhar was arrested in February 1994, after travelling to Srinagar from New Delhi. He was released by the Indian government in 1999 in exchange of 155 passengers held hostage in an Indian Airlines aircraft IC -814 that was hijacked to Kandhar in Afghanistan. A delegation led by Singh had landed in Afghanistan to hand over Azhar.
The 1999 hijacking of the Indian Airlines flight IC 914 to Kandahar newsroompost
As part of the Kandahar swap, Azhar was released, along with Mushtaq Ahmed Zargar and Ahmed Omar Saeed Sheikh, on December 31, 1999. Mansur had received Azhar on the Kandahar airport tarmac and driven him out of the airport in his white Land Cruiser.
Mullah Akhtar Mohammad Mansour khaama
“Mullah Akhtar Mohammad Mansur 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),’’ Azhar wrote.
However, former diplomat Vivek Katju, who was heading the Pakistan-Afghanistan-Iran desk at the Ministry of External Affairs then, has termed Azhar’s allegations as complete ‘baseless’.
Senior Bharatiya Janata Party leader Jaswant Singh rediff
At the same time, former Chief of the Research and Analysis Wing, C D Sahay who was part of the entire operation leading up to the release of the hostages, has said that he cannot recollect money being involved.