New light shed on General Zias assassinationAugust 16th, 2008 - 1:00 pm ICT by ANI
London, Aug.16 (ANI): In a new book titled A Case of Exploding Mangoes, a former Pakistani Air Force officer, Mohammed Hanif, has claimed that former Pakistan President and dictator General Zia-ul-Haq could have escaped assassination in 1988, had the crew of the aircraft in which he took off from Bahawalpur not been incapacitated by VX nerve gas smuggled aboard by a Pakistani intelligence agent.
According to The Times, which has reviewed the book, there are many mysterious conspiracies linked to the assassination, ranging from the ex-Soviet KGB or the Soviet-backed Afghan Government of the time to Pakistans arch-rival, India, and even members of General Zias own military.
Zia was killed when his C-130 aircraft exploded and plunged into the Bahawalpur Desert with his top generals and the then US Ambassador on board exactly 20 years ago on Sunday.
Arnold Raphel, the US Ambassador, and Brigadier-General Herbert Wassom, his military attache, were among 29 other people killed on the flight, including many of Pakistans top generals.
The despots death changed Pakistans political landscape in an instant, ushering the Muslim state into a period of shaky civilian rule, similar to the situation the country finds itself in today.
American, Soviet, Pakistani, Indian and even Israeli intelligence agents are among those blamed for sabotaging the plane.
The mystery of how Zia died still captures the imagination.
A former US Ambassador to India was relieved of his post after telling Washington that he believed the Israelis, concerned about Pakistans nuclear ambitions, were behind the crash.
This month, Lt. General (retired) Hameed Gul, the Islamic hardliner who was head of Pakistans Inter Services Intelligence (ISI) spy agency at the time, suggested that the United States might be responsible for murdering its Cold War ally even though the US Ambassador and military attache were also killed.
Gul told The Times that the Pakistani President was killed in a conspiracy involving a foreign power.
According to US investigators, a mechanical problem, known to be relatively common with the C-130 military transport aircraft, was to blame.
There were a lot of conspiracy theories and there still are, understandably in that part of the world, Robert Oakley, who took over as US Ambassador after the crash and helped to handle the politically fraught investigation, told The Times.
General Aslam Beg, who became Chief of Army Staff after General Zias death, saw the crash from his aircraft, which had just taken off. Instead of returning to the site he headed straight to Islamabad. His action later caused controversy, leading some to allege his involvement.
He refused to comment when approached by The Times this month. There is no point talking about the incident after 20 years. There are many more important issues in the country at this point, he said.
Early reports suggested that Raphel had only been summoned to join the flight at the last minute, fuelling conspiracy theories blaming the US.
But Nancy Ely-Raphel, the Ambassadors widow, told The Times that her husband always planned to join General Zia on the aircraft, and that it was General Wassom who was added at the last minute.
Mrs. Ely-Raphel, however, insists that the poison-gas theory is preposterous.
There was nothing pointing to any kind of gas whatever in any of the reports I read, she said.
The CIA Phosphorus-covered mango seeds amid the wreckage sparked the theory that the CIA had spiked the fruit with VX gas to eliminate Zia because of his unstable commitment to a more democratic government and his loyalty to Afghan extremists. (ANI)
Tags: arch rival, brigadier general, c 130 aircraft, general zia ul haq, intelligence agent, intelligence agents, inter services, israeli intelligence, lt general, military attache, muslim state, nerve gas, nuclear ambitions, political landscape, raphel, rival india, soviet kgb, spy agency, zia ul haq, zias