Advani knew of Kandahar, say Brajesh Mishra, Yashwant Sinha (Lead)

August 27th, 2009 - 11:02 pm ICT by IANS  

Bharatiya Janata Party New Delhi, Aug 27 (IANS) The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) Thursday faced more embarrassment with Brajesh Mishra, who was national security advisor (NSA) during the party-led NDA government, as well as senior leader Yashwant Sinha asserting that L.K. Advani was aware of the decision to swap terrorists for hostages during the 1999 Indian Airlines hijack.
Mishra told CNN-IBN channel that Advani was part of the decisions taken “unanimously” by the then Cabinet Committee on Security (CCS) regarding the release of militants to save 160 hostages on the hijacked Indian Airlines plane in 1999.

Mishra found support from Sinha, a former minister, who told NDTV that Advani was “fully aware” of the decision to swap terrorists for the hostages.

“Truth should be spoken, truth should be adhered to. The hijack matter… it is a matter of history,” he said.

Sinha also said that the sacking of senior leader Jaswant Singh for his book praising Mohammad Ali Jinnah, the founder of Pakistan, was “not correct” and Singh should have been given a chance to explain.

Mishra told CNN-IBN: “The decisions were taken by the CCS, which had (then) prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee, home minister L.K. Advani, finance minister Yashwant Sinha, defence minister George Fernandes and external affairs minster Jaswant Singh as its members.”

The comment of Mishra, former prime minister Vajpayee’s closest aide, comes days after Jaswant Singh said he had “covered” up for Advani during the 2009 Lok Sabha campaign by concealing that the BJP’s prime ministerial candidate knew of the terrorist-hostage swap during the 1999 hijacking episode.

In a bitter attack on Advani after his sacking from the BJP last week, Jaswant Singh had revealed that the former home minister’s claim that he was unaware of Jaswant Singh accompanying three freed terrorists for securing the release of 160 hostages was not true.

Advani had all along claimed that he was not in the know that Jaswant Singh was on the plane with three terrorists to Kandahar.

Rebutting Advani’s claims, Mishra said: “I am not going to get into anything that then home minister Advani said. I will only draw your attention to the fact that key members of the CCS - George Fernandes, Jaswant Singh and Yashwant Sinha - have very clearly said he (Advani) was there.”

“A proposal was made in the CCS that Jaswant Singh should go and bring back the hostages and it was agreed by the CCS. Let’s put it more charitably as George Fernandes said, may be he has forgotten,” the former NSA said.

Giving details of the IC-814 hijacking and demands of the militants, Mishra said: “They (hijackers) wanted the release of 36 terrorists and $200 million and also the interned remains of some terrorist buried in Kashmir. Each and every man (in the CCS) was opposed to the demand. Then there was a decision, a unanimous decision, that in order to save 160 hostages three terrorists will be released. No money, no interned remains (were given).”

Mishra said the CCS was meeting every day during the hostage crisis and “the CCS took the decision that Jaswant Singh should accompany the terrorists to Kandahar”.

“Jaswant Singh proposed that he would go to Kandahar to bring back hostages. He explained that Indian representatives negotiating there had suggested that somebody senior should be there in case of some last minute problems. This he told the CCS. This was agreed to unanimously,” he said, adding that Advani was part of the decision.

Earlier in the day, Yashwant Sinha, who was so far silent on the sacking of Jaswant Singh last week, spoke out in his support for the first time Thursday, queering the pitch further for the party.

“It was not right for the party to take that decision,” Sinha, a former finance minister, told reporters. He said the BJP should not have taken such a decision for a leader “who has served the party for 30 years”.

He said that former prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee would have handled the present crisis in the party in a much better way than L.K. Advani.

Asked by NDTV whether he agreed with Gujarat’s BJP government, headed by Narendra Modi, banning Jaswant Singh’s book, Sinha said: “The book should not be banned.”

Yashwant Sinha had quit all his party posts last month after writing a strongly worded letter to the BJP leadership saying, among other things, that instead of holding party strategists responsible for the poll debacle they were being rewarded.

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