New Delhi: Pakistan-based terror group Jaish-e-Muhammad chief Maulana Masood Azhar has claimed that Indian government had offered money to the then Taliban government in Afghanistan to arrest him and two others in connection with hijacking of Indian Alirlines flight IC-814 in 1999.
According to Azhar, the alleged offer was made by the then External Affairs minister Jaswant Singh to Mullah Akhtar Mohammad Mansur, the then Civil Aviation Minister of Taliban’s Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan. Mansur, the Taliban chief was killed in a US drone strike in Afghanistan last month.
Azhar's claims were made in an obituary of Mansur in the June 3 issue of 'Al Qalam Weekly'. The Obituary was published under his pen name Saidi in 'Al Qalam Weekly', considered to be the online mouthpiece of Jaish.
In the obituary, Azhar wrote, "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.”
“… 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),’’ Azhar wrote.
“…I (Mansur) told him that if you are able to return (to India) safely, even that would be a big thing,” Azhar wrote quoting Mansur.
Former diplomat Vivek Katju, who was heading the Pakistan-Afghanistan-Iran desk at the Ministry of External Affairs then, termed Azhar's allegations as complete 'baseless'. "I don’t have any such recollection. I was with Jaswant Singh. This is a baseless canard," the Indian Express quoted Katju as saying.