New Delhi: In a revelation that will embarrass the Congress, a report has claimed that Jaish-e-Muhammed (JeM) terrorist Shahid Latif, handler of the terrorists who attacked the Pathankot air base in January, was released by India in 2010 as part of the UPA government's attempt to mend ties with Pakistan.
Quoting high-level sources, The Times of India reports that Latif, who was in Indian jails for 11 years on terrorism charges, was released on May 28, 2010by the Manmohan Singh government as a 'goodwill gesture'.
24 other militants belonging to JeM, Lashkar-e-Toiba, Hizb-ul-Mujahideen were released along with Latif that day and deported to Pakistan.
Importantly, Latif was released despite the fact that he was on Jaish's 'wish list' even when the Vajpayee government freed Maulana Masood Azhar in exchange for 154 passengers of IC-814. However, the NDA government had refused to release him then.
The TOI report adds that Islamabad used guile to persuade Manmohan Singh government to release Pakistanis held on terror charges saying that their releases will create a conducive atmosphere for the two nations to settle their long-standing difference.
Latif is said to be very close to Masood Azhar and heads Jaish in Sialkot region from where terrorists are pushed into India.