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Plane diversion was Rafiq’s idea

Published Jun 24, 2014 06:00am


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The plan to divert Tahirul Qadri's plane to Lahore was suggested by Railways Minister Khawaja Saad Rafiq, Dawn has learnt.—File Photo
The plan to divert Tahirul Qadri's plane to Lahore was suggested by Railways Minister Khawaja Saad Rafiq, Dawn has learnt.—File Photo

RAWALPINDI: Initially the government had two options to get Dr Tahirul Qadri to Lahore once he had arrived at Benazir Bhutto International Airport (BBIA) on Monday morning – either use a Fokker ATR27 aeroplane to airlift him to Lahore or a helicopter of the Punjab government.

However, both these options were ignored when Railways Minister Khawaja Saad Rafiq suggested that the flight not be allowed to land at BBIA and be diverted to Lahore, sources said.

However, before Rafiq’s suggestion was made and accepted, as many as 175 Elite Force commandoes along with 17 female commandos in plainclothes were brought to the airport at around 3am on Monday.

Related: Qadri threatens to topple govt, vows to lead 'revolution'

The Elite Force, which was formed in 1997-98 by then chief minister Punjab Mian Shahbaz Sharif, was led by DSP Rana Shahid and DSP Raja Taifoor. They took positions on the apron of the airport (where the Emirates flight was to land); the Fokker and the helicopter were also parked nearby.

According to a security official, the Fokker ATR27 was to be used if Dr Qadri agreed to be transported to Lahore but if he resisted then the plan was to bundle him on to the helicopter.

The Pakistan International Airlines Fokker, which was to be used for airlifting Dr Qadri to Lahore, was scheduled to fly to Skardu on Monday but the flight was cancelled to free the aircraft.

“In case he did not agree, Dr Qadri was to be picked up by the Elite Force commandos and put in the helicopter,” a security official revealed on condition of anonymity because he is not authorised to talk to the media.

Also read: Qadri, 1,300 supporters booked on terror charges

But as is now well known, this plan was changed at the last moment.

Commissioner Rawalpindi division and Regional Police Officer were both present at the airport to monitor the situation.

Dawn has learnt that the railways minister suggested the diversion plan.

As a result, the pilot was not given clearance for landing at BBIA; PML-Q leaders and the PAT workers waiting for Dr Qadri were not aware of what was happening till 8.50am when the flight’s diversion to Lahore was announced.

In the meantime, the aircraft remained in the air.

Once it was told to fly to Lahore, the airport authorities said that the plane was diverted for security concerns.

Published in Dawn, June 24th, 2014

Comments (108) Closed

nasir Jun 24, 2014 06:07am

it seems Nawaz fate is sealed with plain, trains and automobiles

imran Jun 24, 2014 06:07am

Once an idiot .. always an idiot. The curse of Pakistan is that these idiots are at the Helm of affairs. They give a bad name not only to their party but now to their sect/cult as a whole. What was he even thinking when he suggested like a pharaoh to divert an international carrier flight and play with their operations and flight schedule.

Please stop acting like Pharaoh and come out of your 'security obsession' bubble. STOP making the 'security' excuse. Already you have run out of excuses.

Farzana Jun 24, 2014 06:09am

Government of cowards.Are we being ruled by MEN or some other species

Jalaluddin S. Hussain Jun 24, 2014 06:15am

Nothing but the "teething troubles" of infant democracy..

Ghazanfar Jun 24, 2014 06:30am

Mr. Tahir-ul Qadri coming from Canada thats why he asked for Governor's bullet proof car so that Air Conditioning works.. dharna in emirates air line who will pay for his action?

khuma Jun 24, 2014 06:32am

A wise suggestion and it's implementation that helped to defuse the tense situation at Islamabad Airport.

khuma Jun 24, 2014 06:32am

A wise suggestion and it's implementation that helped to defuse the tense situation at Islamabad Airport.

Mirza Jun 24, 2014 06:33am

Fine. Let him pay the damages sought by Emirates.

Mirza Jun 24, 2014 06:35am

PML (N) did the same thing with Musharraf. I dont support Qadri in any way , but far as I am concerned this is terrorism. You can not divert planes like this.

Shah Jun 24, 2014 06:35am

It means the Govt has hijacked the plane n there should be FIR against govt n Mr Rafiq. Also the other passengers specially the over seas Pakistanis should demand compensation at least these so called politicians do not own the country.

Taj wazir Jun 24, 2014 06:37am

Plane diversion was a dumb idea and could not be carried out without Nawaz Sharif blessings. He also tried to divert Pervez Musharraf's plane back in 1999 but the his executive order got back fired on his face. I never believed he is a man with any vision . I think Nawaz Sharif is creating trouble for his government by making such decisions.

Amjad Wyne Jun 24, 2014 06:40am

The idea to commit a crime may come from a criminal but those in the position of authority and power that accept and execute it are not innocent - they are bigger criminals.

Israr Khan Ismailzai Jun 24, 2014 06:53am

Try to come up with a plan for the welfare of the public, Mr. Genius. You don't get paid for diverting planes.

omer khan shaheen Jun 24, 2014 06:56am

Rafiq and Sharif's should pay damages to emirates airline from their own pockets. Not from the state bank, and thanks for shattering Pakistan CAA's goodwill.

Rakaposhi Jun 24, 2014 06:56am

Many people are criticizing TuQ. When you have rulers like the two brothers, do we even have the right to criticize anyone else?

terba Jun 24, 2014 07:01am

Is this the job of a railways minister?? Saad Rafiq should concentrate on making railways a better institution rather than suggesting solutions for tackling Qadri. Let others do their job while you should do yours.

farid Jun 24, 2014 07:08am

Did't Sharif learned from his past experience, when he diverted Musharaf's aeroplane and later he wrote apology with his nose.

Abdul Malik Jun 24, 2014 07:14am

@imran Absolutely, well said.. They divert a perfectly legitimate and genuine flight to Lahore for the simple reason that Qadri has scared the daylight out of the ruling party, PML-N. They could not care less for the inconvenience and hardship caused to rest of all the passengers traveling on the same flight. What kind of impression are these so called "peoples representatives or law makers" giving to the world.

Ahmer Jun 24, 2014 07:15am

Nawaz knows how to divert planes to different destination. He had learnt it when he was diverting Musharraf in 1998.

IKE Jun 24, 2014 07:20am

Diversion of a scheduled flight should be a crime. Mr. Khawaja can be and should be charged with the crime after he leaves the government. These men think they are above the law?

Junaid Jun 24, 2014 07:21am

Acting like this, government is showing it's own deficiencies and insecurity. Tahirul Qadri is scoring all the points, due to the foolish moves by the government. The biggest question is , who is paying for these games ? Obviously taxpayers, bills payers. Just wait till we get the bill from Emirates.

imad Jun 24, 2014 07:22am

No respect for law and mindset is clear from this decision.

mohammed Jun 24, 2014 07:22am

Yesterday a funny idea was presented by some one call Siddique Farkook and today Mr Khawaja Saad Rafiq what a team of fools Can any one ask this minister that do you have idea what all this cost to the Pakistan and our record in the community of airline industry. For the information of this wise man except few Middle eastern airlines no airline like to go Pakistan and this few airline have to think twice if they cancel or minimize flight to Pakistan. Sad

ashfaq1 Jun 24, 2014 07:25am

@Shah are you not reading the news... security barrier was breached... if a terrorist had struck the gov would have been blamed

Awais Jun 24, 2014 07:49am

A wise decision. Good job.

Rashid Jun 24, 2014 08:03am

Damages paid to Emirates, canceled flight to Skardu, helicopter, elite force, thousands of police, long ads on TV channels explaining why the airports were closed..... Nation's money well spent. Keep it going kings.

Najma Jun 24, 2014 08:04am

If I am a passenger on the plane I will sue Emirate who can go after PAK CAA to recover damages. I will take the case to a US court to maximize the penalty. I will never fly emirates planes again if do not file a case against Pakistan CAA.

nsheikh Jun 24, 2014 08:14am

Nonsense idea ! Extremely irresponsible!

event horizon Jun 24, 2014 08:24am

This minister must go back to Lahore.

syed Jun 24, 2014 08:26am

If the nation again elects or selects Sharifs brothers in the next election then there is no one to blame but themselves.

moeed Jun 24, 2014 08:30am

@Najma there are such rules available. U must file apolication to chief justice of pakistan to take a suo moto case.this will serve your purpose. Regards.

Rizwan Jun 24, 2014 08:31am

Please can you also pay damages, that soon will be on your way from Emirates.

india Jun 24, 2014 08:42am

Idea of the year

Fame Jun 24, 2014 08:53am

Why is government interfering in PIA, they had no right to cancel the flight to Skardu. How many times do I need to emphasize the importance of independent institutions.

Jawwad Saeed Jun 24, 2014 09:00am

What the heck is a Railway Minister doing stepping out of it's domain and diverting an International flight with foreign passengers on board? Does he understand repercussions of this action? Pakistan can potentially be sued for this. I am surprised no hijacking charges have been files against the GOP, specifically the man in question from countries whose passengers were on board. Though I am not a supporter of Qadri or any of these jokers but he is right in saying current political class has turned the country into a personal fiefdom and taking turns in looting while amassing wealth. You often hear the politicians say; It's our tun to 'rule' and not our turn to "serve" which is indicative of the fact they do not understand the Constitution in it's true spirit and what their duties are as member of Parliament. To them honor is a word used only in suppression and killing of a weak woman.

Irfan Fatmi Jun 24, 2014 09:11am

Ooops....playing with planes is a bad omen for the Sharif's

Khwaja Nizzam uddin Jun 24, 2014 09:19am

Why the goons are running free in Pakistan? Can someone start the accountability in Pakistan, Please

Kalimullah Jun 24, 2014 09:40am

In next election PML-N election logo will be Plane :)

Mustafa Jun 24, 2014 09:44am

Which diversion? 1998?

Imran Jalali Jun 24, 2014 10:09am

They did it with PM before and denied later that they diverted the plane and yet the repeat it again with Tahir ul Qadri.

Kashif Jun 24, 2014 10:28am

Make him Aviation Minister too..Saad Rocks...

Khan Jun 24, 2014 10:32am

What do you expect from a Pendoo

muhammad Jun 24, 2014 10:44am

I think Khawaja Saad has planned to spend his remaining life in prison

muhammad Jun 24, 2014 10:46am

@Ghazanfar Those who illegaly diverted an international flight and made the Pakistan laughing stock for the whole world

rana1 Jun 24, 2014 10:48am

well done Mr. Saad.. this was the only way to break the crowd that had appeared at the airport only to cause chaos.

A Rehman Jun 24, 2014 10:49am

And those elite 175 men and 17 women had a good thrashing by PAT mob. I think SS rightly asked for security by Army.

Zalmay Harun Jun 24, 2014 10:55am

Khwaja sahib you should keep your utmost attention towards the betterment of railways, not to divert the plane routes. As a matter of fact, who gave him the authority to take the decision. Look at the railway, I have never seen any major change in its improvement since the inception of the government. Diverting plane routes or interfering in the matters of CAA won't bring any fruitful result. Nevertheless, the busy schedule of world renowned airline, "Emirates" has been disturbed. Well, I urge the said airline to take this matter seriously.

sohail Jun 24, 2014 11:16am

He should pay the fines to Emirates and resign.

BADurrani Jun 24, 2014 11:17am

ATR (Aerei da Trasporto Regionale) and Fokker are two completely different aircraft manufacturers saying Fokker ATR27 is like saying Mitsubishi Corolla or Toyota Civic

syed wasim haider Jun 24, 2014 11:31am

Mr. Khawaja Rafiq should focus on Railways only, it was the duty of Interior Minister to tackle this situation. Please for God sake PML-N run the government in a matured manner. Do not think people will forgive u for your shortcomings in next election if not rigged. Please give details of this extra burden on tax payers for the diversion of the plane.

MD Jun 24, 2014 11:38am

@nasir LMAO...very very funny

Haider Jun 24, 2014 11:39am

It is going to be a shame if emirates does not take legal action against the government and tuq.

Azmeen Jun 24, 2014 11:46am

Any way decision to divert plane to Lahore airport was a wise decision to save two days of thousands of people that TQ could consume in case he was allowed to travel by road from Islamabad to Lahore. Well done Government. TQ may be tried to hijack the plane for five hours or so.

Sab Se Pehle Pakistan Jun 24, 2014 11:47am

Why a railway minister has to get involved in everything?

Merchant Jun 24, 2014 11:56am

This is a clear case of aircraft high jack which should be condemned and punished under international law.

Aziz Jun 24, 2014 11:59am

The government of Nawaz Sharif though "elected" are politically and administratively inept. NS has been given three opportunities and it seems each time he unlearns something useful. And precisely because I am not a Tahir-ul-Qadri fan and would not like to see him in a position of political power I will not vote NS because he might make it possible due to his lack of political acumen.

The hall mark of NS's success would have been if this episode of TUQ did not create yet another unmanageable political monster out of a non-political entity and event.

If NS thinks his immense wealth and "Gullu Butts" are replacement for accountability and good governance then he is in for a rude shock... even in a broken and backward country like Pakistan.

kp Jun 24, 2014 12:08pm

I hope he will not decide to run the train on deserts and roads rather than tracks.

God Bless Pak Railways :)

M M Ashraf Jun 24, 2014 12:17pm

Nations wealth diversion was whos idea.Thanks for making us a joke as a kaum in the entire world.Looks like some miscreants running the country.Does any one politician has a vision to lead the country .Khuda ke waastey ...if u cannot do any good do no harm. Atleast give back the pakistan of 1947.

imranrahbar Jun 24, 2014 12:20pm

what a genius!!!should have been taught at MIT and awarded a noble prize for great ideas.

Bugs Bunny Jun 24, 2014 12:20pm

Planes get diverted all the time in US due to security concerns or unruly passengers. I don't think Emirates or any of the passengers have a case here. With that said, we all know it was a political stunt but to prove in a court of law would be very difficult. Morally though, the Government should compensate both the airline and the passengers for this inconvenience.

Syed Hassan Jun 24, 2014 12:34pm

Emirates should file a lawsuit against him instead of CAA.

The actions represents mentality. He should rather spend time focusing on putting PR back on track (which I am afraid he is incapable of). What he has to say, now that he has almost copied the action of the very same person which he still deplores.

It is very unfortunate for Pakistan and for his party that it has leaders like him who thinks from their mouth.

Syed Hassan Jun 24, 2014 12:35pm

Times have changed. Mentality hasn't.

They still like diverting planes knowing that the last attempt caused them their government.

JQ Jun 24, 2014 12:46pm

Saad ! railways to sahi ker lo phir koi mashware dia karo .............

Khalid Jun 24, 2014 12:57pm

According to Nawaz Sharif diverting planes is the top weapon. Last time he did it (Saad Rafiq is just a pawn, the orders must have come from Nawaz Sharif), his govermenet was toppled. I guess his days are numbered. Start counting..

think_then_speak Jun 24, 2014 12:58pm

What a man !

Khalid Jun 24, 2014 01:03pm

@Azmeen Please wake up and get out of the well you have been living in.

Abdulla Hussain Jun 24, 2014 01:25pm

I never expected such a vague action by the Federal & Punjab government, a simple thing made difficult that brought countrywide uproar & international insult. What was the harm in letting Dr.Qadri landing in Islamabad and then driving to Lahore. Surprisingly, decisions are made on a single view recommendation as explained by the railway minister Saad Rafiq. Very dangerous scenario. The current government has failed to show maturity.

syed akif Jun 24, 2014 01:33pm

This is poor journalism. An esteemed paper like Dawn should not make the mistake of writing "Fokker" and "Fokker ATR 27" (paragraph 4 & 5); it again repeats PIA Fokker (paragraph 6). Fokker does not mean a "propeller plane" but is instead a brand name and so is ATR; the Fokker Friendship-27 (or F-27) was phased out several years ago when the ATR (abbreviation for Aerei da Trasporto Regionale or Avions de transport r

Salman Jun 24, 2014 01:40pm

I call him Mr Diversion

kosar Jun 24, 2014 01:42pm

I opine that same bunch of advisers were there with Nawaz Sharif when his earlier govt was toppled i.e. bad decisions which are continuing. Nawaz Sharif may get the same fate again.

Taimoor Khan Jun 24, 2014 01:45pm

This is what happened when you have uneducated people at the helm of the country. It wasn't PIA but an international airline, what if they sue Pakistan tomorrow? Is Saad Rafiq going to pay from his own pocket? Ofcourse not, it will be tax payers money.

Karachi Guy Jun 24, 2014 01:53pm

I believe the government's decision to not allow landing of plane in Islamabad was sensible. In a sense that Qadri is a good scene creator. Secondly, no matter what we say Capital remains capital. No matter Karachi is blocked or anything else, Lahore is facing problems, but if the capital is disturbed, all your Country's image is drowned in a second. So the reason of diversion wasn't bad enough. Realizing what the people had been doing in the capital before the landing of the plane. These things must have increased if the plane has landed. But the immaturity of the Govt. by which the act was carried out ruined everything, I believe.

Shahzad Ahmed Jun 24, 2014 01:56pm

The message went to foreign air line is that when you give committment to any passenger destination of any city in pakistan you never ensure that you could fulfill you commitment. The plain might land anywhere in pakistan, pessengers discretion is advised.

jake Jun 24, 2014 02:18pm

With all the hijacking facts people still vote for PMLN, diverting a plane probably is a crime so the PMLN government should be tried in court just like Musharraf did when his plane was diverted. PTI and MQM would never do these sorts of things and any propaganda against any party should be based on facts.

zak Jun 24, 2014 02:26pm

@Azmeen Typical-convict the victim and let the perpetrators go free.

gerry d'cunha Jun 24, 2014 02:27pm

nature is allowing them (PML(N) to do the same mistake, they did in 1999 with mushraaf and the consequence they had to face for 10 years in exile - this time they will go forever in exile

Muhammed Ali Jun 24, 2014 02:39pm

Mr Saud please remind me how the railways are running.....i thought you were the crook sorry i mean minister of the railways..

Shezad Jun 24, 2014 02:56pm

It will be disastrous if Emirates stops flying to Pakistan altogether.

Humayoun Malik Jun 24, 2014 03:02pm

Mr Imran you are right

Mateen Jun 24, 2014 03:12pm

there is no such aircraft as Fokker ATR 27, it should be ATR 42

Khan Jun 24, 2014 03:59pm

That's the result of being ruled by a family Dynasty.... In the whole process there was no thought of country image, impact on foreign airlines (very few left), and waste of ordinary Pakistani finances as the passengers diverted to Lahore will be flown on Pakistani tax money not personal accounts that are safe in UK KSA and Swiss

Amir Jun 24, 2014 04:14pm

I don't understand why the government and media are giving such importance to such an unimportant person from a foreign land

Ahmed iqbal Jun 24, 2014 04:15pm

According to Javed Chaudhry, whenever Khawaja Saad Rafique is confused, he speak in "Punjabi"

bkt Jun 24, 2014 04:17pm

It is unbelievable that Mr. Nawaz Sharif suffers from such amnesia. The last time he decided to divert a plane, he lost his job. Why is it so hard for people to learn from their mistakes?

bkt Jun 24, 2014 04:24pm

@A Rehman > Call in the army? Does SS want a new Sharif on the throne? No more PML-N is this solution

bkt Jun 24, 2014 04:25pm

@Shezad > People coming to Pakistan can always fly PIA, if and when its planes decide to take off.

asrez Jun 24, 2014 04:41pm

Bunch of jokers who are crooked as well. They should be placed in a circus to be viewed by the world.

M M Ashraf Jun 24, 2014 04:59pm

@Karachi Guy bhai we have become jokers in international community. U have diverted an international carrier not PIA.And what image you want to salvage by protecting islamabad..karachi attack has just brought business to complete hault.

Zahid Jun 24, 2014 05:03pm

@BADurrani Absolutely spot on!

msm Jun 24, 2014 05:09pm

I suggest CJP should take sumoto action against whosoever has taken the decision of diverting the plane and caused passengers and the airline to suffer.

ken abbott Jun 24, 2014 05:17pm

Stupid people come up with stupid ideas.

Jawad U Rahman Jun 24, 2014 05:22pm

Khawaja Saad Rafiq is the same guy who considers terrorists as innocent victims in incidents like Lal Masjid and Swat Operation. He stood against the state just so that he can score politically. He is one of many Jamaate Islami guys infiltrated in PMLN.

Adnan Anwar Jun 24, 2014 05:24pm

@imran well said

Anupam Jun 24, 2014 05:34pm

The simplest way was to deny him the Visa,after all he carries a Canadian passport !!

@H__3 Jun 24, 2014 05:43pm

@nasir (metro) buses!

Anjum Hameed Jun 24, 2014 05:53pm

I asked this question once before, why do all the idiots of the world live in the sub-continent??...

GKBaloch Jun 24, 2014 05:55pm

175 Elite Force commandoes along with 17 female commandos in plainclothes were brought to the airport at around 3am on Monday." Tahir ul Qadri was heavily armed, needed all that fire power against him . Saad Rafique will pay Emirates from Railway budget.

Fareed (usa) Jun 24, 2014 05:58pm

Whole country is a circus., run by clowns. They needed 170 'elite commandos to handle a mullah.

AbbasToronto Jun 24, 2014 06:21pm

People get leaders they deserve.

Ganga Din Jun 24, 2014 07:12pm

Well done Saad Rafique.

muhammad Jun 24, 2014 07:22pm

@Anupam He is a dual national he still holds Pakistani nationality how come any government bar any pakistani to visit his / her homeland ?

Azmeen Jun 25, 2014 10:42am

@nasir This is part of what is called "Basic Infrastructure development," a prerequisite for economic development of a country. Of course they should commit more funds for the important sectors like health and education.

irshad Jun 25, 2014 12:33pm

CAA has all the authority to guide airplanes under such circumstances. It was a wiser step to divert plane to Lahore TUQs eventual destination.

Mustafa Jun 25, 2014 01:16pm

The Right brothers invented the Plane and the Wrong brothers divert the plane.

Mustafa Jun 25, 2014 01:21pm

Har shaakh pe Gullu baitha hai anjam-e-gulistan kya hoga.

Ajamal Jun 26, 2014 03:14pm

Khawaja Saad talks tough but he showed his fear and weakness of PML-N by not properly dealing with Qadri and making a "showman".

azadi Jun 26, 2014 05:01pm

Brilliant Man Great Ideas , where did keep all this brilliance hidden for so long , great loss for Pakistan.

Rashad Jun 27, 2014 01:09am

@ashfaq1 The barrier was breached hours after the plane diversion. Trying to incite chaos is also foolishness. Let's not support or dislike someone only on the basis of ones ethnicity!