ISLAMABAD: The authorities had knowledge of Al Qaeda plans back in 2009 to attack Islamabad’s National Defence University as well as naval installations and yet failed to protect the Mehran base in Karachi last year.
A naval officer, who was court martialled, has been sentenced to 15-year imprisonment for planning a series of attacks on important naval installations and the National Defence University (NDU) and taking hostages.
According to the confessional statement, Al Qaeda was planning to hold hostage senior officers at the National Defence University and use them to negotiate the release of detained militants, besides attacking the Naval Headquarters and targeting other important buildings of the navy.
It is important to point out that in 2009 militants attacked the GHQ in Rawalpindi and took military officers hostage. Despite this attack and the knowledge that similar attacks had been planned, the government and military authorities failed to foil the attack on Mehran base.
Mohammad Israrul Haq, a junior officer of the navy, was on May 6, 2010, awarded 15 years’ rigorous imprisonment besides being dismissed from service. Having served in the navy for 19 years, his last place of posting was PNS Zafar in Islamabad.
In his statement, which played an important role in his conviction, the accused admitted to meeting Al Qaeda members in Makeen and Angoor Adda where they discussed the locations of important naval installations.
He also said that Zafar Iqbal, a son of another former naval officer, was his childhood friend who had introduced him to Azmy, a local Al Qaeda leader who was living in Makeen area of South Waziristan.
Azmy planned a series of attacks on naval offices but after he died in a drone attack, Sheikh Ahmed replaced him. The location for the meetings then shifted from Makeen to near Angoor Adda in Afghanistan.
According to his statement, Israr organised a surveillance visit for his friend Iqbal to the environs of the NDU.
He claimed that though Al Qaeda had arranged 12 fighters for the attack, Israr himself backed out at the eleventh hour because he was not willing to participate in an attack on his homeland; instead he offered help to attack Nato forces in Afghanistan.
However, his family denies the guilt of Israr and his counsel has termed the proceedings of the court martial as unjust and demanded that the naval chief re-investigate the matter.
According to his mother Khatima Bibi, widow of Lt Amanul Haq of Pakistan Navy, on June 4, 2009, some unknown people took away her son, Israr, in an official car that belonged to the navy. He has been missing since then.
After the disappearance of her son, she repeatedly contacted naval officials for her son’s whereabouts but she says her requests fell on deaf ears.
She then approached the Supreme Court where the matter was referred to the commission for recovery of missing persons.
After his conviction, his lawyer requested the naval court for the details of the trial proceedings but this was turned down.
The authorities finally provided the details to the counsel recently on basis of which he pointed out violations of human rights in his trial.
After getting the details of trial proceeding, Israr’s counsel filed an appeal in the naval appellate court in the last week of December which is expected to be taken up next week.
Subsequently, in a letter addressed to the naval chief, the counsel alleged that Israr was picked up by naval intelligence personnel on June 4, 2009, and while his family thought of him as a missing person, his trial commenced on March 15, 2010.
The counsel is of the opinion that Israr’s conviction was based on his confession that was not recorded before the court and was recorded after 96 days of his illegal confinement; hence it could not be considered as evidence.
He has also pointed out that Israr was kept in solitary confinement for more than nine months whereas it has been held by the superior courts that solitary confinement could not exceed 15 days.
He said the naval authorities had repeatedly changed their stance and refused to provide the copy of trial proceedings till the orders of the LHC.