Lahore — The prosecution today completed its case before the special court holding trial of nine Indian nationals on the charge of hijacking an Indian Airbus into Pakistan territory in July last year.

The hearing was later adjourned till tomorrow when the court would record the statements of the accused.

In all, prosecution produced 17 witnesses to substantiate its case. These included six crew members.

Maj. Mohammad Arif of the Pakistan Army was the last prosecution witness who appeared before the court today to give an account of the arrest of the hijackers and recovery of weapons from them.

Maj. Mohammad Arif deposed before the court that he was in charge of security at the Lahore airport when the Indian hijacked plane landed there. He further said that he had searched the nine accused when they came out of the plane after having surrendered. He recovered from their custody two kirpans and a pistol, a machine carbine and some ammunition from his attache case kept in the luggage hold.

He said he prepared a recovery memo of the arms and ammunition at the spot, took the accused persons in his custody and drove them to the airport lounge where the investigation officer, Police Inspector Younus, approached him to carry out some preliminary investigation.

The witness said that on completion of police investigation, eight of the accused were again handed over to him for lodging them in the sub jail in Lahore Cantonment. The ninth, Perminder Singh, was not handed over to him.

On July, 1984, he said, the investigation officer came to him in his office to see the weapons which were kept in the Brigade guard room. The witness said that he showed the weapons to the police official who after completing formalities kept these in the guard room.

He said that on his transfer from the station early this year, he handed over these weapons to his

Successor, Maj. Jabran Afzal. During cross-examination from Khwaja Sultan Ahmed, the witness said that he had taken the accused in custody under orders of his Brigage Commander. He said there was no police at the spot when he arrested them.

Maj. Arif affirmed that no case under Martial Law had been registered against the accused when he took them into custody and he was not aware if the police had registered any case against them by that time.

To a question, he said that arms recovered from the luggage hold were kept there in an attache case. Perminder Singh himself had identified the attache case which belonged to him. He said he had not verified as to whom the attache case belonged. Nor did he produce it before the police. He said that he was only concerned about the weapons.

The witness said that the attache case also contained some clothes but he had not prepared any list of these articles.

To another question, the witness said that the cantonment sub jail was in the joint control of the army and the police. No official of the Prisons Department was posted there.

He refuted a suggestion that the attache case in question had been left he. hind as an unclaimed baggage and the same was planted on Perminder Singh accused.

Maj. Arif did not agree to the suggestion that the weapons recovered from the attache case actually belonged to two Indian army officers traveling by the same aircraft.

Replying to a question from Dr. Abdul Basit, the army officer said that before the release of the passengers of the Indian aircraft, he had received the information that the negotiation between the Pakistan authorities and the hijackers had yielded fruit and the latter had agreed to surrender.

He said the crew members were the first to come out of the plane after the negotiations. They were followed by the passengers and the hijackers came last.

He said he had searched all the nine accused thoroughly after which the attache case was secured from the luggage hold. All the accused had remained in the aircraft area while he prepared the recovery memo. It took them about an hour to complete these formalities. By that time, he said, the transport was ready to take the hijackers to the lounge.

To another question, the witness said he had asked the airport security personnel to open the luggage hold and secure the attache case. But, he did not personally supervise the opening of the luggage hold to get the attache case, he added.

He said he had seen two Indian army officers amongst the passengers. They were in uniform but he could not give their ranks. He said it was not necessary for army officers to keep personal weapons with them while traveling in uniform.

To another question, he said that the investigation officer did not seek his permission to inspect the aircraft which remained in his command throughout.

During cross-examination by Mr. S. M. Zafar, the witness said that the recovery memo was prepared by him at the airport. It had been typed on a typewriter which he had summoned from his Brigade Headquarter. On being shown two other typed documents a letter and a correction slip the witness affirmed that all the three documents were in the same type and 1t was possible that all of them might have been prepared on the same typewriter.

To a question, he said it was true that he had got hold of the weapons contained in the attache case only on the indication of the accused. He said he did not remember if the accused had informed him that these weapons belonged to the Indian Army officers.

The prosecution is headed by Advocate General, Punjab, Mr. Rashid Aziz Khan, who is assisted by Mr. Najmuz Zaman, Assistant Advocate General and Mr. Inayatullah Cheema, Mr. Abdus Salam Khan and Syed Niaz AliShah, Special Public Prosecutors.

Article extracted from this publication >>  July 19, 1985