US plotted with Pak powers in Zia crash, says ex-spymaster

General Zia-ul-Haq

US and "internal powers" were behind the 1988 plane crash that killed General Zia-ul-Haq, who ruled Pakistan from 1978 till his death, a former Pakistani spymaster has claimed. Imtiaz Ahmed, a former chief of the Intelligence Bureau, said the US collaborated with "internal powers" in Pakistan to assassinate Zia.

Ahmed, who also served in the ISI, has shaken up political parties with revelations of huge payments allegedly made by the Inter-Services Intelligence to strengthen the Opposition to former premier Benazir Bhutto in 1990.

"Former army chief Gen Mirza Aslam Beg also says that Zia's plane crash was not an accident, but sabotage," Ahmed told a TV news channel. Zia came to power after overthrowing the then Prime Minister Zulfikar Ali Bhutto in 1977, the third ruler to impose martial law. He initially ruled as the Chief Martial Law Administrator, but later installed himself as the President of Pakistan in September 1978.

Zia's death in a military plane crash in August 1988 remains shrouded in mystery, which has given rise to several conspiracy theories. Reports have suggested the plane crashed due to sabotage or mechanical failure.

Reacting to Ahmed's claim, Zia's son Ijaz-ul-Haq demanded that a thorough criminal investigation should be conducted into the plane crash. Ijaz said former pilot Akram Awan, who was arrested in connection with another case, told a commission that the Israeli intelligence agency Mossad "delivered material to destroy the plane".

Ijaz also claimed the US prevented a proper investigation into the plane crash. The medical personnel who conducted the autopsy on his father's body were sent off to far-off areas, he claimed. He said he had met former US Secretary of State Henry Kissinger with a request to probe the incident but had received no response from him.

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