It ends up becoming an act of God
America’s frontline ally in yet another war died in a mysterious air crash on Aug 17, 1988. The cause of his death remains unknown. DialogNow points to a piece of investigative journalism by Edward Jay Epstein on the Mystery of the Murdered Murderer.
For its part, Pakistani military authorities attempted to foist a explanation that Shi’ite fanatics were responsible for the crash. The only basis for this theory was that the co-pilot of Pak One, Wing Commander Sajid, happened to have been a shi’ite (as are more than ten per cent of Pakistan’s Moslems). The pilot of the back-up C-130, who also was a shi’ite, was then arrested by the military and kept in custody for more than two months while military interrogators tried to make his confess that he had persuaded Sajid to crash Pak One in a suicide mission. Even under torture, he denied this charge and insisted that, as far as he knew, Sajid was a loyal pilot who would not commit suicide. Finally, the army abandoned this effort the Air Force demonstrated that it would have been physically impossible for the co-pilot alone to have caused a C-130 to crash in the way it did. And if he had attempted to overpower the rest of the flight crew, the struggle certainly would have been heard over the radio. But why had the military attempted to cook up this shi’ite red herring?
There were other indications of efforts to limit or divert from the investigation, such as the destruction of telephone records of calls made to Zia and Rehman just prior to the crash, the reported disappearances of ISI intelligence files on Murtaza Bhutto, and the transfer of military personnel at Bahalapur, which, taken together, appeared to add up to a well-organized cover up. If so, I was persuaded that it had to be an inside job. The Soviet KGB and Indian R.A.W. Might have had the motive, and even the means, to bring down Pak One but neither had the ability to stop planned autopsies at a military hospital in Pakistan, stifle interrogations or, for that matter, kept the FBI out of the picture. The same is true of anti-Zia underground, such as Al-Zulfikar, although its agents, like the shi’ite, would provide plausible suspects ( or even, if provided convenient access to Pak One, fall guys.) Nor would any foreign intelligence service which was an enemy of Zia’s have much of a motive for making it look like an accident rather than an assassination. Only elements inside Pakistan would have an obvious motive for making it the death of Zia, Rehman and 28 others look like something more legitimate than a coup d’ etat.
The most eerie aspect of the affair was the speed and effectiveness with which it was consigned to oblivion. [Edward Jay Epstein/Vanity Fair]