Ex-US diplomat blames Israel for Pakistani dictator's death
Monday December 5, 2005
A retired US ambassador has reignited the debate about one of
south Asia's greatest whodunits, the death in 1988 of Pakistan's
president General Zia ul-Haq, by saying that Israel was
John Gunther Dean, then US ambassador to India, said he
suspected Israel's secret service Mossad of downing Gen Zia's
aircraft in an effort to stop Pakistan developing the nuclear bomb.
But when he reported these suspicions to Washington, he was
accused of being mentally unbalanced and subsequently forced
into retirement. Almost 20 years later, Mr Dean, 80, was
speaking out in an attempt to tell his side of the story.
The circumstances of Gen Zia ul-Haq's death are as contentious
as the 1963 assassination of John F Kennedy. The military
dictator died on August 17 1988, after leaving the town of
Bahawalpur, in Punjab province, where he had been watching a
trial of American M1 tanks.
Moments after Gen Zia's C-130 plane took off it wobbled then
plunged to the ground, killing all on board including the US
ambassador to Pakistan and a US general. Conspiracy theorists
have focused on a crate of mangos placed on board moments
before take-off. Some believe it was sprayed with VX, a poison
gas, which only a few countries had.
Gen Zia had a long list of enemies, all of whom have been
blamed for his death over the years. But Israel has received little
attention. Mr Dean told the World Policy Journal that it was
plausible Mossad had orchestrated an assassination plot,
believing Gen Zia's boast that he was only "a screwdriver's turn
away from the bomb". But when he told his superiors he was
removed from his position in Delhi and his career ended. Mr
Dean, a Jew who fled Nazi Germany, said he had no proof of
Israeli responsibility. General Muhammad Ali Durrani, a retired
Zia-era commander, told the journal the Israeli thesis was
"far-fetched" and blamed the crash on the C-130, which he said
had a history of faults.