KARACHI: Defence Minister Khawaja Asif on Tuesday hinted at the possible involvement of some navy personnel in the botched Sept 6 attack at the PNS Dockyard amid responsibility claimed by the banned Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) and fresh details emerged.
In another startling revelation, AIG Karachi Ghulam Qadir Thebo said that evidence also pointed to the possible involvement of Ovais Jakhrani, son of AIG Ali Sher Jakhrani.
Ovais, who had left the navy four months ago, told his family on Sept 5 that he was going to Islamabad to take CSS exams. However, his body was recovered from the sea at the PNS Dockyard on Sunday, triggering speculation that he might have been kidnapped and murdered. “He [Ovais] was not kidnapped,” AIG Thebo said. “Circumstantial evidence suggests that he was involved in the assault.”
He added that naval authorities were investigating and the police would register an FIR if and when the navy approached them. AIG Jakhrani, who is on Hajj operations duty in Saudi Arabia, received a phone call from an anonymous person on Monday telling him his son had been killed for non-payment of ransom money and that the body had been dumped into the sea. The family visited an Edhi morgue the same day to collect the body. DNA tests are being conducted to confirm his identity.
“We were shocked to learn that Ovais could be involved in the dockyard attack,” a relative told The Express Tribune.
On the other hand navy officials said that four terrorists were also apprehended in the operation. They said that the terrorists wanted to penetrate the dockyard where naval vessels are docked.
“The attackers got onto PNS Zulfiqar which was docked at the Pakistan Navy berth,” a navy official close to the matter said. “A sentry saw a suspicious movement on the ship. He raised alarm before he was shot and injured by the attackers. A petty officer rushed to the site but was immediately shot down,” he added.
Commandos from the Special Services Group (SSG) were called in immediately who engaged the terrorists in a gunfight, the official said. “It took the SSG commandoes two hours to complete the operation, he added. “However, the combing of the area continued for another six hours.”
PNS Zulfiqar is the first of the F-22P series of medium-sized warships jointly built by Pakistan and China about four years back. About 20 more ships and submarines of the Pakistan Navy were docked at the time of the attack, but the terrorists chose PNS Zulfiqar, perhaps because it came in their way first, the official said.
He claimed that the terrorists came by the sea, raising questions about the vigilance of the Pakistan Navy and Pakistan Coast Guards who are responsible for the security in Pakistan’s territorial waters.
“The place where the attack took place is one of the highest security zones of the Pakistan Navy,” he said, adding that an inquiry was under way to find out how the terrorists evaded security and why PNS Zulfiqar was picked for the attack.
Sources said that investigators have not ruled out possible involvement of navy employees. In view of confirmed ‘inside support’ for earlier major attacks on military targets, investigators have started keeping a check on the staffers’ cellphones and their movements. In most of the major attacks, including the one at PNS Mehran base, GHQ and Kamra airbase, investigators pointed towards inside support.
In the 2009 GHQ assault, the army had detained Brigadier Ali Khan, who was serving at the military headquarters in Rawalpindi, for his alleged ties to a pan-Islamic extremist group. Similarly, defence officials had informed a parliamentary committee in June 2011 that insiders were involved in the PNS Mehran base siege in Karachi. Subsequently, three navy officers were court marshaled and sentenced.
Moreover, three low-ranking officers of the Pakistan Air Force (PAF) were arrested in connection with the August 16, 2012 Taliban attack on the PAF airbase Minhas at Kamra.