New Delhi, Mar 23: Senior BJP leader and former Deputy Prime Minister L K Advani has candidly confessed that he was 'unaware' of the decision to exchange three Jammu and Kashmir terrorists in exchange for passengers onboard the hijacked Indian Airlines plane in Kandahar, Afhganistan in 1999.
In an interview to a private TV channel yesterday, Mr Advani, while discussing his latest book 'My Country My Life', said he was not happy with the idea of releasing the jailed terrorists for securing the passengers' release. He said none in the all-Party meeting had opposed the release because the issue was to bring back the passengers safely to the country. He said the terrorists had threatened to blow up the plane in the event of non-acceptance of their terms which has found a mention in his autobiography.
Mr Advani evaded a reply on who decided the release of the terrorists, saying that Mr Jaswant Singh should be asked that question. Asked whose decision was it to allow the then Foreign Minister Jaswant Singh escort the terrorists on the same plane, Mr Advani said it was not a matter of Mr Singh escorting the terrorists but to bring the hostages back and he might have consulted the then Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee.
Distancing himself from the decision of the previous NDA government to release the three terrorists, including Jaish-e-Mohammad chief, the BJP leader said he knew the release was likely to cause considerable heartburn within the BJP and the NDA. This also happens to be the most open confession by Mr Advani about the hijack that took place during Christmas.
Asked about former Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Farooq Abdullah who had actually taken the decision on terrorists, raising the issue, Mr Advani was not forthright in his answer.