New Delhi : The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) must apologise to the nation for freeing three terrorists following the 1999 hijack of an Indian plane and the terror attack on parliament, Science and Technology Minister Kapil Sibal said Wednesday.
Addressing the Lok Sabha immediately after BJP leader L.K. Advani, Sibal said: “I want to remind the house about the plane that was taken from Amritsar (Punjab) to Kandahar (Afghanistan).”
Arguing for the National Investigation Agency (NIA) bill and the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA), introduced Tuesday in the wake of the Mumbai terror attack, the Congress leader went on to say: “We have never seen such an incident earlier – that an important minister of the country was escorting three terrorists Maulana Masood Azhar, Omar Sayeed Sheikh and Mushtaq Zargar.”
Referring to the hijacking of an Indian Airlines plane to Kandahar which ended with then external affairs minister Jaswant Singh escorting the three terrorists to the Afghan town, Sibal added: “Maulana Masood Azhar after his release formed Jaish-e-Mohammed, which attacked the parliament. So the parliament was attacked because you (Advani) released him.
“You should apologise to the house as you were the home minister (Advani),” he added in a reference to the 2001 attack on the Indian parliament that India blamed on Pakistan.
When he continued to target Advani, BJP MPs protested. But Sibal continued undeterred.
He denied Advani’s accusation that the Congress was soft on terror.
“The party sacrificed two of its tallest leaders of post independent India (Indira Gandhi and Rajiv Gandhi) to terrorism and to charge this party as soft on terrorism is disheartening,” he said.
Sibal also slammed the opposition leader for his comments that the Nov 26 attack in Mumbai had shown India as a weak nation to the world.
“He wants to send a message that we cannot protect our people and that India is weak. Politics can be done some other day. I wanted to hear him (Advani) not speak on political things and accept and pass the bills but he didn’t live up to my expectations.”
There was a plan during the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) regime to introduce a federal agency but the government could not do so during the six years of its tenure, he said. “But we have done it in just two weeks.”
Sibal also said the current bills that the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government wanted to introduce were more stringent than the US Patriot Act and the Terror Act of 2006 of Britain.
“India’s laws are more tough than anti-terror laws anywhere in the world,” he added.
Appealing to the house to pass the two bills, Sibal said: “Politics is never static. Ideologies are never static. We learn from our experiences. Now, we need to stand together and fight terror.
“It will not be done bypassing just two laws. Let us come together. Let us bring police reforms. Let us empower the common man. Let us stand together as a nation. Forget the past and march together in the 21st century,” he said.
On the evening of Dec 24, 1999, an Indian Airlines flight carrying 160 passengers was hijacked by terrorists and taken to Kandahar. The terrorists demanded the release of the three terrorists in exchange of the release of the passengers.