Statement by Official Spokesperson on media reports regarding delayed return of the Pakistan Air Force C-130 aircraft
We have seen reports in the media speculating on the reasons for the delay on the return of the Pakistan Air Force C-130 aircraft, which had come to New Delhi on 22 February 2007 to take back the injured Pakistanis. Clearance for this aircraft to come to India and evacuate the 10 injured in Safdarjung Hospital had been conveyed in the forenoon the same day.
The aircraft which had 14 crew members and a 15-member medical team reached New Delhi at 1505 hrs. 7 of the injured Pakistanis were taken from Safdarjung Hospital in ambulances to Palam Airport. They reached there at 1730 hrs and their boarding was completed by 1800 hrs. However, the aircraft could not take off because it developed a technical glitch. One of its engines developed a problem and had to be repaired by the ground staff of the airport. The aircraft finally took off at 2115 hrs.
We have seen the reports in the media that the delay took place because the aircraft was waiting for the remaining three injured Pakistanis. These were Mr. Rana Shoukat Ali, Mrs. Rukhsana, w/o Rana Shoukat Ali and their one year old daughter, Miss Aqsa. Rana Shoukat Ali, who had lost five other children in the blasts, had expressed a desire to go to Panipat to identify the bodies of his children. Pakistan High Commission was informed that these three persons would not be going to Pakistan in the special aircraft. Rana Shoukat Ali and his family were taken to Panipat where they were able to identify all the five bodies of their children. Rana Shoukat Ali and his family will return to Pakistan via Wagah.
Some media reports suggest that the aircraft was delayed because India wanted an "undertaking" from Pakistani authorities for access to the evacuated Pakistani passengers for interrogation. This request had been made to Pakistani authorities while conveying the clearance for the aircraft. We drew the attention of the Pakistani authorities to the fact that the terrorist attack on the train is being investigated by Indian police who may wish to take their statements at a later date. However, the release of the injured passengers was not linked to this nor their evacuation delayed because of it. It is our hope that the Government of Pakistan will facilitate this in the interest of the investigations. It may be mentioned that 528 passengers of the train had left for Pakistan on the day of the blast itself.