Islamabad: Niaz Mohammad, who was executed the other day in Peshawar Central Prison for trying to kill General Pervez Musharraf, used to be a former technician of the Pakistan Air Force, who was a close aide of Adnan Rasheed, the chief operational commander of the TTP-linked Ansarul Aseer (Helpers of the Prisoners) – a lethal jehadi unit which was founded to secure freedom for the imprisoned jehadis by conducting jail break operations.
Of the seven people hanged so far since the lifting of the moratorium on executions last month, six had been involved in two abortive attempts to assassinate Pervez Musharraf eleven years ago in Rawalpindi in December 2003. The remaining one – Aqeel alias Dr Usman – had also tried to target Musharraf’s plane at Chaklala Airport in Rawalpindi with a shoulder missile. However, he was handed down a death sentence and sent to the gallows for spearheading the October 10, 2009 fidayeen attack targeting the General Headquarters of the Pakistan Army in Rawalpindi. Of the seven people hanged so far over the past fortnight, four were civilians. While Aqeel alias Dr Usman and Arshad Mahmood alias Mehrban, who were hanged in Faisalabad on December 22, belonged to the Pakistan Army, Niaz Mohammad, who was executed in Peshawar on December 31, was a PAF employee.
Niaz, a resident of Yar Hussain area in Swabi district of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, was kept at the Haripur Central Prison until December 30 when he was shifted to Peshawar Central Prison in a helicopter, before being executed. According to the military circles, in the first assassination attempt on Musharraf, which took place near Jhanda Chichi bridge in Rawalpindi on December 14, 2003, six PAF personnel were convicted by a field general court martial at the PAF Base Chaklala on October 3, 2005. Besides Niaz, four more PAF personnel were also sentenced to death that also included a former junior technician Adnan Rashid, who later escaped during the 2012 Bannu jailbreak and later joined hands with the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan. The other three PAF personnel included former chief technician Khalid Mahmood, former senior technician Karam Din, and former corporal, Nawazish. The sixth convict, Nasrullah, a junior technician, was sentenced to life imprisonment.
A PAF appellate court dismissed the joint appeal of the six accused in February 2006. Almost a month later, on March 28, 2006, the Lahore High Court also dismissed their petitions. Six months later, a Supreme Court bench headed by then Chief Justice Iftikhar Mohammad Chaudhry had rejected their appeals against the high court verdict [on September 25, 2006]. The bench held that under Article 199 of the Constitution, civil courts had no jurisdiction to issue writ against orders passed by the military courts. In petitions, Niaz Mohammad and other five convicts had alleged they had falsely been implicated in the case. They claimed they had voted against General Musharraf in the 2002 referendum and, therefore, they were picked up by the agencies following the 2003 attempts on his life, only to be kept in illegal detention during which they were severely tortured.
The proximity between Niaz Mohammad and Adnan Rasheed can be gauged from the fact that they had spent most of their prison term together, unlike the other four PAF personnel. In September 2011, Adnan Rasheed and his comrade Niaz Khan were shifted from Haripur central jail to Peshawar prison. The transfer was against their wishes and both prisoners went on a hunger strike in protest. Adnan used to be the prayer leader in the Haripur Jail and had a strong influence over the prisoners. In 2011, Adnan and Niaz ensured that Eid was celebrated on two different days in Haripur Jail, as per the custom in Khyber Pakthunkhwa province, where majority of the rigid clerics do not celebrate Eid with the government. As they refused to end their hunger strike, Adnan and Niaz were shifted to two separate jails – Adnan was lodged in the Bannu Jail while Niaz was taken to the Mansehra District Jail.
Therefore, while Adnan was freed by the Taliban in the 2012 Bannu jailbreak operation, Niaz stayed behind bars because of being in another jail, only to be executed the other day. Adnan was freed on April 15, 2012 when around 200 Taliban militants armed with guns, grenades and rockets attacked the high-security Bannu Central Jail and released 384 prisoners. The then TTP spokesman Ehsanullah Ehsan had subsequently declared on April 20, 2012 that the operation was mainly aimed at freeing Adnan. Ehsanullah had added that the Taliban had been working on the jailbreak plan for several months and that they had been in touch with Adnan and some other prisoners in the Bannu Central Jail.
Interestingly, despite being an al-Qaeda linked convicted terrorist, Adnan was allowed to get married in the jail in 2010 and become father of a daughter. Adnan Rasheed actually worked for Amjad Farooqi, the al-Qaeda-linked Lashkar-e-Jhangvi terrorist who had engineered the twin suicide attacks against Musharraf at the behest of al-Qaeda leader Abu Faraj al Libi. Coming from Chota Lahore village of the Swabi district, Adnan had joined the Pakistan Air Force (PAF) in 1997, before being arrested for his role in an attempt to kill Musharraf in Rawalpindi on December 14, 2003. He has already been elevated as the chief operational commander of a lethal fidayeen unit of TTP – Ansarul Aseer whose stated mission is to secure freedom for imprisoned jehadis by conducting jailbreak operations. In a video-taped message released on March 25, 2013, Adnan had threatened to assassinate Musharraf, adding that he has constituted a death squad which would hunt down the former dictator for having ordered the 2007 Lal Masjid massacre.
Since his release, he has led several guerrilla operations – the most significant being the July 30, 2013 Dera Ismail Khan jailbreak raid in which 275 most wanted militants were freed. Almost a month before conducting DI Khan raid, Adnan had claimed in a rare interview that he was indoctrinated by a covert jehadi group which recruits officers from the three military services and utilises them to wage jehad along with the Taliban. The interview was published in the May 2013 issue of an English-language jehadi magazine “Azan” which was launched by the Taliban elements, primarily to cater the educated Muslims. Adnan had claimed that his first jehadi inclination emerged when the Indians were compelled to release Maulana Masood Azhar after the 2000 hijacking of an Indian plane. He said he was about to travel to Germany for higher education when the 9/11 terrorist attacks took place and his colleagues in the PAF persuaded him to pursue the jehadi path.
In a latest development, while refuting the rumours of his death in the ongoing military operation in Waziristan, Adnan Rasheed has appeared in a video message [released on December 30, 2014], accusing the Pakistani establishment of taking a U-turn after using militants in Jammu Kashmir and Afghanistan and labeling them as terrorists. Following his trusted aide Niaz Mohammad’s execution the other day, the next PAF personnel to be executed for trying to kill Musharraf is a former chief technician of the PAF, Khalid Mehmood who was associated with 310 GC Wing and comes from Dunyapur area of the Lodhran district in Punjab.