KARACHI -- Pakistan government officials tried to divert the plane bringing army chief General Pervez Musharraf to Karachi from Sri Lanka, a senior official of the state-run Pakistan International Airlines said on Wednesday.
The official, who asked not to be identified, said the flight that eventually landed in Karachi on Tuesday was forced to fly for an extra 48 minutes and landed dangerously short of fuel.He said PIA Chairman Shahid Khakan Abbasi and his adviser Nadir Chaudhry were both in the flight control tower and had ordered the pilot to divert the flight to Dubai.
"When they were told the plane did not have enough fuel, they ordered the plane to fly to Nawabshah (137 miles north of Karachi)," the official said.
Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif sacked Musharraf while he was in the air. The army chief later on Tuesday launched a coup.
The News newspaper said on Wednesday that both Abbasi and Chaudhry had been in the tower and that they had been taken into custody and that their whereabouts was not known.
The official said as the plane circled Karachi, one of the military officials accompanying Musharraf on the official visit to Sri Lanka went to the cockpit to find out what was happening.
Musharraf then entered the cockpit and phoned top defense ministry official Chaudhry Iftikhar and soon afterward troops took control of the airport and allowed the plane to land.
Musharraf confirmed there was a problem with the flight in his pre-dawn broadcast on Wednesday announcing that the government of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif had been dismissed.
"On my way back the PIA commercial flight was not allowed to land in Karachi but was ordered to be diverted to anywhere outside Pakistan, despite acute shortage of fuel, imperiling the life of all the passengers.
"Thanks be to Allah, this evil design was thwarted through speedy army action," he said.
The PIA official said there was enough fuel to keep the plane in the air for only another 15 minutes when it finally landed.