The Gang of Six were clenching their fists under the 21-seater oval teak table in the PMO in New Delhi. How could their Prime Minister speak to them like that? How does the Constitution of India allow such people, with just 35 seats out of 543 in the Lok Sabha, to become the PM?
The Indian PM’s aircraft took off from Islamabad Airport at 7:45 am IST and was scheduled to land at the Indira Gandhi International Airport (IGIA) in New Delhi at 9:10 am IST. When the aircraft started deviating from its scheduled route, there was panic at the IGIA air traffic control tower. By 9:15 am IST, the aircraft was seen heading south, when it became out of range of the radars at IGIA. Had the PM’s aircraft been hijacked? Was it headed to Sri Lanka or the Maldives?
The defence minister, external affairs minister and the NSA had accompanied the PM to Islamabad. In their absence, the best men to contact the Indian Air Force Chief were the cabinet secretary or the defence secretary. Both men tried to get hold of him, but to no avail. He was not answering his office or mobile phone. They tried the Vice Chief and got no response either. What in hell was going on?
By 9:45 am IST, Indian Army soldiers in battle gear began arriving in army trucks at North and South Block, and at various other ministry buildings spread across Lutyens’ Delhi. Hundreds of soldiers also arrived at the residences of the union ministers in the 28.7 km2 Lutyens Bungalow Zone.
At 9:45 pm Pakistan Time, about five hours after the Indian generals had finished the press conference in New Delhi and about two hours after millions had started demonstrating on roads across fifty-plus Indian cities, Prime Minister Irfan Khan chaired a meeting of Pakistan’s National Security Council. A plan of action was framed.