A special aircraft, belonging to the Sri Lanka defence forces, carrying eight horses from Pakistan to Sri Lanka made an emergency landing at the Pune International Airport on Thursday due to a technical snag. Intelligence agencies and police swung into action within minutes and the horses and their Pakistani handlers were stationed at the Pune Race Course, Indian Express reported.
As per the information given by sources from the Pune airport’s security division, the eight horses were being sent to Colombo from Islamabad as part of a friendly exchange between the Pakistan Army and Sri Lanka Army. The engine of the C-130 military transport aircraft developed a snag mid-air and the plane had to make an emergency landing at the airport around midnight.
Sources said eight horses bred in Pakistan, eight personnel from the Sri Lanka defence forces, four horse handlers, who are citizens of Pakistan, and a Pakistan Army officer were on board. A team comprising personnel from intelligence bureau, military intelligence, airport security and local police spoke to the people on board and recorded their statements.
A senior police officer, who did not wish to be named, said, “The horses and their handlers were moved to Pune Race Course. They will be stationed there till the snag is rectified. The members of the Sri Lankan team have been stationed at a hotel in Balewadi. We have been told that some spare parts of the engine of this transport aircraft will be flown to Pune by another aircraft and these personnel and horses will be in Pune till the problem is resolved. It might take another day.”
Sources from intelligence agencies said their team was pressed into action as there were a lot of ‘questions marks’ about the incident. “We were suspicious because Pune is an important military station and the race course here is located in the defence area. Also, the people on board were military personnel, including an officer of major rank. We will be closely monitoring the matter till the plane takes off from here.”
In 2013, the Pakistan Army had gifted six thoroughbred horses to the Sri Lanka Army. Police said they believed that these horses were also being transported for a similar purpose.
When the Newsline team visited the premises of the Pune Race Course on Thursday afternoon, a team from local police had come to the stable where the horses were kept. The main area, where the stables are, was covered. Police said secrecy was being maintained as it was a ‘matter concerning foreign countries and intelligence agencies were closely monitoring it’.
Vivek Jain, a member of the RWITC managing committee, confirmed that the eight horses being flown from Pakistan to Sri Lanka had been kept at the race course premises. “There was a lot of pressure on the club from the Army and Home ministry that the horses be stationed at the race course. We were initially reluctant because the entire horse population of the club is at present stationed in Pune and there is always a fear of diseases spreading. Also, Pune has no quarantine facility. But then the horses were accommodated in the unsaddling enclosure and we have provided them with feed and water. They will be here till the aircraft snag is addressed,” said Jain.