BAHAWALPUR, Pakistan--Air, force teams yesterday recovered the bodies of President Mohammed Zia ul-Haq and U.S. Ambassador Arnold Raphel from the charred wreckage of Zia's military plane.
The remains of the U.S.-built C-130 transport lay strewn across a sandy plain near the Indian border in Punjab province. The plane exploded Wednesday after taking off from a nearby airport.
Soldiers slid the flag-draped coffins of Zia, Raphel and 28 others onto planes bound for Islamabad and other Pakistani cities where relatives of the victims were waiting. The government originally put the death toll at 37.
Most of the wreckage lay in a 100-yard radius. A wing lying about 1000 yards away was the only piece not charred and mangled when the turpo-prop aircraft fell to the ground shortly after takeoff from Bahawalpur airport.
The head of Pakistan's caretaker government, Ghulam Ishaq Khan, said he could not rule out sabotage but was awaiting for a probe to be completed.
A Pakistani air force crash investigation team flew to the scene today in search of the plane's flight recorder. A similar U.S. team was also expected, but details of its visit were not disclosed.
Unofficial reports and rumors circulated that the American-made C-130 was hit by an anti-aircraft missile or a helicopter or was shot down by India.
The United News of India news agency today quoted a "highly placed Pakistani military official" as saying a sophisticated time bomb may have caused the explosion.
It quoted the official, who was not identified by name, as saying the pilot did not radio any message to the control tower. He said the pilot probably would have had time to radio if the plane had been attacked by a missile.
Heavy security surrounded the crash site which was covered with tufts of weeds and stagnant pools. The site is about eight miles north-west of the airport and 330 miles south of Islamabad.
An army brigadier who identified himself only as Zaidi said some eye-witnesses reported seeing the plane explode shortly after takeoff, but others said it was only smoking when it lost altitude and crashed.
"If it burst in the air it would be spread over a large area but it is all in one area," he said. But he said the far-flung wing was "a puzzle to investigators."
Ishaq Khan declared a state of emergency today and businesses were shuttered in official mourning for Zia. It was not immediately clear what civil rights were curtailed by the state of emergency.
A funeral for Zia, a close U.S. ally, was set for Saturday. The U.S. Embassy said Secretary of State George P. Shultz would attend.
The people killed aboard the plane included U.S. defense adviser Brig. Gen. Herbert M. Wassom and five top Pakistani generals. The group had been inspecting a military unit near Bahawalpur.
The Indian border states of Jammu and Kashmir were placed under curfews today after pro-Pakistanis tried to set two bridges ablaze. Indian news reports said three people were killed and nine wounded by security forces when a crowd defied the curfew.
Pakistan was created from Moslem-dominated areas of predominantly Hindu India when the subcontinent became independent of Britain in 1947. The two countries have fought three wars.
A U.S. official in Washington, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the United States will help Pakistan investigate the crash. "There is no confirmation of any foul play, but we are not taking anything for granted," the U.S. official said. "An incident like this arouses suspicion."