Hashim Quraishi, now 59-year old, who once upon a time during his childhood days hijacked an airplane with an artificial pistol now advocates to freeze the Kashmir issue to curtail the hatred between the two neighboring countries– India and Pakistan.
As he remembers the entire plane-hijacking episode, even after four decades the memory of one of the earliest plane hijacking chills down his spine.
With the help of an artificial pistol and wooden hand grenade, he hijacked an Indian Airlines Srinagar-Jammu plane to Lahore on January 30, 1969. As he relives his story, the freedom fighter turned peace lover has had a tough life after that incident.
Hashim says he first visited Pakistan in 1968 to meet his sister who was married there.
During an interview to a news agency, Hashim says, “I met Maqbool Bhat (founder member of the Jammu Kashmir Liberation Front) in Pakistan. Maqbool was of the view that India would never part ways with Kashmir for Pakistan. But according to him, an autonomous Kashmir can always be demanded and that it would be free from both India and Pakistan.”
Hashim dedicates himself for freedom of Kashmir and circumstances also helped him use the available sources to materialize his plans. He used the Border Security Forces (BSF) to travel between India and Pakistan.
“In a hair-cutting salon in Lal Chowk, I met a Kashmiri Border Security Force (BSF) officer. I told him I wanted to go to Pakistan. The officer agreed to help me cross the border in exchange of some inside information from Pakistan. We both agreed on each other’s terms and the BSF officer managed my entry into Pakistan through Sialkot border,” he says. Hashim was in fact deceiving the BSF officer. He was later trained in Pakistan for the plane hijacking.
Hashim continues, “Maqbool Bhat said that to bring the Kashmir issue on the front, we must hijack an Indian airplane. Later Javed Manto, a retired pilot, helped me get familiarize with a Fokker Friendship Plane. He took me to Chaklala airport where I went inside the plane to understand the technical know how.”
After the training, he once again crossed the Sialkot border to land into Kashmir.
“I happen to encounter an advertisement in newspaper about the artificial pistol which I thought could be used in scaring people. I purchased one. I made some wooden hand grenade and polished them with metallic color.”
Hashim then purchased tickets, for him and his cousin Ashraf, in the Srinagar-Jammu Airlines Fokker Friendship plane for January 30, 1969."
He continues, “Once boarded, I rushed to the cockpit, placed that artificial pistol on the pilot’s head and announced the hijack and asked the pilot to fly for Pakistan. There were 34 passengers including the crew.
“We landed at the Lahore airport at 1 pm of January 30, 1969. Zufiqar Ali Bhutto came to the airport. The Pakistani authorities asked us to release the passengers. I denied their request as I wanted to meet Maqbool Bhat first. We remained there till 8:30 pm of February 2, 1969.
“Then a Lahore police officer came and asked us to finish the drama and set the plane ablaze. Bhat opposed. He said that we should continue the act at Lahore airport to get the media attention. Finally one Pakistani army officer said that Bhat had instructed him to set the plane on fire, but later it was found that Bhat had in fact opposed the torching of the Indian plane till the very end,” Hashim told the news agency.
After this incident, Hashim and his cousin were given due respect by Pakistani people for three months.
He remembers, “Everywhere we went, a hero’s welcome awaited us. But glory was very short. I was arrested in April 1971 in Pakistan and released in 1980. After my release, I was told by Pakistan intelligence that we should arrange groups of Kashmiri youth for training. This was their attempt to spread militancy in Kashmir so that these youth can fight Pakistan’s proxy war in the valley without any commitment of Kashmir’s freedom.
“I finally left Pakistan in 1986 for Holland and remained there till December 27, 2000. I got homesick.” He has now returned to homeland and living in the valley.
Today, Hashim wants India and Pakistan to freeze the Kashmir issue to curtail the hatred between the two countries.In Srinagar, he is still under trial for last 12 years in a case of plane hijacking.