Saturday, December 30, 2000,
Chandigarh, India


M A I N   N E W S

Hijacker back after 30 yrs
Pledges support to Vajpayee

NEW DELHI, Dec 29 (PTI, UNI) — Pledging his full support to the Centre’s peace initiative in Jammu and Kashmir, Hashim Qureshi, founding member of the JKLF, who hijacked an Indian Airlines plane to Pakistan in 1971, made a dramatic return to India today after 30 years of exile and was arrested after a four hour-long drama at the Delhi airport.

Fortyseven-year-old Srinagar-born Qureshi flew into the Capital by a Scandinavian Airlines flight from Copenhagen and surrendered to the immigration authorities, who after four hours handed him over to the Delhi Police.

“Main yahan Vajpayeeji ke peace initiative ki himayat karne aya hoon (I have come here to support Vajpayee’s peace initiative),” Qureshi shouted towards a battery of waiting mediapersons at the Patiala House courts where Metropolitan Magistrate Gulshan Kumar remanded him in judicial custody till January 11.

Qureshi, who was one of the founders of the Jammu and Kashmir Liberation Front (JKLF) in Rawalpindi in 1982, said “Hum chahte hain ki Kashmir mein zulm aur khoon kharaba bandh ho chahe jiska bhi ho (we want the end of oppression and bloodshed in Kashmir, whoever be the victim).”

“We want an independent Kashmir and that’s why I am here,” he said while being whisked away by the police after the court remanded him in 14-day judicial custody.

Qureshi had hit international headlines when he hijacked the IA Fokker Friendship on a flight from Srinagar to Jammu which was later blown up at Lahore airport after the passengers alighted.

Qureshi’s lawyer, Mr Vikas Pahwa, submitted before the court that his client had already been sentenced to life imprisonment in Pakistan and had spent over nine years in jails there in the hijacking case.

Mr Pahwa said before sending Qureshi to judicial custody, the court should peruse the allegations levelled in the case which was registered against him in 1971 at Srinagar but lamented that the case diary was not produced before the court today.

Qureshi and six others were sentenced by a special court in Pakistan to rigorous imprisonment for a total of 19 years. However, later the Pakistan Supreme Court released him after he spent nine years and three months in various Pakistani prisons and torture cells.

On being released in 1980, Qureshi went on a self-imposed exile, first to the UK and then to The Netherlands where he was settled for the past 14 years.

Meanwhile, a team of the Jammu and Kashmir Police arrived here this evening in connection with the case.

Hashim Qureshi had been planning to return to India for some time now and had expressed his willingness to work for peaceful settlement of the Kashmir problem.

“Though a strong supporter of independent Kashmir, he wants resolution of the dispute through peaceful means,’’ his brother Mohammed Aslam said.

“I want to go back to my motherland and want to die in my own land. People send their children to Europe for studies but I am sending my children to Kashmir so that they do not lose their roots,’’ Quershi had recently said in an interview to UNI.

Soon after the surrender, the police started questioning him to know his intentions.

The Srinagar-Delhi plane, hijacked by Qureshi and his cousin Ashraf in 1971, was flown to Lahore and burnt on the tarmac in the presence of Pakistani leader Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto.

This incident forced India to stop Pakistani Airlines operations between East and West Pakistan.

Qureshi, who was then given a hero’s welcome, was later jailed by Pakistan for about nine and a half years.

Disgusted by Pakistan’s role in instigating trouble in Jammu and Kashmir and its using Kashmiri youth as cannon fodder, Qureshi left for Holland in the early 1980s to step up a campaign against the Pakistani role in Kashmir.

Qureshi, who heads the Jammu and Kashmir Democratic Liberation Party, has been wanting to come back to India to stand trial in the hijacking case.

The 46-year-old leader’s family members, including wife and children, had come to India some time ago. His children are reported to be studying in a school in Himachal Pradesh.

In a recent interview to UNI in Geneva, Switzerland, where he had gone to attend a meeting of the UN Human Rights Commission, Qureshi had said he would prefer to die in India than to go to Pakistan, which he described as “anti-Kashmiri.’’

He had said during his stay in Pakistan he always pleaded to the authorities not to exploit the Kashmiri youth for their own vested interests.

It is with this reason that he planned to shift to Europe after Pakistan’s Supreme Court set him free in the hijacking conspiracy in the early 1980s.

In India, the hijacking case is registered in the Kothi Bagh police station of Srinagar.

Qureshi was 17 years old when he hijacked the Indian Airlines plane and was taken in a procession from the Lahore airport.

Later, he was sentenced to life imprisonment by a commission of inquiry and spent more than nine years in jail.

He left Pakistan as he was under pressure from the ISI to influence Kashmiri youth to indulge in militant activities.



First lionised, then tortured by Pak
From K.N. Pandita

NEW DELHI, Dec 29 — The Pakistani authorities had lionised Hashim Qureshi who was only 16 years of age when he hijacked the airliner, and forced the pilot of Ganga to land at Lahore airport in 1971. The euphoria in Pakistan was so intense that many Pakistani dignitaries, including Z.A. Bhutto, came in person to the airport to pat Hashim and his accomplice Ashraf Qureshi for having made the big adventure of hijacking an Indian airliner.

But his heroism was ephemeral for the reason that soon after the Indo-Pak war of 1971, in which Pakistan lost its eastern province, the wind in Pakistan turned against him. He began to be suspected of Indian connections and was arrested and prosecuted. The court gave him 12 years imprisonment. He suffered brutal torture and incarceration at the hands of the Pakistani jail authorities. This opened his eyes to harsh realities with which he was face to face in the Pakistan of his cherished dreams. He saw the real face of Pakistan.

Unable to bear how the Pakistani authorities suspected and maltreated the Kashmiris stranded in Pakistan, Hashim managed his escape from the clutches of his tormentors and found asylum in Holland after going through many vicissitudes. Later on his wife and children, who were left behind in Pakistan, also joined him in exile in Holland where they had been living in exile for more than two decades.

After his escape from Pakistan, Hashim Qureshi gradually found himself a changed man. He introspected on his life story and decided to devote himself to the cause of the Kashmiris. He kept a track of the situation developing in Kashmir. When in 1984 he became the organising chairman of the Kashmir Liberation Front (KLF), which later on became JKLF, he categorically declared that the struggle for freedom of the entire original state of Jammu and Kashmir would be carried out on the basis of Gandhian philosophy of non-violence. Grapevine has it that he rejected the overtures of the Pakistani agencies to invite Kashmiri youth to the training camps in PoK and Pakistan in 1989-90 for training in subversion and armed insurgency back in Kashmir valley. Ever since he has held Amanullah Khan responsible for contriving the murder of Indian diplomat Mahatre in London only to hasten the execution of Maqbul Bhatt in Tihar jail.

With days rolling by, Hashim Qureshi made a deep study of Kashmir history from the time of tribal incursion in 1947 to present day. He also studied with enormous interest the Gandhian philosophy of non-violence and began advocating the same for the militants in Kashmir. He wrote profusely in various Indian, Pakistani and foreign papers and journals dissuading Kashmiri youth from using violence to achieve any goal they had set before them. In his innumerable articles, besides several books in Urdu and one titled “The Unveiling of Truth” in English, he passionately advocated secularism, democracy and pluralism as the cherished ideals of Kashmiris. Time and again he warned the militants that by succumbing to gun culture, they were only destroying Kashmiris and their land and culture. In the footsteps of many great humanists in different parts of the world, Hashim Qureshi is the fiercest enemy of violence, intolerance of faith and discrimination of any and every kind. He is a Kashmiri to the hilt and a strong advocate of Kashmiriyat that pleads for peaceful coexistence among the people of different faiths in the state of Jammu and Kashmir. This metamorphic change in Hashim Qureshi is the result of his practical and personal experience of traumatic events through which he has gone subsequent to the hijacking fiasco way back in 1971.

But the law of the land takes its natural course and he has to face it as any ordinary citizen of India. One has to wait and see what impact his return, arrest and prosecution will have on the Kashmir situation. But without prejudicing the proceedings against him, it should not go unsaid that according to international law, no person can be punished twice for the same crime. Hashim Qureshi has already been awarded punishment in Pakistan where he had completed the jail term.



Calls for struggle in PoK

SRINAGAR, Dec 29 (UNI) — Kashmiri separatist leader Hashim Qureshi has appealed to the people in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir to launch a formidable struggle for its liberation from the occupational forces.

“The people in PoK, Gilgit and Baltistan, who are dreaming of an independent Jammu and Kashmir, should launch a freedom struggle against the occupational forces there so that the fight for liberation of the Indian-administered Kashmir succeeds,” Mr Qureshi said in a 15-page statement in Urdu released to the Press here.

Hashim Qureshi surrendered before the police at Indira Gandhi International Airport in New Delhi this morning.

“I would request the Kashmiris to keep in mind the fact that nobody has shared the pain and suffering with you during the past 10 years, he said.

“Those who lead you to the path of darkness and destruction have benefited from it,” he added.

He claimed that Jammu and Ladakh regions would not join the freedom struggle in Kashmir unless the people in PoK launch a struggle there.

“The present struggle without the participation of people from Jammu and Ladakh will further divide the state,” Qureshi warned in the statement.

“I am returning to my native place Kashmir, knowing fully well that I have to surrender before the Indian officials. However, I cannot be tried for the hijacking case as I have already served a jail term in Pakistan for the same offence,” Qureshi said and added that he had not applied for withdrawal of the case.

“I am determined to face prosecution without caring for the consequences. I am satisfied that I never did anything that went against the interests of the people of Jammu and Kashmir,” he added.

Qureshi said he had never compromised on the issues of Kashmir’s freedom, solidarity and secularism, which was why many religious and extremist groups were against him.

The statement further quotes him saying that for the past 11 years he had fought a war against violence. “What I said in 1990 has now been realised by most of the militant groups in Kashmir.”

“I may have hurt some peoples’ sentiments but whatever I did was keeping in view the interests of the people of Kashmir,” Qureshi added.

He said, “I have no enemies either in Pakistan or in India. But I do not know who my enemy is in Jammu and Kashmir”.

“I do not accept the ideology of the Congress, the Muslim Conference or the Jamaat-e-Islami. Also, I am not in favour of curbing the freedom of expression of these parties,” he added.

He said, “I always wanted to unveil the truth about the freedom movement in Kashmir as during these past 11 years, mothers and sisters faced humiliation and the blood of innocent Kashmiri youth was shed aimlessly”.

Without naming anyone, he said leaders of different political parties have managed to amass wealth at the cost of the blood and honour of Kashmiris.

Indian and Pakistani politicians were happy on seeing Kashmir burn and the youth getting killed, Qureshi alleged, and said he wanted to settle the problems of Kashmiris through a dialogue.

“We know that violence cannot solve problems,” he said and declared his struggle was aimed at ending hatred in the sub-continent.

On his exile, Qureshi said he had spent over 30 years in exile and described the period as more agonising than dying a thousand times.

He said the hope of returning to Kashmir sustained him. “Sometimes the idea of dying in a foreign land and being buried away from my native soil ate into my vitals,” Qureshi added.

“During the exile period, I lost my mother, three uncles, aunts and other relatives in Kashmir,” he said.

He said during imprisonment in Pakistan he does not remember how many times he went on a fast for justice.

About his coming back to India, he said, “Some of my friends had cautioned me that since Jammu and Kashmir Liberation Front chief Mohammad Maqbool Bhat was executed in India something wrong might happen to me as well.”

Qureshi said, “I do not know how long I may have to wage a legal struggle in India and how many years I may have to spend in the Indian jails”. “I am sure Kashmiris will support me in my efforts,” he added.

“I was advised not to go Kashmir,” he said.

“I am a supporter of peace and I am ready to make any sacrifice for it,” he added.

He said, “My great desire is to bring back all those Kashmiris who were forced to leave their homes”.

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