Hashim Qureshi makes startling disclosures about the hijack drama
From Iftikhar Gilani
NEW DELHI, Apr 2: Who was behind the hijacking of Indian Airlines
plane 'Ganga' in 1971? The question is haunting the researchers even
after 30-years. India's first hijacking commanded by Hashim Qureshi
and his cousin Ashraf had then started a chain of political events
ultimately leading to the dismemberment of Pakistan.
In a startling disclosure, Hashim Qureshi who is in custody since last
January following his "surrender" to authorities at the Indira Gandhi
International Airport here, has confessed that he was working on the
post of sub-inspector in Border Security Force (BSF) at the time of
piloting the hijacking. The plane was taken to Lahore and later burnt
at the tarmac after its occupants were set free.
In his confessional statement, Qureshi, chief of the Jammu and Kashmir
Democratic Liberation Front (JKDLF) has told his interrogators that he
had been arrested by the BSF while attempting to cross the LoC from
PoK. Prior to the hijacking, Qureshi had gone to Pakistan to visit his
uncle and got in touch with Maqbool Bhat and other top leaders of
Jammu and Kashmir National Liberation Front (JKNLF). They prepared him
for the hijacking. But, while crossing over with some arms and
ammunition, he was arrested by the BSF.
"I was arrested, I told them the story. They said, you can work with
us, just point out the potential hijackers at the airport. I agreed.
They released me. They gave me a fake appointment letter that said I
was a sub-inspector in BSF battalion 102, based in Bangalore," read
Partly corroborating Hashim's confessions, B. M. Sinha, author of
famous book 'The Samba Spy Case', had earlier raised fingers at the
hijacker's credentials. "There was a double agent who operated both in
India and Pakistan. His name was Hashim Qureshi," Sinha wrote in his
book under the chapter 'Glorious Traditions'. Published by Vikas
Publishing House in 1981, the book has an interesting and revealing
anecdote about Hashim.
While collecting information and material for his book, Sinha claimed
having come across the "real" story behind the 1971-hijacking of the
Indian Airlines Fokker Friendship plane to Lahore. He believed the
hijacking was carefully planned by "patriotic people" in India to
check the designs of General Yahya Khans's military government. "It
was a master stroke of cloak-and-dagger diplomacy," added Sinha. On
the "Indian motives" behind the hijacking, Sinha said India wanted to
provoke Pakistan to check the use of overflight facilities by Pakistan
Air Force. "It was not possible without sufficient provocation as
India had normal diplomatic relations with Pakistan," he maintained.
Quoting intelligence reports, the author of Samba Spy Case believed
that India wanted to thwart President Yahya Khan's attempts to
assemble enough troops in East Pakistan. Yahya Khan, had shrewdly
rushed planloads of soldiers to East Pakistan, while prolonging
negotiations with Sheikh Mujeeb-ur-Rahman to gain time. "The
transporting to troops to East Pakistan had to be suspended on some
ground to save Mujib's movement for Bangladesh...Indian government
made desperate efforts. It first contacted Mujib and apprised him of
Yahya Khan's real purpose of holding prolonged talks with him. But,
Mujib ignored warnings and left New Delhi with no option, but to
prepare another plan to check inundation of Pakistani forces in
Dhaka." Qureshi was sent to PoK to collect information about Mohammad
Maqbool Bhat's JKNLF. "Qureshi first worked for India from Kashmir. He
was given a job with the BSF and posted at the Jammu airport and then
at the Srinagar airport," revealed Sinha. He further added that soon
after Hashim's sneaking into PoK, he betrayed the Indian intelligence
and defected to the Pakistani intelligence.
While returning to India in the middle of January 1971, the BSF men
posted at the LoC arrested him. After through interrogation, he
disclosed that he had been trained in Pakistan to hijack an Indian
plane piloted by Rajiv Gandhi. This disclosure was reported to K. F.
Rustomji, the then chief of the BSF. "...Rustomji later himself met
Qureshi and won him over and persuaded him to work for India which was
then facing serious problems due to heavy influx of refugees into West
Bengal. A plan was then quickly prepared in consultation with the
government. A part of the plan was disclosed to Qureshi who agreed to
carry it out. It was then a master stroke of cloak-and-dagger
diplomacy..." According to Sinha, the plan was that Qureshi would be
allowed to hijack an IA plane from Srinagar to a nearby airport in
Pakistan with some passengers on board. He would create the impression
that he was a member of Maqbool Bhat's movement and was hijacking the
plane for the release of Bhat's colleagues arrested in India. At that
time around 36 saboteurs belonging to 'Al-Fatah'(another name of JKNLF
movement) were in jails. Qureshi was also briefed that he would refuse
to handover the possession of the plane to the Pakistani airport
authorities unless Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto, then the leader of the
Opposition in Pakistan came to see him. After the meeting, with
Bhutto, he would blow up the plane. This, he was told, would establish
his credibility with his Pakistani masters and help India at the same
time. Soon after clinching deal with the BSF chief, Qureshi was sent
to Bangalore to stay their in hiding. The poor Jammu and Kashmir
Police (JKP) had also come to know about Hashim's entering the State
and was looking for him everywhere by raiding every possible corner.
The JKP had even deputed a senior officer, Narindra Singh to search
him out. Few days ahead, Qureshi was called to Srinagar from
Bangalore. One January 30, senior BSF officials bid him adieu at
Srinagar airport, where he entered into a Fokker Friendship plane
carrying 26 passengers to Jammu. Soon the plane took off, he forced
the pilot Capt. Kachru to divert it to Lahore. "No sooner had the
plane landed at the airport, the whole world was told about the
hijacking and it was claimed that the Pakistan government was behind
it." Qureshi did at the Lahore airport what he was advised to do: he
claimed membership of Al-Fatah and demanded the release of 36 of its
members. The passengers were allowed to go out of the plane after
two-days. Qureshi was allowed to move about freely at the airport, use
telephone and meet the press, while Ashraf stayed in the plane. Bhutto
arrived to see him in his flamboyant manner and on February 2, Qureshi
blew up the plane.
All notable leaders in Pakistan except Bhutto condemned the burning of
the plane. The incident led to further bitterness in the relations of
India with Pakistan. This gave India the long-awaited opportunity for
the cancellation of the overflight facilities for Pakistan planes. The
plans of President Yahya Khan to send reinforcements to East Pakistan,
were thus frustrated.
A senior government official, who according to Sinha narrated this
incident to him, said that those who had planned the hijacking of the
IA plane were sure that Bhutto's involvement in the incident would
lend credence to the propaganda that it had been planned by the
enemies of India.
Qureshi's mentors, who fought his case in Pakistan, are also convinced
that he had been working at the behest of Indian intelligence
agencies. Maqbool Bhat's close confidantes G. M. Mir and Ghulam
Mustafa Alvi, who were also held by the Pakistani authorities and sent
to jails, told KTNS in Rawalpindi recently that they were confident
that Hashim was working for India.
But, why they stood by him all the years? Author of many books, G. M.
Mir replied that they were morally bound to support him as he had
hijacked the plane using the name of their organisation and initially
it was our plan that had been hijacked by India before the actual
hijacking. They also dispute Hashim's claim that he was one of the
founders of JKLF. "The JKLF was formed in Birmingham in UK on May 29,
1977 and Hashim was nowhere around that time," said Amanullah Khan,
chairman of JKLF. Hashim was released from Pakistani jail in 1980.
Though, accepting that he was arrested by the BSF soon after crossing
over the LoC and spilling the beans, Qureshi maintained that he did so
on the instructions of his leader Maqbool Bhat. "Maqbool Bhat had told
me if they arrest you, tell them about the hijacking. Also tell them
that there are two others, who have also been trained," he said. On
why Maqbool Bhat said so, Qureshi believed the JKNLF chief wanted
publicity. He was not sure whether actual hijacking could take place.
Bhat said, "If they charge you for hijacking our goal will be
achieved. We will get publicity. If they don't hold you, they can kill
you. But if you tell them there are two others, then they won't kill
you. They will try to get you to identify those others." "...It was a
chess game. I used to visit the airport every day. I was living at my
home. For three months I checked out how the hijacking can be done.
Then there were no searches at airports as we have today. You just
walked to the aircraft and boarded it. I bought a ticket for Ashraf
Qureshi and he bought one for me, under the name of Mohammed Hussein.
I knew that if they saw my name on the passenger list they wouldn't
let me go. That day I arrived at the airport, Ashraf was already
there. There was a Kashmiri policeman, a havildar, who asked me,
'Where are you going.' I told him there was a meeting and showed for
proof a poster that we had written ourselves to distribute everywhere,
asking people to rise in armed struggle..."
Reply from Hashim to KT
Mr. Ved Bhasin
I hope that you are in good health. In your Internet Edition of Kashmir
Times, dated 3rd April 2001, Mr. Iftikhar Gilani, Bureau Chief of Kashmir
Times in Delhi, Published a fictitious story with the heading "Who was
behind hijacking of IA plane 'Ganga'?
As you fully know that I believe in Democracy, Freedom of press and
expression and I fully understand that real Journalists bring out the truth
in Politics but when Journalism is used solely for the purpose of Falsely
damaging the reputation of others then this is not only a danger to real
Democracy but it leads to Fascism.
First of all I wish to make clear the meaning of the word "Surrender", Which
Mr. Gilani has used in his fictitious story; Surrender means giving up your
aims objectives and believing in the aims and objectives of others.
For the love of my motherland I have returned to face the cases field
against me thirty years ago. At that time I worked with Shaheed Mohammed
Maqbool Butt, For an Independent Jammu Kashmir and today I am still working
for the same cause and till death I will continue to work for an Independent
Mr. Gilani has related his fictitious story in a manner that I have said
something new before the J&K Police. Using this assumption as a base he
tried to dramatize it using baseless references from the book of Mr. B.M.
Sinha "The Samba Spy Case". Mr. Gilani has tried to make his story an
At the moment I do not wish to say much about B.M.Sinha's book because I
have decided to sue the author at my first available opportunity. The case
field against me in India and the proceedings of the Supreme Court of
Pakistan have enough proofs to discredit the assumptions and prove them
But I am surprised at the behaviour of Mr. Gilani because reading his
fictitious story it looks as if he has written it on the orders of some
Government agency or the State Government or the Central Government of
India, Because he did not once quote from my book "Kashmir: the unveiling of
truth", which it is made clear by the statements of Mr. K. H. Khurshid (who
was Mr. Jinna's personal secretary and president of POK). That the Pakistani
police gave orders to Hashim Qureshi to burn the plane.
Mr. Gilani also failed to quote the statements of Shaheed Mohammed Maqbool
Butt, who before the Supreme Court orders, stands for an independent Jammu
Kashmir. He also stated that the charges brought against then were part of a
conspiracy of the Pakistani Government against the movement for an
Mr. Gilani also failed to quote the former Major and now the present Lt.
General Rahim Shah, whose statement prove beyond any doubt that the Indian
plane was burnt on the orders of the Pakistani Government.
Mr. Gilani cannot deny the fact that I sent him a copy of my book "Kashmir:
the Unveiling of Truth", One year ago and in reply he sent me a receipt and
a letter in which he said that after reading the book he would write a
commentary on it. Uptill now he has not written any commentary on my book.
As regarding B. M. Sinha's book "The Samba spy case" I wish to quote just
one example from his book to show his book is full of lies: "Qureshi was
also briefed that he would refuse to handover the possession of the plane to
the Pakistani airport authorities unless Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto, then the
leader of opposition in Pakistan came to see him"
The truth of is that we never demanded a meeting with Mr. Bhutto. Pakistani
newspapers and the files of our case is witness to the fact that at that
time Mr. Bhutto was returning from Dhaka, after meeting Shiekh
Mujib-ur-rehman. When he landed at Lahore airport our plane was already
there so in order to prove that he was the real supporter of Kashmir cause
he came to meet us.
Mr. Gilani has also given some references about all interrogation report, in
The fact is that this interrogation report has not yet been produced against
me in court, nor has it been given to my lawyer or to the Government lawyer.
This report should either be with Kashmir's C.I.D or with I.B. Then how come
Mr. Gilani knows what is in this report ???
The fact is that whatever I said in the interrogation center is no secret,
Because I have said it all along in my books. I have said nothing new about
which Mr. Gilani or anybody else could make it an explosive issue just now.
Mr. Gilani has also quoted fictitious statements of Mr. G. M. Mir and Mr.
Ghulam Mustafa Alvi, which have never been heard or seen before. How can I
believe in these fictitious statements when it was Mr. G. M. Mir and Mr.
Alvi to help a person whom they know to be and Indian agent. It was they who
stated that hijacking was the plan of JKNLF.
Shaheed Mohammed Maqbool Butt loved me and trusted me like a son. Even in
Tihar Jail he thought about me and when writing to others he always asked
about me. For example, on 2/5/1982, he wrote that he was worried about the
delay in Hashim's appeal and stressed to write in detail about his appeal,
which was in the Supreme Court of Pakistan.
It is clear from the above that Mr. Gilani's fictitious story is nothing but
cheap propaganda. Even the Pakistani Government could not prove the charge
of "Being an Indian agent" against us in court.
As far as me being the founder of JKLF is concerned Mr. Gilani should have
read thousands of statements in various newspapers and books which make it
clear that I was the co-founder of the JKLF which came into being in
Rawalpindi, in 1982, for POK and Pakistan. Along with Dr. Farooq Haider,
Rashid Minhas advocate, Nazir Gilani and Aman-Ullah I was also among them.
They are still alive and witness to this fact.
B. M. Sinha and some other people have written that Hashim and Ashraf had
been brought to the aeroplane by senior B.S.F. Officers, who were with them.
But the facts are that we came to the airport bus and all the passengers are
witnesses to this fact.
Recently the charge sheet has been produced against me in the court of
principal session judge. In which many police officers, airport security
officers and others have been produced as Government witnesses but none of
them have said that B.S.F officers took us to the plane or to the airport.
DEAR CHIEF EDITOR,
You have every right for positive criticism of my political stand and my
political life but Mr. Gilani has deliberately not quoted anything from my
book, which answers every allegation he has made against me. These same
allegations were leveled against me by Allstair Lamb and I disproved each
and every allegation, in my book "KASHMIR:THE UNVEILING OF TRUTH."
If Mr. Gilani was a real journalist he would have quoted the statements of
Mr. K. H. Khurshid, Shaheed Mohammed Maqbool Buth and Lt. General Rahim
Shah, Just as he quoted B.M. Sinha.
I strongly protest at the way Mr. Gilani has tried to assassinate my
character. I hope that in the future he will differentiate between
Journalism and cheap fictitious stories.
I hope that you will publish this letter in your good paper and Internet
edition, So that all confusions created by Mr. Gilani can be cleared; I
believe this is my right and that you will respect it.
Chairman JK Democratic Liberation Party
Web site : www.kashmiriat.net
Kashmir Times replies to Hashim Qureshi’s letter
We have no intention to enter into any debate or to join an issue with Mr. Hashim Qureshi. Neither, do we published story with any malafide impulsion nor with an intent to damage anybody’s reputation. Being a leader and torch bearer in journalism, Kashmir Times believes in unveiling truth and exposing stories behind the events for the benefit of its valued readers.
We can appreciate the hurt felt by Mr. Qureshi on seeing our story, however, facts are facts and he should have courage to face them as they are. We want to be honest with him and expect him to be honest with the facts.
We did manage to get Mr. Qureshi’s confessions through a network of sources and contacts at various levels. Anyone familiar with the working of a newspaper knows that reporters have to cultivate sources and bank on some unusual methods to unveil truth.
Mr. Hashim has not questioned the veracity of his statements (as reported in our paper) made before the interrogators. We have published relevant portions of his disclosure statement word-by- word and line-by-line. His only problem seems that there was nothing new in his statement and he had already made them public through his book ‘the unveiling of truth’. Mr. Qureshi has admitted his arrest by the BSF at the LoC while crossing over and has also conceded that he was given a letter of appointment employing him as sub-inspector posted at the Airport.
Mr. Qureshi is free to sue B. M. Sinha, the author of ‘The Samba Spy Case’ to clear his name forever. The book was published by Vikas in 1981. One might ask, why all these years, it did not dawn on Qureshi to sue the author?
Mr. G. M. Mir and Mr. Ghulam Mustafa Alvi, Qureshi’s confirmed companions and friends in the jail, had a lengthy talk with the KTNS in Rawalpindi recently. No fictitious statement was attributed to them. We have their recorded statements. They were bundle of complaints against Mr. Hashim Qureshi and doubted his credibility.
We did ask them whey they defended a person they perceived as an agent? Both (Mir and Alvi) said that they felt morally bound to help young Qureshi as the hijacking plan was initially that of the JKNLF, though, later on the plan itself was hijacked by Indian agencies.
As regards to Qureshi’s claim that he was co-founder of the JKLF, there are thousands of statements and books disproving it. As per Amanullah Khan, with whom we had chance to meet in Rawalpindi, the JKLF was formed in the UK in 1977 by the members of the JKNLF and JK Plebiscite Front. In 1982, the Front established its offices in PoK and Pakistan. Therefore, Qureshi’s assertion is totally wrong as in 1977 he was still languishing in a Pakistani jail.
We wish good luck and bright career to Hashim Qureshi in leading his people to a better future. He had been away from his motherland so many years. We welcome him and value his love for Kashmir. We thank Qureshi for being honest in not disputing the correctness of disclosure statement which we published.
We also appreciate his opinion regarding the futility of gun culture presently prevailing in Kashmir. Further, we also value his desire to work for peace and prosperity of his motherland. Several leading figures of militancy like Kuka Parrey, Javaid Ahmed Shah, Papa Kishtiwari did reach to the same conclusion and made the same resolve. Mr. Qureshi is latest addition to this long list of eminent figures of current struggle. We wish him all the best