Indian RAW’s planned hijacking of its own Fokker plane “1971 Indian Airlines hijacking”.
1965 Indo-Pak war ended in a stale-mate and next war was not far away to settle the issues. Late 1960s saw a increased protest from East Pakistan for freedom. The main issue between East and West Pakistan was language problem. To solve the large number or refugee flooding from East Pakistan, India decided to help East Pakistan get freedom. It would have not only divided the Pakistan into 2 parts but would result into a friendly East Pakistan (Bangladesh now).
In early 1971, war was looking more and more imminent and both countries were starting to prepare for it. Pakistan was trying to curb the civil unrest in East Pakistan by using civil flights to send resources. The shortest air route between east to west Pakistan was from Indian Air Space. Any other air route without using India air space was at least 3 times long and triple time/fuel consuming. See the below map for details.
1971 Indian Airlines hijacking
On 30th January of 1971, an Indian Airlines Fokker F27 Friendship aircraft named Ganga was hijacked by two Kashmiris, Hashim Quereshi and his cousin Ashraf Butt and demand the release of 36 members of the Al-Fatah who were in jail in India. Pakistan was not aware or part of this hijack operation. After the successful hijack, Hashim Quereshi contacted Lahore air base and asked for permission to land the hijacked aircraft in Pakistan.
Hashism convinced the then foreign minister Zuklfiquar Ali Bhutto that he hijacked the plane to get world’s attention to the Kashmir problem.
Pakistan’s Role in 1971 Indian Airlines hijacking
Pakistan was more than happy to help Hashim as it would be a big blow to India’s claim towards Kashmir. Bhutto himself welcomed him at the Lahore air base. Though later on, under immense pressure from India and the world, Pakistan released all the passengers safely, They reached India by road and the aircraft was burnt on 1st February 1971 by Pakistan.
India retaliated to the hijacking and subsequent burning of the aircraft, by banning overflights of Pakistani aircraft. This overflight ban, in the run up to the December 1971 war between the countries, had a significant impact on troop movement into erstwhile East Pakistan, now Bangladesh. This resulted into a very early defeat to Pakistan on the Eastern front.
The Real Story of Hijack
1. The Aircraft hijack was planned by RAW (Research and Analysis Wing).
2. Ganga was one of the oldest aircraft in the Indian Airlines fleet and was already withdrawn from service but was re-inducted days before the hijacking.
3. This was the first and only flight made by Ganga after its re-introduction.
4. Hashim was an Indian agent who was earlier a BSF (Border Security Force) Officer.
5. Hashim and Butt used ‘toy weapons’ to hijack the plan as all the passengers were Indian services personnel and their family members.
6. Pakistan realized this soon and arrested Hashim and Butt. Hashim was given a 13 year jail term by Pakistan court.
Though this theory has never been proved or disproved till now, Pakistan always states that the hijack plan was hatched by India. India never denied the charges nor agreed upon them, for obvious reasons.