December 30, 2000


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Hashim Qureshi

'I hope every Kashmiri will support me in my efforts to bring peace to Kashmir'

Indian Airlines hijacker Hashim Qureshi's statement on the eve of returning home to India after 30 years in exile, published verbatim

Human life encounters many upheavals in its course, caused sometimes by nature and at other times by man himself. This has been our past and it will be our future as well. Self-imposed exile is one of the major crises among other privations in store for man. Man is tempted to separate his own species from its blood relations in the name of religion, country, race and sect. Sometimes this heavy punishment is imposed on him for nothing more than two yards of earth.

I suffered a lot

I have suffered many privations. I have passed through hunger and disease. My mother's sudden demise came to me like a deep scar. Then I was in exile in Rawalpindi and remained unconscious for two days continuously. Among other close relatives, three uncles and maternal aunts left me. For nearly ten years, I suffered solitary confinement. Solitary confinement in a prison barrack of which I was the only inmate. Sometimes I felt as if my soul got a scar. During the days of imprisonment, I do not remember how many times I went on hunger strike against oppression and tyranny let loose on me. I had almost reached the brink of death.

In 1979, while I was interned in the Kot Lakhpat jail in Lahore, I protested against oppression on two noble and educated youth. I was targeted for punishment because I had proceeded on 22-days hunger strike against this inhuman treatment of the young persons. I broke my hunger strike on the intervention of Pakistan Supreme Court. By saying all this I mean that God Almighty had put me to test and I bore everything patiently. God gave me the Himalayan courage to seek and walk along the path of truth. Of course, the deep wound caused by long exile from my native land is in place.

Pain of Exile

I was just 17 years and 3 months old in 1971 when I landed in exile. Spending over thirty years in exile is more agonising than dying a thousand times. This is unbearable. Even then the hope of returning to my native place one day sustained me and I survived with it. Like brave men I fought and overcame the agony. Sometimes the idea of dying in a foreign land and getting buried away from my native soil ate into my vitals and sometimes the fear of my children becoming hapless almost drove me mad. A person who loves his native land dearly and his compatriots, is oppressed beyond limits by being in exile. I could not reconcile to the comforts and riches one might find in exile. Many people do reconcile.

Although I worked hard and established myself, yet the situation in Kashmir adversely affected my work. The sufferings through which my compatriots had to go caused me deep scars. I was chagrined on what the false leaders were doing and how they were bringing youth to the destruction with no planning except that of their self aggrandisement.

Truth about politics

I always wanted to unveil the truth. I wanted to tell the truth to Kashmiri youth about freedom, which necessitated bringing to them the facts of situation. I watched the politicians and their political life from close distance. I found that falsehood, cunning and calumny had paralysed many a leader. During these eleven years of turmoil, Kashmiri mothers and sisters were dishonoured and the blood of Kashmiri youth was shed aimlessly. Many leaders and political parties managed to amass great wealth by sacrificing the youth. Even then it is being said that this play should continue till the last Kashmiri is alive.

The actors and directors of the new play in Kashmir survive only as long as this death-drama continues in Kashmir. There is no need for any degree or qualification or patriotism for doing the job of destruction like burning schools, colleges, laboratories, bridges, and hospitals and for making people homeless. Only hatred and destructive brain are required to run these errands. We need engineers and technicians to erect a building. But those who destroy it need not have any skill. In a minute of two, it can be blown up by powder.

It is true that I started politicking at an early age of 14. I came to be known as a result of hijacking the Ganga airliner along with Ashraf Qureshi. Yes that was an act of violence, but in my life I did not succumb to violence for more than a few moments. As against it the real philosophy and purpose of my life is to fight violence.

In my three or four books, I have throughout pleaded against the use of violence. Even today, Indian and Pakistani politicians raise their eyebrow when I talk of peace and non-violence. They gauge my life not by thirty years of struggle against violence but by a few moments when I came under a spell of violence. Indian and Pakistani politicians are happy on seeing Kashmir burning and her youth getting destroyed. They know that when the poor Kashmiri is killed, space is made for their wards to make their career and get admission in medical, engineering and other courses.

Had I been born in South Africa like Nelson Mandela preaching coexistence with the white people, the whole world would lift me on its shoulders. If I had been a Yasser Arafat and preached peaceful coexistence with the Israelis, even if I would have been accused of the Munich massacre, I would have been honoured with the Nobel Prize. I come from an unfortunate people that have been under the yoke of slavery for last four hundred years whose political leadership never gave them one thought and one line of action. I cannot claim to be the peer of Nelson Mandela or Yasser Arafat. But I can say that in this century, I recognise two persons whose life influenced me and I think myself moving along their line. They are Mahatma Gandhi, Maulana Abul Kalam Azad and Martin Luther King. With these role models before me I want to settle the problems of my people in Kashmir through a dialogue. We know that violence cannot solve problems. My struggle is to put an end to hatred in the sub-continent.

I am returning home

I shall be returning to my native land Kashmir. I shall have to surrender before the Indian officials. In terms of law, I cannot be tried for the hijacking case because I have already been tried once and have been punished with nineteen years imprisonment in Pakistani jails. There are analogies. Two persons involved in the Khalistani movement have been released in Delhi. Despite this I have not applied for withdrawal of case against me. I am determined to face prosecution no matter what the result would be. I would make one thing clear. Throughout my life, I never did anything that would go against the interests of my people and the State of Jammu and Kashmir. I never bartered my national interests for my personal interests. I might have committed mistakes during past thirty years, but never did I do anything against the interests of the people of Kashmir.

I always refused to compromise against Kashmir's national freedom, secularism and Kashmir's solidarity.That is why many religious extremist groups, so-called freedom fighters and worshippers of personal aggrandisement unleashed a tirade of propaganda against me. For last eleven years, I fought a war against violence. What I said in 1990 is precisely what the most of violent groups of Kashmir have realised now. I have full conviction in the politics of non-violence, humanism. I was determined that in order to put Kashmiri people on the path of non-violence and fraternal understanding, I would make even the biggest sacrifice I could.

I have no enemies

I do not have enemies either among the people in Pakistan or in India. In my native place Jammu and Kashmir I do not know anybody who is my enemy. Yes, of course, my enemies are those who want destruction of my people and fragmentation of Jammu & Kashmir. In political terms, I do not accept the ideology of Congress, Muslim Conference or Jamaat-e-Islami. But I am not in favour of curbing the freedom of expression of these or any other political party. I believe that everybody should have the right to express themselves before the people. I am against imposing a particular political ideology on the basis of gun and force. I do not like bringing in politics in the matter of personal relations and the day-to-day life of people. I consider religion as a personal act. Every person is responsible for his or her actions. I believe that the greatest worship is to share the grief and suffering of others, to provide food to the hungry.


For last six years, I have been running a charity organisation by the name of Maqbool National Welfare Association (MNWA) so that with the assistance of the people, I could do some social work like helping the orphans, supporting schools, hostels, training women in crafts that can earn them a living and a free dispensary for the needy. In this way, I want to render some service to our nation. I need the assistance of people for this cause and particularly from those who live abroad.

Respecting all is my nature

I know I may have hurt some people's sentiments but that I did only in the interests of the people of Kashmir. I tried never to usurp the right of others. In my private life, I have always helped the people in whatever way I could. But many people have been unhappy with me for my political convictions. Despite all that I apologise to all those who might have been hurt by my word or act. Nobody is sure about life and then 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 prisons. But I hope that every Kashmiri will support me in my efforts to bring peace to Kashmir, in bringing the Kashmiris their legitimate rights and in uniting the state of Jammu and Kashmir.

I can change my path in order to arrive at my political goals but I want to assure the Kashmiri nation and my colleagues that I shall never do anything against the interests of the people of Jammu and Kashmir state. My great desire is that I could bring back all those Kashmiris who were forced to leave their homes and became homeless. They include Kashmiri Pandits. As I said in the beginning that life in exile is a big agony, I have seen many displaced Kashmiri Pandits sobbing. I have also seen many people who had a blind love for Pakistan crying for their native place after spending some time in Pakistan.

One of the unhappy things that have cropped up during these eleven years of turmoil in Kashmir is that of not respecting others. Instead of depending on one's own thinking and perceptions, forcing others to succumb to a particular line of thought on the basis of gun and violence is also a new development. Tolerance and patience have been given up and senior political worker is no more shown the respect he deserves. Those who do not say yes to the thinking of oppressors are dubbed as traitors, enemy and enemy of the country. Despite asking for the freedom of the motherland, there is hardly any love for the motherland. Love is proved by action. When the forests, lakes, rivers of the motherland are not maintained, are destroyed and polluted, this does not speak of patriotism.

During the past decade, we have seen that some people have become the external representatives of some agencies and have claimed to be central figure in the freedom movement of Kashmir. When we were struggling in the political arena, these very people were swearing by accession either to India or to Pakistan or were busy making their career in medical colleges or universities.

We need Conviction

Conviction is what is needed for implementing any system. Conviction also needs experience, knowledge of history, acquaintance with ongoing world of knowledge and other things. A revolution that takes away man's hopes of good governance, facilities, educational opportunities and above all peace for development, is not a revolution that is going to be useful. The Afghan revolution has destroyed everything for her people including the two square meals for a labourer and education for a schoolgoing child.

Friends cautioned me

Some of my friends cautioned me that since innocent Maqbool Butt was executed, something wrong might happen with me in Indian prisons. People strive every nerve to live in Europe and I for one was giving up a life of comfort in Europe and returning home. Indian and Pakistan agencies could bring you harm through their agents, as was the case with Dr Ghulam Qadir Wani. They told me not to go to Kashmir where people had been made a hostage to violence. They hate violence but are becoming a victim of violence day in and day out. My answer to these questions was as this:

Life and death are in the hands of God Almighty. If I am destined to die in the same way, it cannot be stopped by anybody. Secondly, I am not in any confusion like other politicians regarding the welfare of the nation. I am an ardent supporter of peace for my people. If the way for live and let live is blocked on me, I shall not succumb to violence. Those who want to throw stones on the glasshouses of others or those who instigate others to throw the stones shall have to think their own glasshouses can be made the target of stone pelting.

Appeal for all

I appeal to the political workers and the masses of people to cast aside the confusion. I ask them that instead of becoming hostages to force and imposed situation, to express the facts as these are and as they express in their private houses. The truth is to be told in public. I would appeal to them to keep in mind the current situation around the world and that they should think not only of protecting their selves but protecting future generations also. This type of thinking needs to be evolved. I request the people of Kashmir to think that nobody has shared with you your pain and suffering during these years of turmoil. Nobody died for you. Those who plunged you into the thorns of destruction had some interest and they benefited from it.

It is time that you change your thinking and think of the entire state of Jammu and Kashmir, not only of Kashmir. Think of all the people of different faiths living in this state because we are all the inheritors of the state as a whole. You shall have to carry everybody with you. I must say the bitter truth to those in PoK (Azad Kashmir) who are dreaming of independence that unless you all unite to launch a formidable struggle for the freedom of PoK, Gilgit and Baltistan from occupational forces, the struggle for freedom in Kashmir Valley will not materialise nor shall the people of Jammu and Ladakh become a parrot of national struggle.

In that case the ultimate result of continuing struggle will be that Kashmir will be further divided into parts for all times to come. I intend to take more interest in humanitarian works than in politics.

Many thanks

In my political life, I have followed unadulterated political dispensation. This created many enemies for me especially among those who make false claims for freedom and those who speak of the right of self-determination but without conviction. There are not only enemies but there are many who tried to humiliate me. But my sincerity of purpose also won me many friends who are prepared to make sacrifice for me. They never left me to myself. Among such friends are: My leader Maqbool Butt, G M Loan, Mir Abdul Qayum, Mir Abdul Manan, Ashraf Qureshi, (all four were co-accused in the Ganga hijacking case, and Ashraf and myself are only alive ), Dr Mohsin Shakeel, Dr Ahsan, Jahangir Khan, Shahid Butt, Mehboob Kashmiri, Professor Rashid, Qamar Ayyaz, Sardar Qamar, Shaukat Kashmiri, Mumtaz Khan, Nadir Pervez, Mujeeb-ur-Rahman Shami, Abid Hassan Minto, Abdul Khaliq Ansari, Dr Farooq Haider, Gh Nabi Fai, Dr Siraj Shah, Nazir Gillani, Nawaz Khan, Azmat Khan, Shamus-ur-Rahman, Shabir Choudry, Zaffar Tanveer, Nazeki Sahib, Gh Nabi Loan, Hussain Naqi, Javaid and Shuakat Maqbool Butt, Afzal Tahir, Anayatulla Mir (Haqayat editor) Zia Sahed (Habbrien) Iftikhar Choudry, Khan Ashraf, Jabbar Khan, Jhang Bhadur Chibber, Shabat Hamid, Ch Azam, Neam Thouker, Neam Khan, Rashid Choudry, Murtaza Shah, my brothers, sisters and lot of foreigners who helped me in exile, especially my advocate W J Van Bennekom and many others whose list is too long to be incorporated here.

I deem it my legitimate duty to place on record my great sense of appreciation for all those intellectuals,writers, particularly the journalist fraternity of my motherland, who during all this period of nightmare and suffocation called a spade a spade at the cost of their lives. Above all, my life companion Zaib-un-Nisa has kept me company during past 19 years of turbulence always giving me courage and support and sacrificing everything for me. I cannot repay the debt I owe to all of them. I pray God Almighty grant them health and happiness and bring them success in their noble cause.

I believe

In conclusion let me say that never has in the history of man any religion been wiped out by another religion. People only shed blood on the name of religion but no religion has ever been effaced lock, stock and barrel from the face of the earth. Man has no control on his birth. A child born in the family of a Hindu, Muslim, Christian or Sikh takes after his parents and the environs in which he is brought up. Thus he adopts the religion of his parents. At least up to the age of forty, a man does not know the deeper meanings and teachings of the religion he professes. It is, therefore, quite natural that we respect all faiths. Instead of taking resort to force, we need to take recourse to logic to discuss and convince others on our religion, cultural, political and social views. This is the culminating point of true humanism.


Hashim Qureshi
Chairman Democratic Liberation Party

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