Lahore: Molvi Rafiq Ahmad Mufti, who along with four other associates hijacked an airplane in 1976, died at 64 on Monday evening in Lahore.
Mufti, a resident of Shopian, and his four young comrades—Abdul Hameeed Deewani, Mohammad Ahsan Rather, Ghulaam Nabi Itoo and Ghulam Rasool—had on 10 September 1976 hijacked the Mumbai-bound airliner with 83 passengers on board from Delhi airport. The plane, on their directions, touched down at Lahore airport.
“On late Monday evening we got to know about his demise through social media,” said Mohammad Yaqoob, brother of Mufti.
Mufti was pursuing his graduation from the Government Degree College, Bemina, Srinagar, when one day in 1976 he suddenly vanished. It was after the hijacking of the Boeing 737 that his family got to know about his whereabouts.
“We were completely oblivious about his plans. No one in the family, not even his close friends in the town, had an inkling that he was going to take such a big step,” Yaqoob said.
It is said that Molvi and his comrades had hijacked the plane as a protest against the1975 Indira-Sheikh accord. The release of JKLF leader Mohammad Maqbool Bhat was also on the list of their demands.
“They also wanted to take the plane to few other countries after filling it up at Lahore to capture the attention of world towards the freedom struggle of Kashmir,” said a senior citizen of Shopian, adding that the young men were unhappy with the 1975 accord.
The skyjackers, however, were captured at Lahore airport and were jailed for three years while the plane was sent back to India.
“They walked out of jail after Zia-ul-Haq took over as the president of Pakistan,” said a relative of Mufti.
Mufti is survived by his wife and two sons. Pertinently on 30 January 1971, Hashim Qureshi and his associate Ashraf Qureshi had hijacked a Jammu bound plane to Lahore. They later set the plane on fire at Lahore airport.