Maulana Masood Azhar Kandahar hijacking episode (File Photo)
India’s strong diplomacy since 2014 forced many countries to fall in line. The long-time pending bid of India in United Nations was finally supported by China and Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM) chief Maulana Masood Azhar was declared as a 'global terrorist'. Masood Azhar’s Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM) is responsible in number of terrorist attacks in India including Pulwama attack in 2019 killing 40 soldiers, Uri attack in 2016 killing 19 soldiers, Pathankot attack in 2016 killing 7 soldiers and Parliament attack 2001 killing 9 people.
It is to be noted that Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM) terrorist organization was formed in March 2000 with a so-called aim of freeing Kashmir from India. Well, you can also say to terrorise India. Three months before JeM was formed, it’s chief Maulana Masood Azhar was released by India after the Kandahar hijacking episode.
On 24th December 1999, IC-814 was flying to Delhi from Kathmandu. Within half an hour of take-off, the plane was taken over by five Pakistani hijackers and forced pilot to fly to Lahore. However, Pakistan denied the plane permission to land.
India desperately requested Pakistan to allow the plane to land — low of fuel, it could crash any time — and to try and prevent its exit. Pakistan let the plane land and refuel — but no attempts were made to stop it.
The plane next landed in Dubai, where 27 passengers and the body of Rupen Katyal, whom the hijackers had stabbed, were off-loaded. At this point, India requested the UAE and even the US to help, asking them to hold the plane at the airport till a team of Indian commandos could reach there. Unfortunately, the two countries did not offer any help. The plane finally landed at Kandahar.
Afghanistan was then under the control of the Taliban. Taliban, in the name of ‘protecting passengers’ surrounded the plane. But what they were doing was to make sure Indian commandos could not storm the flight.
According to the media reports, the hijackers wanted the release of 36 terrorists as well as a huge amount of cash. A team of negotiators flew to Kandahar. In the meantime, in India, pressure was mounting, with the relatives of the flight passengers staging protests.
After the negotiations with hijackers failed, the Atal Bihari Vajpayee-led government agreed to their demands and the then external affairs minister Jaswant Singh took the three terrorists including Masood Azhar, Omar Sheikh and Mushtaq Ahmed Zargar alias 'Latram' to Kandahar in Afghanistan in a special plane to ensure the release of passengers of the hijacked plane.
None of the five hijackers were caught. In the year 2017, three including Abdul Latif Adam Momin alias Abdul Rehman alias Patel, Yusuf Nepali and Dalip Bhujail, were convicted for arranging passports, tickets and arms for the hijackers. Nepali was later acquitted. The acquittal has been challenged. Momin’s appeal against his life imprisonment is in the Supreme Court. Azhar, meanwhile, is safe in Pakistan.