Srinagar: Forty-three years after it happened, few remember that one of the earliest plane hijacks in the world was carried out with a toy pistol by a 16-year-old Kashmiri boy.
But in the mind of Hashim Qureshi, that boy who is now 59 years old, the incident still ticks away like the script of a high voltage Hollywood thriller.
He hijacked an Indian Airlines Srinagar-Jammu flight to Lahore Jan 30, 1969, armed with a toy pistol and a wooden grenade. From a freedom fighting hijacker to an advocate of peace and progress today, his journey has been arduous.
Hashim, who is still facing a hijack case in a Srinagar court - the trial has been going on for 12 years, says he first went to Pakistan in 1968 to see his sister who had married there.
"I met Maqbool Bhat (founder of the pro-independence outfit JKLF) in Peshawar. Bhat said India would never leave an inch of Kashmir to Pakistan, but an independent Kashmir could always be negotiated," Hashim said in an interview.
Hashim became dedicated to the freedom cause. He came back and circumstances helped him use the Border Security Force (BSF) for his plans.
"In a haircutting salon in Lal Chowk, I met a Kashmiri Border Security Force (BSF) officer. I told him I wanted to go to Pakistan. He agreed to help me cross the border provided I brought some information the BSF needed. I agreed and the BSF managed my clandestine entry into Pakistan through the Sialkot border."
He was actually double-crossing the BSF. In Pakistan, Hashim was trained for the hijack.
Image: Founding member of Jammu Kashmir Liberation Front and chairman of Jammu Kashmir Democratic Liberation Party (JKDLP), Hashim Qureshi, during a rally in Kupwara, Jammu and Kashmir. (Picture credit: Wikimedia Commons)