Interview of Hashim Qureshi, Chairman JK Democratic Liberation Party with Aditi Bhaduri (Award winning journalist and researcher in India) for ‘The Quint’.
When you see him it’s difficult to believe that this grey-haired polite man has had a checkered, turbulent past. Kashmiri separatist leader Hashim Qureshi has been in and out of Pakistan since he was 16 years-old when he first went to receive arms training to ‘liberate Kashmir’.
“I was part of the J&K National Liberation Front and I got my first training in arms in Pakistan in 1969,” he recalls. That’s when he met Maqbool Butt whom he came to admire deeply.
“After undergoing training for a few months, I crossed back to the Indian side. Then again I crossed over into Pakistan in 1970, received training in Pakistan Occupied Kashmir (PoK) territory – Balakot, Batakundi, Neelam Valley Ted.”
Indian Airlines Flight Hijack
Armed, trained, financed, in 1971, at the age of 18, Qureshi, together with accomplice Ashraf Qureshi, hijacked an Indian Airlines flight from Srinagar and diverted it to Lahore where he was initially fettled by the Bhutto government. The hijacking led India to ban Pakistani flights over its airspace, crippling Pakistan’s military efforts to tackle the emerging crisis in East Pakistan.
Meanwhile, Qureshi recalls, he made it clear to the authorities that “our demand was liberation for all of Kashmir, even the part under Pakistani control. So we were soon branded as ‘Indian agents’ and thrown into jail.”
Qureshi was incarcerated for nine years in Pakistani jails. Thereafter, he spent several years in PoK till he went into self-imposed exile in the Netherlands. He returned to Srinagar in 2000, where he now lives.
Life in PoK
So what was life like in PoK, which Pakistan calls ‘Azad Kashmir’? Qureshi grimaces. I thought of the video that had recently surfaced, revealing the brutality anti-Pakistani activists face.