San Francisco — Mr. S. Zafar, Pakistan’s former law Minister, was extremely critical of his country’s law against hijacking. He felt that the law was rather stringent and was the product of special circumstances. Mr. Zafar, who is currently visiting United States, told World Sikh News in a chance meeting with the Editor here that the law was enacted in the wake of the hijacking of a Pakistan Aircraft in which an Army officer was shot dead by the hijackers. The Military rulers of that time were bitter and revengeful at the killing of their officer. The law was enacted more under the strain of bitterness and rancour than with the coolheaded foresight of the lawmakers.
According to Pakistan law, a person convicted for hijacking can either be sentenced to death or given life imprisonment. There is no provision for any kind of clemency or consideration even when hijacking may be the result of “grave and sudden provocation” or other extenuating circumstances.
Mr. Zafar is defending the 14 Sikhs who are facing charges of hijacking two Indian Airlines planes. Five are charged with the alleged hijacking of Indian Airliner in September 1981 and nine for the hijacking of Indian Airbus in July 1984. Most of the hijackers
Have admitted to charge but have maintained that their act cannot be called hijacking as they neither harmed the plane, nor harassed the passengers, nor set out any demands. They had resorted to this course merely to focus the world attention on the plight of Sikhs in India who are undergoing untold sufferings and persecution. Their act was in the nature of a protest to arouse the conscience of the world to the barbarous extermination of Sikhs by communal fanatics belonging to the ruling community.
On being asked about Pakistan people’s attitude towards the alleged hijackers in particular and Sikh predicament in general, Mr. Zafar said that the people of Pakistan had considerable sympathy for the hijackers and they were also deeply concerned with the sad situation that the Sikhs were facing in India. He, however, felt that Pakistan had its own share of problems. The colossal problem of over three million Afghan refugees out of which more than 30,000 were Russian spies had literally bogged down Pakistan resulting in a tremendous drain on its resources. On the chances of the acquittal of the 14 Sikhs, he was quite hopeful particularly in the case of 4 Sikhs who had denied connection with the hijackings.
Article extracted from this publication >> August 16, 1985