Hijacking Attempts in PIA

Zulu Papa (AP-AZP)

1. B 720 on December 03, 1971 (City of Comilla)
2. F-27 Fokker Friendship on Jan 28, 1978
3. B747 on March 2, 1978
4. B 720 on March 3, 1981(Zulu Papa)
5. A 300 Airbus on March 12, 1988
6. F-27 Fokker Friendship on May 24, 1998 (City of Bannu)

1. City of Comilla, 

  • December 03, 1971
  • Aircraft Type: Boeing 720-040 B
  • AP-AMG (City of Comilla),
  • Pakistan seven one two.
  • Sector: London-Paris-Rome-Cairo-Karachi
  • Crew 6, Passengers 22, Total on board: 28
  • Number of hijackers 1, Victim 0

On December 3, 1971, Pakistan International Airlines Boeing 720B  operating flight PK 712 from London to Karachi via Paris, Rome and Cairo with seventeen passengers and six crew members arrived at Paris’s Orly Airport on schedule. Five passengers boarded the aircraft at Paris. The last of these was a 28-year old French man named Jean Kay, who was able to enter the aircraft without undergoing normal security procedures.

Around 1150 the aircraft doors were closed, and during engine start, Jean Kay, slipped into cockpit. armed with a pistol. He threatened the cockpit crew and asked them to shut down the engines while ordering the aircraft’s fuel tanks to be filled to the maximum. He also demanded 20 tons of medicines to be loaded onto the aircraft for delivery in India for the displaced refugees of the unrest in East Pakistan (now Bangladesh). The incident happened a few hours before the Indian invasion of East Pakistan on Dec 3, 1971.

The hijacker also carried a briefcase with two wires sticking out of it claiming it was a bomb. He threatened to blow up the aircraft with the explosives if his demands were not met. He also arranged for a passenger to act as interpreter in French for communicating with the cockpit crew. For much of the day, the French authorities were under the impression that there were two hijackers involved, identifying them as a Frenchman and a Pakistani. Pakistani passengers were terrified when the hijacker announced that he would let everybody off except them at Beirut, Lebanon before heading to India.

Meanwhile the French authorities began arranging delivery of medicines demanded by the hijacker. By 1715 the first truck load of medicines arrived at the airport. While cases of the medicines were being loaded into the aircraft cargo hold, the hijacker allowed a number of elderly passengers and an infant to disembark. He also allowed stewardesses to serve meals to passengers in the aircraft.

The authorities tested the hijacker’s patience by loading medicines slowly and also managed to get his permission for loading some medicines in the rear section of aircraft cabin. Four French policemen disguised as Red Cross workers entered the passenger cabin through aircraft’s rear door to load the medicines. At the same time two more policemen disguised as Air France aircraft technicians entered the aircraft cockpit through a trap door. A policeman disguised as Red Cross worker pounced on the hijacker who retaliated by opening fire from his 9mm pistol. The bullet pierced the police officer’s sweater and slightly wounded him in the hand. The hijacker received a number of blows as he scuffled with the policemen who had entered the aircraft through the trap door. They successfully overpowered and seized the him to end the six hour drama. The subdued hijacker was removed from the aircraft and led for interrogation. The only weapon carried by him was the 9mm pistol. The briefcase that he claimed was a bomb contained a French Bible, an English-French dictionary, a razor, clothes brush and a pair of harmless electrical wires. At the end of the hijacking, the aircraft was cleared to depart Paris.

2. Fokker Hijacking

  • January 20, 1978
  • F-27-400, Fokker Friendship,
  • AP-ALW
  • Flight PK 543
  • Sector: Sukkur – Karachi
  • Crew: 6
  • Passengers:  36
  • Total on board: 42

At 0945 on On January 20,1978, AP-ALW departed Sukkur Airport, on a scheduled flight, PK 543,  for Karachi. During breakfast service, the hijacker got up from his seat and entered the cockpit. Armed with a revolver and dynamite stick he ordered the crew to divert the aircraft to India. The captain told the hijacker that the aircraft did not have enough fuel for India and it could land at Karachi only. Karachi Airport was informed about the hijacking at 1030 and the hijacked aircraft landed there at 1055. It was parked on Bay 17, some distance away from terminal building, and was surrounded by security personnel including some who hid themselves in bushes near the parking bay.

The first person to contact the hijacker was Chairman PIA Air Marshal (Retd) Malik Nur Khan who went up to the aircraft and communicated with the hijacker through the open cockpit window. The hijacker said that he was suffering from cancer and demanded Rs. 10 million plus US 1 million dollars, both in cash, for the release of passengers and crew. The hijacker said he needed this money to enjoy the last days of his life which were being cut short by cancer. During the negotiations Nur Khan told the hijacker that PIA could make the arrangements for treating his disease. He also offered himself as a hostage in the aircraft in exchange for the release of passengers and crew. The hijacker rejected those offers.

The hijacker set a deadline to blow up the aircraft along with the hostages by 1500. The authorities informed him that the banks were closed as it was a Friday – a weekly holiday in Pakistan at the time, so it was not possible to arrange the cash money demanded by him. In the evening, the hijacker allowed supply of food and water for hostages in the aircraft. Near night time, a total of 14 passengers and an air hostess were freed by the hijacker. He released them at different times.

The hijacker sent a message to authorities that he wanted to talk to some important person. In response, Nur Khan accompanied by a Pakistan Army officer came close to the aircraft. The hijacker allowed Nur Khan to enter the aircraft around 2350. After nearly an hour of talk, around 0050 Nur Khan attempted to snatch revolver from the hijacker in the close confines of the cabin. In the ensuing struggle, Nur Khan was shot in the side at point-blank range by the hijacker. By this time, Nur Khan was on top of the hijacker, who was then overpowered by the crew of the aircraft. Nur Khan recovered from his wound. He had the distinction of adding Hilal-e-Shujaat, Pakistan’s highest civil award to the Hilal-e-Jur’at which he had been awarded after the 1965 Pakistan-India war, when he led Pakistan Air Force. He is the only Pakistani citizen to have been awarded both these decorations. The arrested hijacker was identified as Nazir hailing from Mianwali, Pakistan.

3. B747

  • March 2, 1978
  • Boeing 747-282B
  • Registration: AP-AYV
  • Sector ISB-KHI
  • Flight: PK 301
  • Crew: 11 on board
  • Cockpit crew
  • Captain Khusro Nawaz Khan
  • First Officer Hassan Jafri
  • Flight Engineer Khwaja Naseem Ahmed
  • Passengers: 250 on board
  • Total on board: 261
  • Number of hijackers: 1
  • Victims:0


Flight PK-301 departed Islamabad at 1050 hours. About 15 minutes after takeoff, a passenger, later identified as Said Hussain sitting in economy class stood up with a live grenade in his hand and announced his intention of going to the cockpit to ask the pilot to divert the flight to New Delhi, India. He ordered the passengers not to move.

As he turned, and started towards the cockpit, a passenger, retired Lance Naik Abdul Malik of Pakistan Army, got up and grabbed him from behind. In the ensuing scuffle a live grenade in the hijacker’s hand exploded tearing away his wrist. The flying splinters also injured Malik and two other passengers, Israr Ahmed and Sardar Atique sitting near the scene.

The cabin fittings were damaged in the  vicinity of the grenade explosion, but it did not suffer structural damage. The jumbo safely returned to Islamabad Airport where the injured hijacker and passengers were removed from the aircraft and rushed to Combined Military Hospital in Rawalpindi.

After a thorough inspection at Islamabad Airport, the Boeing 747 was allowed to resume its journey to Karachi. The aircraft left Islamabad at 1500 for Karachi.

Chief of the Army Staff and Chief Martial Law Administrator General Muhammad Zia-ul-Haq visited injured Abdul Malik at CMH and congratulated him for successfully foiling the hijack attempt. General Zia announced “Nishan-e-Shujaat” to Abdul Malik for his heroism and exemplary courage in dangerous circumstances.

“Nishan-e-Shujaat” also carried Rs. 20,000  cash award. In addition, General Zia also announced Rs. 50,000 cash for him. Chairman PIA Air Marshal (Retd) Malik Nur Khan announced a life stipend of Rs. 2,000 per month and travel facilities as enjoyed by PIA employees for Abdul Malik.

4. Zulu Papa

  • March 03, 1981
  • Aircraft Type: Boeing 720-030B,
  • Registration: AP-AZP
  • Sector Karachi – Peshawar
  • PK 326
  • Crew 9, Passengers 132, Total on board 144
  • Number of hijackers 3, Victim 1 passenger

Cockpit crew
Captain Saeed Khan
First Officer Junaid Yunus
Flight Engineer Munawwar

Cabin crew
Flight Purser Javed Bhatti
Flight Steward Shakeel Qadri
Flight Steward Zaffar Ishtiaq
Flight Steward Muhammad Feroze Maniar
Air Hostess Naila Nazir
Air Hostess Farzana Sharif – she was released by hijackers at Damascus Airport on March 9 after falling ill.

On March 3, 1981, Pakistan International’s flight PK-326 on a routine domestic flight from Karachi to Peshawar was hijacked in mid-air by three armed men, and diverted it to Kabul, Afghanistan. They demanded the release of 92 “political prisoners” from Pakistani jails.


  • March 4: twenty nine hostages including women, children and sick men were released in Kabul.
  • March 5: the released passengers were flown to Peshawar by PIA Fokker F27 Friendship. Another sick male passenger was released by hijackers.
  • March 6: the hijacked aircraft sat in Kabul, and when Pakistan’s President Zia-ul-Haq refused to give in, the hijackers shot a Pakistani diplomat Tariq Rahim in full view of the other passengers and dumped his body on the tarmac.
  • March 7: the hijackers released two sick Pakistani men and also forced two American women who wanted to remain on board to leave the aircraft. The two air hostesses were also offered freedom but both of them decided to stay in the aircraft.
  • March 8: the aircraft flew to Damascus, Syria, and by the time the ordeal ended there on March 15, more than 100 hostages had endured 13 days of tension. At that time it was the longest hijacking episode in the history.
  • March 9: the hijackers freed an air hostess at Damascus Airport.
  • March 11: relatives of two hijackers were freed and flown from Karachi to Damascus to plead for the lives of hostages but the hijackers didn’t meet them. They repeatedly threatened to blow up the plane, but the talks dragged on and negotiations continued by radio with Pakistani and Syrian officials in the airport control tower. Finally the hijackers settled for 55 prisoners but they coupled this with a grim warning: they would soon kill the three Americans on board. “Be ready to pick up the bodies,” they told the tower. Twenty minutes before the deadline President Zia ordered the prisoners to be flown to Libya. “It’s over,” said Pakistani negotiator Sarfraz Khan. But it wasn’t over. First, the Pakistani authorities said they could not trace one of the 55 prisoners, and some didn’t want to leave Pakistan.
  • March 15: a PIA Boeing 707 flew 54 prisoners from Karachi to Aleppo, Syria. After arriving at Aleppo, the prisoners were transferred to a smaller Syrian Air aircraft for flight to Libya. As the Syrian aircraft carrying the released prisoners approached Tripoli, the Libyans announced that they had changed their mind about granting asylum to the hijackers and their friends. The hostages’ lives were again in jeopardy as the aircraft after circling Tripoli Airport, flew on to Athens, where the officials refused it landing permission until the desperate pilot radioed that he was going to ditch in the Aegean Sea for want of fuel. It was then allowed to land and refuel at Athens. Finally, Syria announced that it would allow in the prisoners and the hijackers, and the gunmen gave up. The Syrian aircraft with the released prisoners returned to Damascus from Athens. After arrival of the political prisoners at the airport, the three young hijackers emerged, gun barrel first from the rear door. They surrendered their weapons to the Syrian officials and drove off with them to the luxurious Damascus Airport Hotel & Casino,  where the political prisoners also had been accommodated.
  • After the exit of the hijackers, the freed passengers began leaving the aircraft from the front door. The passengers were followed by the crew members. The captain was the last person to come out of the plane. The long flight was over.
  • Another set of PIA crew (Capt. Syed Irtiza and First Officer Ahsan A. Bilgrami) ferried the aircraft, AP-AZP, to Karachi from Damascus. It landed at Karachi Airport on March 16, at 1716 hours.

The freed passengers and crew members were flown to Peshawar on March 18 by PIA from Jeddah, where they had been sent by the GOP (Government of Pakistan) to perform Umrah at Mecca after their release in Damascus.

AP-AZP was withdrawn from use in April 1981.It was put on display at Jabees Funland in New Clifton, Karachi. A few years later, it was removed from the park and sold as scrap.

1985 Flight Safety Foundation (FSF) Heroism Award was presented to air hostess Naila Nazir for her handling of the tense and dangerous situation during 13 days of the ordeal. At the time, Naila was 19 years old and had joined the airline two months ago. The hijackers offered Naila to leave the aircraft at Damascus Airport but she decided to stay with the passengers and crew till the end during which she took good care of passengers.
The FSF Heroism Award was established in 1968 to recognize civil aircraft crew members or ground personnel whose heroic actions exceeded the requirements of their jobs. The selection of the ‘FSF Heroism Award’ recipients is determined by the degree of personal risk involved in the heroic act; the nature of the courage, perseverance and other personal characteristics that were displayed; and the degree to which the heroism was outside normal levels of duty and ability.

5. Airbus A 300

  • March 12, 1988
  • A 300B4-203
  • AP-BCJ
  • Sector: Karachi-Quetta-Lahore
  • PK 320
  • Crew: 13, Passengers: 143, Total on board: 156
  • Hijacker: 1, Victims: 0

PK-320 left Karachi on schedule for flight to Lahore via Quetta. While it was some 100 miles from Quetta, a passenger seated in the First Class left his seat and went into the rest room. After coming out from there, he headed for the cockpit, and with a revolver ordered the pilots to divert the flight to Afghanistan or India. At the time the cockpit door was open and a passenger who was present inside the cockpit got hold of the hand of the hijacker in which he was holding the revolver and pushed him out of the cockpit. Before the hijacker could control his balance he was grabbed by air guard Liaquat. While the hijacker and air guard struggled to overpower each other, the hijacker fired a number of shots, three of which hit the air guard. The hijacker also got hit by a bullet fired by him.

A number of passengers including PIA General Manager Sardar Muhammad Aslam also arrived at the scene to assist the air guard and punched, kicked and hit the hijacker. The hijacker who was wearing shalwar kameez and a large turban was subdued and the crew tied his hands and legs with strings and turban that he was wearing. Within five minutes the whole situation was brought under control. The pilot through an announcement informed passengers that the hijacker has been overpowered and there was nothing to worry.

Luckily the bullets did not damage aircraft airframe.The air guard received medical treatment from two doctors present on board the aircraft, and the bullet wounds were not life threatening. The Airbus landed at Quetta Airport on schedule. At Quetta, the three wounded persons, i.e. hijacker, air guard and PIA General Manager were rushed to the hospital. The PIA General Manager was injured when he joined the passengers to overpower the hijacker. The hijacker was identified as 28-year old Abdul Mannan Achakzai.

All passengers disembarked the aircraft there and underwent a security screening process. Baggage and cargo items were also removed from the aircraft for checks. About five hours later, after a thorough inspection of passengers and aircraft, PK-320 was cleared to depart for Lahore.

6. City of Bannu

  • May 24, 1998
  • F-27-200, Fokker Friendship,
  • AP-BCZ, “City of Bannu,”
  • Flight Pk 554
  • Sector Turbat-Gwadar-Karachi
  • Crew: 5′ Passengers: 28; Total on board: 33
  • Number of hijackers 3
  • Victims: 0

Flight PK-554 departed Turbat Airport at 4:40 PM for flight to Karachi via Gwadar. The aircraft was carrying a total of 29 passengers including three traveling to Gwadar. At 1735 it landed at Gwadar Airport where three passengers disembarked and two boarded the aircraft for Karachi. The aircraft carrying 27 passengers and 5 crew members departed Gwadar at 1755 for Karachi, where it was expected to land at 1855.

After takeoff from Gwadar, a young man got up from his seat and moved towards the aircraft cockpit. An Air Hostess tried to stop the man from entering the cockpit but she was pushed away. He entered the cockpit and with a pistol ordered the pilots to divert the flight to Jodhpur, India. He was joined by two other hijackers. An announcement was made by the pilot informing the passengers that aircraft has been hijacked and would now be flown to India. The pilot managed to set the aircraft transponder to the hijack code for conveying the distress signal and alert air traffic controllers on the ground. The aircraft on the civilian and air force radars appeared to head for Indian air space. Two PAF fighter interceptor aircraft that were on  routine Combat Air Patrol (CAP) in the area began monitoring the hijacked flight and escort it. The pilot of flight PK-554 told the hijackers that the aircraft was running out of fuel and he would land at Bhuj Airport in India. The shrewd pilot then landed the aircraft at Hyderabad Airport in Pakistan but told the hijackers it was at Bhuj Airport in India and needed refueling. The hijackers did not understand English, so it was possible for the cockpit crew and airport authorities to discuss the situation and plan their actions in that language. The authorities at Hyderabad Airport also switched off the airport lights to prevent the hijackers from identifying the airfield. One of the three hijackers stayed inside the cockpit, another positioned himself near the main door of the aircraft and the third roamed through the aircraft cabin. All three were wearing shalwar kameez.

A number of Pakistani government and security officials pretending to be Indian officials started talks with the hijackers. The hijackers demanded a meeting with Pakistan’s High Commissioner in India to present their demands. The hijackers were unhappy over reports of the Pakistan’s Government plan to conduct nuclear tests in Baluchistan. They sought assurance that the tests would not be conducted on that soil. The hijackers also complained against inappropriate distribution of funds for Baluchistan and lack of humanitarian assistance for areas affected by floods in Makran.

The hijackers threatened to kill crew members and passengers if their demands were not fulfilled. One of the hijackers shouted that he would blow up the aircraft and one of his partners displayed a bag that he claimed contained explosives. Meanwhile, Pakistani officials acting as Indians continued holding talks with the hijackers and during this process assessed the overall situation for planning the action to overpower the hijackers. The aircraft also received food and water for passengers and crew. Around 2335, the hijackers sent the aircraft’s Ground Engineer Sajjad Chaudhry to get water and food and ask the airport authorities to refuel the aircraft for flight to New Delhi. The Ground Engineer returned to the aircraft with food and water. At night, the aircraft’s lights went off and the cabin became hot. In the darkness the terrified children began crying and shouting, and at that point the hijackers allowed what they thought was an Indian aircraft technician on board ( actually he was a Pakistan Army officer) to leave the aircraft. After the disguised man left the aircraft around 0250, the Pakistani officials acting as Indians managed to persuade the hijackers to free women, children and infants on board the aircraft. While women and children were getting down from the aircraft, other passengers also tried to get out and in the melee that followed the hijackers were easily overpowered by the disguised Pakistanis including men belonging to Pakistan Army and Police. The three hijackers were identified as Pakistan nationals Sabir, Shabbir and their leader Shahswar. Two pistols were recovered from their possession. A PIA F27 flight transported freed passengers from Hyderabad to Karachi where it landed at 0755 on May 25. Later, the released aircraft was also flown to Karachi where it landed at 0930 on the same day.

Courtesy of : historyof pia.com

2 thoughts on “Hijacking Attempts in PIA

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