Image Credits: PIA

In March 1981, the militant insurgency group, Al-Zulfiqar, led by Murtaza Bhutto, hijacked Pakistan International Airlines flight PK-326. The hijacking went on for thirteen days, starting on the 2nd of March, and ending on the 15th. It was a routine flight scheduled from Karachi to Peshawar, but the hijackers diverted it to Kabul, Afghanistan, and then Damascus. They eventually got off at Damascus.

Members of Al-Zulfiqar and the student wing of Pakistan People’s Party, PSF, hijacked the plane, and demanded the release of 92 political prisoners. Some passengers were let off, but others were not. This included Major Tariq Rahim, who Murtaza felt had abandoned his father Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto. The Pakistani diplomat was shot, and his body was thrown onto the tarmac. At first, the Zia-ul-Haq regime was hesitant, and wanted to resist this threat. However, they eventually gave in, and released more than 50 prisoners, which included members of PPP, PSF, and NSF.

The Al-Zulfiqar Organisation described itself as a socialist guerrilla outfit, however, its main purpose was to exact retribution for the death of Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto by Zia-ul-Haq. Although the hijacking was orchestrated to this purpose, it was condemned by PPP’s then leader, Benazir Bhutto.

“In Pakistan, blood will always have blood.”

-Fatima Bhutto