Terrorism is of different kinds and it assumes different forms. It is indulged in by anti-social gangs. Their motives are entirely mercenary. They many indulge in indiscriminate shooting or indulge in sensational robberies. Sons and daughters of the rich are abducted and huge amounts are demanded as ransom. There is also highly organized terrorism for political purposes. In order to gain their political ends, such terrorists create terror by blowing up big buildings or by planting transistor bombs and other explosive devices in crowed places. Such organized terrorism often takes the form of Hijacking. It is piracy in the sky; lives of innocent men, women and children in the captured aeroplane are thus endangered. Hijacking has become a world-wide phenomenon. Today it is not confined to any one country or organization. India herself has been a victim several times of this form of organized terrorism.
The ways of handling hijacker are two. First, they are kept busy in negotiations on the theory that the mounting pressure on the hijackers will ultimately make them surrender after some little concessions on the part of the authorities. Nothing does to alarm them or to trigger of a violent response. That is exactly where the Pakistani authorities failed in tackling the hijack drama of an Indian air-craft in the first week of September, 1986. It is reported that the officials negotiating with the hijackers appeared to be more nervous than the hijackers themselves. That apart, when power seemed to be failing on the aircraft and the hijackers asked for power to be restored, the authorities did not comply. They filed to realize the panic effect of sudden darkness on the hijackers. When the lights failed, the hijackers started shooting indiscriminately. At the time Pakistani commandos were not available. When desperate calls went out of them, there were just a handful available, and form they acted, their training was less than adequate.
A commando raid in a hijack situation can only hope to succeeded two elements are present-surprise and speed. With the bungling of the fading power supply and the hijackers apprehending a raid in the dark, the surprise clement became totally lacking. And speed was conspicuously absent. For about fifteen minutes, all that the commandos could achieve was to shoot from the ground, probably endangering the lies of passengers escaping through emergency exit. There seems to be no security at Karachi airport, if all you need are locally stitched security staff uniforms and a van painted in airport colors to gain entry to take over a plane. The commandos bravely stormed the place only after most of the passengers had fled through emergency exists. There was even enough time for hijackers to take off the fake uniforms and mingle with the departing crowd of passengers.
There have been too many instances of Indian aircraft being hijacked to Pakistan and the authorities dragging their feet on bringing the involved men to trial. In fact, when it comes to air piracy against India, Pakistan has seemed suddenly to have become soft towards the perpetrators of the crime. Although President Reagan praised the determined action of the Pakistani commandos, his feeling of gratification was not shared by the top executives of Pan Am airlines, which suspended all flights to Karachi until they received a proper explanation for the security lapse.
Hijacking is a complex and baffling. No action or organization can tackle it alone. Nations of the world should co-operate in tackling this problem. There should be bilateral as well multinational agreements in this matter as there are in other matters. Nations o organization having truck with the hijackers should b strongly denounced. There should be no security lapses at the airport. All loopholes should be plugged. Full use should be made of metal detectors and other electronic devices. Luggage should be carefully scrutinized, and in this respect no differentiation should be made between ordinary persons and V.I.P’s.
Hijackers are desperate terrorists and great tact is needed in dealing with them. In the beginning a sot attitude should be adopted. Skilled negotiators should negotiate with them. Negotiations should be prolonged till ‘the atmosphere’ begins to tell on their nerves, as it does not that of the passengers. When the time is ripe, some minor concessions may be made as face saving devices. Usually there is surrender after that. In this way many innocent lives are saved and guilty are also punished.
Alternatively, well-trained commandos may storm the aeroplane, but they should do so with lighting swiftness so that the hijackers are taken completely surprise. Then they can be easily arrested. But this technique is full of dangers. Terrorists can go to any extent. They may even blow up the aeroplane or shoot innocent men, women and children. Hence full precautions must be taken in dealing with them.