Story of Hijacking at Karachi Airport - Pan Am Flight 73
By Saim Chaudhry on May 16, 2016

Story of Hijacking at Karachi Airport - Pan Am Flight 73

Pan Am Flight 73 was hijacked at Karachi airport in Pakistan on September 5, 1986. Flight was enroute from Mumbai to USA, with stop overs in Karachi and Frankfurt. When passengers were boarding the plane at Karachi Airport, four armed men disguised as airport security officials stormed in with guns and grenades. Within minutes they took over the control of the plane.

Neerja Bhanot, head attendant on the flight, gave her life to save many others. She first alerted the pilots using intercom who then managed to escape the plane through an overhead hatch in the cockpit. This prevented hijackers forcing the plane to take off, but also resulted loss of lives as hijackers started firing in desperation. Rajesh Kumar, a 29-year-old Indian American citizen was the first victim who was shot in the head when talks failed to return pilots into plane.

Neerja also hid the passports of US nationals so that they could not be identified from other passengers. As the final moments unfolded in 17 hours long stand-off, hijackers started killing the passengers with explosives, grenades and gun fire. At this point Neerja opened an emergency exit to let the passengers through. She was fatally shot while sending a group of children off the plane before her. In the aftermath, 20 passengers were killed; 12 of them Indian and the rest were from the United States, Pakistan, and Mexico. A full detail of events can be found at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Neerja_Bhanot

I hardly find interest to read about the full horror of events until the recent Bollywood movie Neerja. This shows how powerful media is to create public interest. We must learn from India how to pay tribute and respect their heroes. With the mix of their own propaganda they are quite successful to achieve multiple goals here.

Most important point is though that we have not improved our hospitals since those days. Healthcare was as bad on the time as it is now. According to an article on BBC News - Inside a hijack: The unheard stories of the Pan Am 73 crew, Neerja's colleagues say she was still alive when she arrived at Karachi's Jinnah Hospital. "I didn't see medical facilities at the airport besides minor first aid… The hospital was several kilometers away from the airport," says Dilip. "Neerja was put into the ambulance without a stretcher."

Passengers from the hijacked Pan Am airliner being brought to the local Jinnah Hospital Karachi.Photo by Associated Press (AP)

In 17 hours we could not even arrange basic medical help at the airport? I have read an article about how Benazir Bhutto's corps was lying in hospital floor in Rawalpindi, but still our rulers run to Europe / America for their health checkups instead of improving medical facilities in our own country. From mismanagement to mishandling, we are still the same, nothing changed in Pakistan in 20 years.

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