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1981: Pakistani jet hostages released

The passengers and crew of a Pakistan Airways plane held hostage for nearly two weeks have been released in Syria.

They were freed after the Pakistani Government agreed to the hijackers' demand to release 54 people from prison.

The 147 people on the plane were set free after the former prisoners arrived in Damascus.

The Pakistani's Airways Boeing 720 was taken over at gunpoint by three men during an internal flight from Karachi to Peshawar on 2 March.

They forced the pilots to fly to Afghanistan where they murdered one of the passengers, a Pakistani diplomat.

Led by a man identified as Islamullah Khan, the three hijackers are said to be part of the Al Zulfikar group which wants to oust General Zia ul-Haq.

Accusations

General Zia came to power four years ago in a coup which toppled Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, the leader of the Pakistani People's Party (PPP).

Mr Bhutto was hanged in 1979 after being found guilty of the murder of a political opponent following a trial which was widely condemned as unfair.

Pakistan's rulers have accused the deposed leader's son, Murtazo Bhutto, of being in league with the hijackers.

General Zia said Mr Bhutto, who lives in London, had flown to Kabul Airport to meet the men after they took control of the jet.

Three Americans, one Canadian and a Swede were among the released passengers.

They are said to be unharmed but suffering from mental and physical exhaustion.

The hijackers had said the Americans were CIA agents and threatened to kill them and blow up the plane.

In Context
In the wake of the hijack members of the Pakistani People's Party (PPP) were rounded up and arrested.

Pakistanis were horrified by the murder of the diplomat, Tariq Rahim, and the PPP's alleged backing of the hijackers lost it a lot of popular support.

In 1986 Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto's daughter, Benazir, returned from exile to lead the PPP in a campaign for fresh elections.

In 1988 General Zia died in mysterious circumstances in an air crash.

Later the same year Benazir Bhutto led the PPP to victory in the general election.

However, she was dismissed in 1990 after being accused of corruption and incompetence.

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