Don’t Land There Again

What was the most revolutionary aspect of the December 1999 hijacking of an Indian Airlines jet?

January 19, 2000

What was the most revolutionary aspect of the December 1999 hijacking of an Indian Airlines jet?

People who hijack airplanes — even those who do so for revolutionary ends — demand the payment of ransom before giving up their hostages. Trading hostages for cash not only finances the hijackers’ desperate get-away, but provides a source of funding for whichever fringe or splinter group they happen to belong to.

In the future, expect hijackers to land only on the runways of Western countries. There, demanding ransom is not in contravention of religious doctrine.

No surprise, then, when the hijackers of the Indian Airlines jet — in addition to demanding the release of 36 Kashmiri insurgents jailed in Indian prisons — they effectively wanted a year-end bonus of $200 million.

After a circuitous journey, the plane finally landed for good at an airport in Kandahar, Afghanistan — a country currently ruled by its own militia group, the Taliban.

Since the Taliban had already given sanctuary to Osama bin Laden, the wealthy terrorist suspected of masterminding the bombings of U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania, it appeared as though the hijackers had chosen the ideal place to land.

Then something remarkable happened. The Taliban argued that demanding ransom was in contravention of the basic principles of Islam. To live in accordance with those doctrines, the hijackers quickly dropped their cash demands.

For the rest of the world, this turn of events has at least one important consequence. In the future, we should expect hijackers to painstakingly avoid landing in Islamic countries.

Instead, expect hijackers to show a strong preference for landing on the runways of Western countries. There, demanding ransom is at least not in strict contravention of religious doctrine.

Finally, what ought to be contemplated in order to bring lasting peace to the world is to amend Islamic doctrines. The teachings need to include that, beyond prohibiting ransom money, it is equally improper to hijack a plane — and take hostages.

In our view, the world community should seriously consider rallying around that cause. To show its deep appreciation, it should probably award the religious leader who actually manages to insert that new prohibition clause a handsome final payment, the so-called ransom for world peace money.