Soon they started planning escape from the prison and within a month and half managed to escape from the prison in Srinagar. Maqbool Butt later wrote in great detail about the escape and submitted that before the Special Trial Court in Pakistant where he was tried along with other NLF members for ‘Ganga’ hijacking. However, only a brief account of the escape is included here from one of his interviews:

“On 22nd October 1968 we started planning to escape from the prison and after one and a half month of intense planning we managed to put this plan to practice on 8th December 1968 at 2:10 am by breaking the prison wall. Two of us were on death sentence and the third one with us was a prisoner from Azad Kashmir. It took us 16 days to reach to the first border check post of Azad Kashmir. We reached to Muzaffarabad on 25th December and were interrogated in the interrogation centre of Muzaffarabad till March 1969”.

Answering a question about their arrest in Azad Kashmir, Maqbool Butt said:

“What can I say about that? It was the government of Ayub Khan (in Pakistan) and what can I say about Ayub Khan. This man neither had the welfare of the Pakistani people at his heart nor of the Kashmiris. His government been very cruel to us.  I was severely tortured while in the concentration camp. The pain increased with the thoughts that this was inflicted by our own (Khawaja op. cit. p249).

They were released on 8th March 1969 when PF, NLF and National Students Federation (NSF) activists staged demonstrations in Islamabad. In November 1969 the annual convention of Plebiscite Front was held in Muzaffarabad where Maqbool Butt was elected as its president.

While recognising the set a back of the premature exposure of NLF in the IOK, Maqbool Butt was of the opinion that the above incident inspired and motivated more Kashmiris to join the armed struggle. Explaining this point in the above interview he says ‘now we have entered in a new phase. Not only are we able to speak in the language of power that is the only language India understands but also are able to make the world community, which has ignored our existence, to recognise us. In this world you have to have your existence recognised. We have our existence recognised and we will rest only when the existence of the entire Kashmiri nation is recognised, Inshallah. (op. cit.)


After being elected as the president of PF Maqbool Butt spent next few years in campaigning for the political rights in Gilgit Baltistan and ‘Azad’ Kashmir. The focus of campaign on this side was the 1970 Azad Kashmir Act that turned ‘Azad’ Kashmir a colony of Pakistan, ruled through the Ministry of Kashmir Affairs and the Chief Secretary. This Act also reduced the ‘Azad Kashmir’ to 4500 Square miles area and separated it from the rest of the state of Kashmir. With Gilgit Baltistan the situation was even worse. These parts of the State were directly controlled by Pakistan through a political agent. The PF launched a week long activities to highlight this situation and announced that next convention of PF will be held there. During this week PF activists including Maqbool Butt, Khaliq Ansari, Mir Qayyum, Amanullah Khan and GM Mir were arrested and forcefully exiled from the State boundaries.