He hijacked plane, was convicted but is now free
TORONTO: At the gurdwara at Toronto, a Sikh man’s desire to remain in Canada is the hot topic of discussion because he was once a militant fighting for the Sikh cause in Punjab but is now a graduate of law and wanting to practice law rather than politics. Parminder Singh Saini, the Sikh who is facing deportation from Canada for hijacking an Indian airliner 24 years ago, has said he’s a changed man and should be allowed to remain in Canada to practice law. In 1984, Parminder was the an activist in the Sikh aspirational struggle and was part of the group which has allegedly planned hijacking of the Indian Airlines plane with 264 people on board. After negotiations, the plane landed safely in Lahore, Pakistan. No one was seriously hurt and the hijackers surrendered.
Saini was convicted and sentenced to death, although that was later commuted to life in prison. He spent 10 years in jail in Pakistan. In 1994, Saini came to Canada and applied for refugee status. He says he holds no passport because India stripped him of his following the hijacking. When Canadian authorities discovered Saini was in the country, they ordered him deported.
While still in Canadian custody, Saini received a pardon from Pakistan, wiping out the hijacking conviction in that country. However, a Canadian judge later ruled on Saini’s case, writing: “The conviction in this case was for an offence so abhorrent to Canadians, and arguably so terrifying to the rest of the civilized world, that our court is not required to respect a foreign pardon of such an offence.”
Saini recently earned a law degree from the University of Windsor and is articling with a suburban Toronto law firm. Gurdev Singh Mann, who runs the North York Sikh Temple, said he doesn’t support Saini’s bid to remain in Canada.
A Canadian deportation order for Saini is still active. But now, Parminder has said that the days of militancy are behind him, as indeed is the situation with thousands and thousands of Punjab youth. The CBC which interviewed the man recently has quoted him as saying that he will no more advocate violence.
He said he’s now focused on the law rather than politics. he said he has learnt during his law studies that if a minority wants an independent state, there are legal ways to achieve it and there was no need of violence. But he will be facing a crucial test when it will come to admitting him to the bar. The decision will rest with the Law Society of Upper Canada.
“I have objection because he got background, he had links with the terrorists, he had terrorist activities which is that he hijacked a airplane. And who knows that he can do something here too?” he said.
Paul Ocheje, who taught Saini at the University of Windsor’s law school, said he’s a changed man.