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Demolishing myths of Indo-Pak wars 1965 & 1971 




S SAJAD HAIDER 







FLIGHT OF THE FALCON FLIGHT OF THE FALCON 


By 

S SAJAD HAIDER 

V 

VANGUARD BOOKS Lahore/ Karachi/ Islamabad 

Copyright: ©2010 by Vanguard Books Pvt Ltd and S Sajad Haider 
All rights reserved 

This book may not be reproduced, in whole or in part, including illustrations and pictures, in any form without written permission from 
the author and publisher 

Revised Third Edition ISBN: 


V 

Vanguard Books (Pvt) Ltd 72-FCC Gul berg-4, Lahore, Pakistan Plx # 92-42-5875622 Fax: # 92-42-5751025 email 
inib@vanguardbooks.com 

Printed at: 

Banquet Printing Press, Lane No 28-A, Nisbat Road, Lahore Phone No 92-42-7245590 

Copyright: ©2010 by Vanguard Books Pvt Ltd., 

All rights reserved 

This book men > not be reproduced, in whole or in part, including illustrations and pictures, in any form without written permission from 
the publishers & author. 

Revised Third Edition ISBN : 978-969-402-526-1 

V 

Vanguard Books (Pvt) Ltd. 

72-LCC Gulberg-4, Lahore, Pakistan Plx # 92-42-35875622 Fax: # 92-42-35751025 email: inib@vanguardbooks.com 

Printed at: 

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TRIBUTE 

To my parents who taught us the meaning of integrity, honour and courage, silently through their indomitable personal example. 

And... 

To my gqllant comrades who were martyred defending this nation, laughing in the lace of death; and to those who fought with courage and 
survived; neither knew that their sacrifices were in senseless wars perpetrated by helmsmen with defeated minds. 

Contents 

Prelace ix 
Abbreviations xii 
Acknowledgements xiv 
Author’s Note xv 
Foreword xxi 
Prologue xxiv 

Chapter 1 hi the Shadow of My Father 1 
Chapter 2 Chasing a Pilot’s Dream 9 
Chapter 3 First Jet Squadron in Pakistan 23 
Chapter 4 Westward Ho! 38 
Chapter 5 Coming of Age 48 



Chapter 6 Command of a Fighter Squadron 68 
Chapter 7 Ram of Kutch Skirmish 79 
Chapter 8 Ayub Khan Blunders - Kashmir Lost 87 
Chapter 9 PAF Blunts Indian Invasion 119 
Chapter 10 Success Turns to Failure 143 
viii | 

Flight of the Falcon 

Chapter 1 1 The Drift Alter 1965 War 187 

Chapter 12 The Gathering Stonn216 

Chapter 13 War of 1971 -Another Betrayal 230 

Chapter 14 Shameful Capitulation and the Aftermath 270 

Chapter 15 Beginning of the End 286 

Chapter 16 Attack Conspiracy 304 

Chapter 17 1 ligli Command Crumbles 352 

Chapter 18 New Lease for the PAF 361 

Chapter 19 hi the Shadow of Myself 377 

Epilogue 407 

Index 427 

Appendix 43 5 

PREFACE TO REVISED THIRD EDITION 

When confronted by fairytales, I am compelled to tell the whole truth and not a monosyllable less. I have been prompted to say this by certain 
observations that were made on my version of history which I feel need to be addressed. It would be prudent to mention that I went ahead and 
wrote this book despite the opinion of some of my peers that raw truth, even if it is backed by evidence and corroborated by impeccable sources, 
will not change opinions, let alone demolish myths or lialftruths that have endured for decades. They argued that the nation lias been nurtured on 
lies and fantasies which are as pervasive as they are toxic and lienee my quest to unveil lacts would have little market potential and major 
publishers would be reluctant to publish my work. 

My resolve remained unshaken and 1 am glad I persevered. Flight of the Falcon was a leap of faith and a labour of love. I am humbled and 
honored by the interest generated in Pakistan and the feedback received from countries ranging from Australia and UK to USA (Los Angeles), all 
the way up to Canada. Flight of the Falcon is in fact soaring to heights far beyond my expectations. This freshly revised version is the third 
edition to hit the shelves in five months. I am overwhelmed by the response, some uplifting others poignantly cynical. These include a preview by 
AnjumNiaz (DAWN), articles and reviews by Dr Sbireen Mazari (The News), book reviews by Raza Runi (TFT) and the author of Crossed 
Swords , Shuja Nawaz (DAWN Books and Authors), articles by Afrah Jamal (The News), and interviews by Ahmed Faruqui (DAWN TV), 

N aeem Bokliari (HUM TV), SAMAA TV, and Sultan Hali (PTV). All this publicity lias acted as a catalyst in the surging sales and is responsible 
for the astonishing success of this book. 

The objections raised were brought to my attention by respected senior officers and one by a former colleague. One concerned the 6 th of 
September 1965, referring to a tactical failure of the strategic pre- enptive plan which was botched that day and its bearing upon air superiority 
claims the next day. A candid analysis based on irrefutable empirical data had been chronicled in Chapter 1 0, which lias again been reiterated to 
discard any notions that complete air superiority was achieved by the PAF by 7 th September 1 965. In reality, we had a good measure of air 
superiority over our vulnerable assets and desired air superiority over crucial battle areas in Kashmir and later over Punjab. Maximum IAF aircraft 
shot in the air (3 Hunters against the claimof7) and destroyed on the ground (13 a^inst the claim of 12) were on 6 th September, not the 7 th 
September. On 7 th Sept the IAF launched about 60 sorties but only 33 came through. A total of four IAF lighters were destroyed and 29 went 
back safely. Sargodba bad 75 fighter aircraft sprawled on the ground when the first IAF raid arrived. They were in a hurry and showed very poor 
marksmanship. The 33 IAF raids only destroyed one PAF fighter on the ground. Rcsultantly, the insalubrious performance by the PAF air defence 
command and its elements did not justify calling 7 th Sept the "Greatest Day” by our historians. The 7 th September performance against the Indian 
raid not withstanding, all the elements of the Pakistan Air Force operational command put up a stunning performance throughout the 1965 War. 
My only intent in this candid, if brutal synopsis of these two Indo-Pak Wars ( 1 965 and 1971) was to help the present generation of commanders 
to avoid the same pitfalls of yore. No lessons were brought out then or at any other time. The Armed Forces have always remained above 
reproach sans accountability owing to incompetent political leadership. 

The other critique was about the treacherous planning and attempted hijack by the Bengali pilot Fit Lt Mati ur Rehman in 1 97 1 . Hie redoubtable 
Gp Capt Zaheer Hussain, President of the Air Investigation Board, who had conducted the investigation, was indignant at the way Iris findings had 
somehow become tainted. The edited version of the botched hijack attempt of 1971 on page 220 has been replaced with the one attested by Gp 
Capt Zaheer Hussain 

This brings me finally to the issue chronicled in the Epilogue about the people of Pakistan and the quagmire they find themselves in at the hands of 
the political mafia, their despotic leaders and dictators. A lot has happened in the past year, so a comment is needed to recapitulate the misery of 
the poor masses and the dwindling middle class. 

Never lias the slogan of" Roti, Kapra aur Makan ’ (‘Bread, Cloth and Home’) jarred so much as now when women die for a sack of flour and a 
bowl of sugar. The great Quaid bad said, “If you want to make this great state (sic) of Pakistan happy and prosperous we should wholly and solely 
concentrate on the well being of the people, and especially of the masses and the poor.” His vision has been destroyed by successive governments, 



especially by unscrupulous politicians who under a faqade of democracy, have started selling what shreds of national dignity that remained. They 
were facilitated by a dictator through Iris ignominious NRO that legitimized and legalized corruption. Now all conuption by the power elite will be 
above the law. Is there any wonder that the masses silent protests are resounding in the words of Barack Obama and the solution being offered 
through the stringent small print in the Kerry- Lugar bill is to keep the hyenas of the establishment from pulling Ayub Khan and Zia ul Haq type of 
tactics in the future. 

What an irony that the hunger pangs of the nation mean nourishing business for the plunderers who are the cartel mafia of sugar, cement and flour. 
The big fish, 99 % of the top elite (military, bureaucrats and politicians) are all guilty of financial and moral crimes. I doubt if this democracy can 
stand up to the exacting standards of the West. Sovereignty is a precious thing, but only those bom in the 1 930s, who witnessed Pakistan emerge 
as a proud nation but also saw it wither away into oblivion soon after the Mier of the nation died, will mourn for what they lost and know what is 
at stake. Hie power to change lies with the young generation Only by stoking the fire in then' heart can they show power and demand their dignity 
and sovereignty back in a mighty blitzkrieg. 

Abbreviations 

Ack- Ack Anti Aircraft 
ADC Air Defence Centre 

ADGES Air Defence Ground Environment System AGL Above Ground Level 

AHQ Air Head Quarters 

AOC Air Officer Commanding 

ASI Air Speed Indicator 

ATC Air Traffic Control 

C-in-C Commander in Chief 

CAS Close Air Support 

CAP Combat Air Patrol 

CAS Chief of Air Staff 

CENTO Central Treaty Organisation CO Commanding Officer 
COC Command Operations Centre COAS Chief of Anry Staff 
FI TN T Electronic Intelligence 

GOC General Officer Commanding GOC-in-C General Officer Commanding in Chief HJ Hilal-e- Jurat 

AHQ Air Headquarters 

IAF Indian Air Force 

OC Officer Commanding 

ORP Operation Readiness Platform 

In die Shadow of My Father | xiii 
PAF Pakistan Air Force 
POW Prisoner of War 

RAF RoyalAirForce 

RPAF Royal Pakistan Air Force SAM Surface to Air Missile 
SASO Senior Air Staff Officer 

SEATO South East Asian Treaty Organisation SJ Sitara-e- Jurat 
TOT Time Over Target 
USAF United States Air Force 
VCAS Vice-Chief of Air Staff 

ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS 

This book would not have been possible had the late Air Marshal Rahim Khan not encouraged me to pursue it with enduring commitment. It took 
me years to finally get down to start the writing, but the resolve to complete it is owed to the remarkable guidance, patience, and support from the 
living legends. Air Marshals Asghar Khan and Nur Khan, and many fonner air force colleagues. Words would be inadequate to describe my 
gratitude to Air Cdre (R) Bill Latif whose relentless support, long hours of diligent editing and authentication of rny dissertation with incredible 
attention todetaif kept me immersed in the endeavour. Until one fateful day, hiving conpleted 80% of the work, he was felled by a stray bullet 
during an evening stroll in Islamabad’s F8/4 Sector. Hie bullet penetrated above his right jaw and was lodged in Iris left cheek bone. Tragically, he 
lost his right eye and after the bullet was removed he suffered a stroke. This unforeseen tragedy brought my project to a near halt, for I was 
emotionally shaken beyond belief I owe to him the outcome of try story which he had read through twice before he decided to edit it. May Allah 
restore Iris health. I also owe try jump start to a young lady called Eeman Malik who conposed as I dictated for over 8 months. Thanks are also 
due to try comrade Sqn Ldr (R) Nisar-ul Haq who provided me reference books, exceipts and innumerable contacts with persons I needed to 
interview. Surely, I could not have put the elan in the presentation of try effort, especially the intricate photo work, without the diligence of try 
daughter-in-law Sophiya Haider. 1 am thankful to rny children, Adnan, Zohare and Zaiena, and especially to rny sister Kausar, for their unflagging 
support through out the years. Lastly, despite all this support, the book became a reality owing to the resilience and dedication shown by Rina 
Saeed Khan. Most fortunately, Air Cdre (R) Kaiser Tufail joined in at the end and offered to edit the final manuscript incisively. To the two of 
them I owe rny deepest gratitude. 



Air Cdre (R) Sayed Sajad Haider ISLAMABAD 
1 st March 2009 


AUTHOR’S NOTE 

They say those who do not learn from history are condemned to repeat it. In Pakistan, I can safely say that history lias been murdered by those 
who have come to power. It is now time that history is re-written and the truth is told. The lessons of past wars need to be brought out for 
Pakistan’s survival Today, as I enter the twilight of my life I have surfed through my past, recapturing exciting events, especially the spectacular 
episodes during my 28 years in the Pakistan Air Force. I have also chronicled the trials and tribulations which I had to lace. I feel it should be my 
legacy to leave behind a detailed account of not just the battles in which I fought, but the circumstances that led to these senseless conflicts with 
India and the leaders responsible for the wars. I want to present an honest expose of what really happened in Pakistan’s history. 

I inherited a strong sense of patriotism from my lather who was a staunch devotee of Mohammad AH Jirmah and a pioneer of the Muslim League in 
Baluchistan. My notions oiAzadi (Freedom) and loathing for the colonialists were nourished in this errbryonic stage. As World War II ended, the 
movement for freedom from the colonial powers gathered impetus . Then came the Partition with afl its fory and the inferno of hatred and unjustified 
revenge on a religious basis, which tore apart the fabric of communal unity of the Sub-continent. My young mind could not comprehend the 
velocity of events as we sat numbed from the loot, plunder and human carnage that foflowed. Many Hindu women and children who were known 
to my parents were sheltered in our modest house for days before afl of them left Quetta. Time evaporates bad memories, as gradually all of us 
children grew out of the trauma of the Partition and got on with life dreaming about the foture, in which the Quaid-e- Azam was the synbol of hope 
for our young minds. 

The more I heard about the Quaid-e- Azam from our parents, the more my adoration for him grew. Names like Lord Mountbatten, Radclilf Nehru 
and the Indian Congress were an anathema to our young minds because in our understanding this nexus had taken Kashmir, Hyderabad Deccan, 
Jmagarh and other Muslim princely states from Pakistan by brute force and the connivance of the British Indian Governor General, Lord 
Mountbatten Emotions ran high as many of us friends joined the Muslim Students Federation, where we were indoctrinated as the future 

xvi | Flight of file Falcon 

leaders of Pakistan The first expression of our teenage political motivation came in a massive dose as I sat an anri s length away from the Quaid- 
e- Azam when he was invited to my old schooL I sat on the floor of the stage and gaped at the founder in sheer awe and somewhat enviously 
watched my younger brother, Bunyad Haider, shake hands with him and receive four prizes for academic excellence. My lather had rejected my 
imploring to shake bands with the Quaid-e- Azam, declaring that it was only the privilege of those who excelled in studies to deserve such a good 
fortune. Bunyad, who is now a top cardiologist, was also selected to give a speech about Pakistani patriotism and he delivered a fiery one that he 
still remembers today. 

The Quaid addressed us in English and every one listened in rapt attention; he said something about young men joining the proud profession of the 
military to defend the motherland. In those propitious moments the seed of becoming an air force pilot was planted in my mind. That was the 
dream I chased with intense commitment for nearly three decades of my youth along with many other trail blazing comrades. We reached for the 
sky to be ‘second to none’ as the Quaid bad ordained when he addressed a bandfol of oflfleers who comprised the core of the emerging air force 
in those early days. 

The PAF indeed rose to the challenge when war was thrust upon tire nation by the first dictator Ayub Khan in 1 965 . The PAF made the headlines 
of the national and international media. We were seen on the BBC by friends and foes alike, as young fighter pilots fighting the war of 1965 against 
India. Those clips of pilots being interviewed by the BBC war comespondent can still be seen on You Tube even after 43 years. That euphoria 
lasted a long whileuntil one day decades later I discovered that the nation and its defenders had been emotionally black-mailed into believing that 
file enemy India had invaded our motherland unprovoked. 1 That was a pack of lies told by President Ayub Khan and his compliant Army 
Commander- in-Chief General Musa. The nation has been kept in the dark about the colossal failure of high command and about the strategic 
blunders of the 1 965 War. Hence, the much touted contrived victory to keep buried the criminal incompetence of those who were at the helm 

Eveiy year the 1 965 War is celebrated remorselessly by our ill-informed and gullible nation I feel patently cheated and enraged at the loss of many 
gallant men who were martyred believing they were fighting for a sacred cause. The 1971 War was a corollary to the 1965 War. Shallow personal 
interests were projected as national interests by two dictators. Both wars proved to be catastrophic for the econony and security of Pakistan 
Were these conflicts avoidable? If not, why were they not planned and directed with professional dexterity? Had there been genuine political will 
and wisdom, could the nation and armed forces been saved 

1 Field Marshal (self-proclaimed) Ayub Khan in his speech on 6^ September 1965, from General Musa’s book. My Version . 

Author’s Note | xvii 

from the humiliation of capitulation in the East and near defeat in the West in 1 97 1 ? Such questions have hardly been addressed candidly. 

Resultanlly, Pakistan goes through an endless cycle of power plays, wars with India and internal conflicts, without any signs of a metamorphosis. 
The question on eveiy Pakistani mind is: why is the present so chaotic and the future so grim? It is my conviction that an honest study of the past 
can throw up the answers to our perpetual national morass. The root cause of our misfortunes has to do with the bankruptcy of leadership. I have 
sifted through the water sheds of histoiy to uncover the reasons why we have suffered ignominy under corrupt, incompetent and dishonest leaders. 

I shall present facts without malice and chronicle them as accurately as the accessible historical record has enabled me to do so. 

Unfortunately, the amned forces have become the punching bags for all the ills of the country. Nothing is farther from the truth. The combat crews 


from the army, navy and especially the PAF have fought with indomitable courage to thwart a larger and more resourceful enemy in conflicts and 
the two wars. Who pushed us into the devastation of wars is a moot point and will be the focus of my book. 

The perfonnance and sacrifices of the fighting men saved Pakistan, pushed to the blink by the sell-proclaimed ‘Field Marshal’ Ayub Khan in 
1 965 . Was the coveted rank of a F ield Marshal worn in the tradition of F ieldMarshal Rommel and Guderian or was it reminiscent of F ield Marshal 
Raglan of the ‘Charge of the Light Brigade’ in la my in the Crimean war in which Raglan’s poor soldering qualities caused the death of 75% of the 
‘Light Brigade’? Only an honest and courageous nation could have begged such a question. 

Have we leamt anything from history? Hie present generation should realize that when you allow yourself to be led by defeated persons you should 
not expect anything better. Did Ayub Khan’s controversial appointee, General Musa, have the wherewithal of commanding one of the best armies 
in the world? History says nay to both questions. So why is the nation surprised at what followed with such persons at the helm? 

After I had retired from active life and had time for introspection, all these thoughts gathered like a stonn in my head. The nation had been fed 
abject lies for half a century and its people, including me, took it hook line and sinker. At the national level, there Iras been a lack of propensity for 
learning about the truth of how and why Pakistan had gone into a downward spiral soon after the death of the Quaid. 

In my early air force years, all we experienced was merit, integrity, honesty and passionate pride in wearing a Pakistani uniform This was during 
the era of Air Marshal Asghar Khan and it lasted until 1971. Soon after, the PAF began to slide, as had the other institutions in the country since 
the mid- fifties. After the first Martial Law it was heydays for quislingsand courtesans in high places and mediocrity 

xviii | Flight of the Falcon 

flourished. This moral degradation was condoned at a grave risk which resulted in the professional and moral destmetion of institutions and society. 
Why had mediocre people wrested the lead in every facet of life from national institutions to politics? Why were corruption and thievery condoned 
and honesty and excellence sniggered at? Yes, I was confounded by these questions and especially as to wliat happened to the Quaid’s vision of a 
Pakistan where justice, lair play, dedication to duty and merit was to be the yardstick for Pakistani citizens ^respective of their personal beliefs, 
their faitlg and preferred way of life. It was mind boggling to grasp how for away we Ltd drifted from the path the lather of our nation bad set for 
the country. 

Today, Pakistan lias reached its nadir economically, morally and spiritually. Citizens have lost all rights to security, justice and freedom at the altar 
of the sham of democracy, owing to the dishonesty and graft of those veiy reprobates who stole from this poor country. We are now condemned 
as one of the most corrupt and dangerous countries in the world. Worse still, by some strange stroke of bad luck for this wretched nation, the 
same merry go round throws up leaders at regular intervals who claim to be custodians of the Quaid’s vision Each change in leadership turns hope 
into despair in a matter of months as the nation reels at the receiving end of these leaders. 

What happened to the great sacrifice of precious lives and the national spirit which had propelled us aloft half a century ago? Undeniably, some 
tiring terrible bad started to happen soon after the Quaid-e- Azam lay gasping for breath in the back of a ramshackle ambulance, tying in the most 
putrid stench of the sea a few miles from Mauripur. Where were Liaquat Ali Khan and all the stalwarts who claimed glory for the creation of 
Pakistan when it truly belonged to just one man, who was dying in that ambulance with Inis loyal sister, Fatima forming air in Iris collapsing lungs and 
shooing away droves of flies? From that day, fote may well have cast an ominous shadow for our condenmable neglect of the father of our nation 

I have now completed my research into the past, uncovering many a conspiracy and acts tantamount to treason especially during the 1965 and 
1971 wars with India. Thus for the only serious attempt at service history has been the official PAF history ( The Story of the Pakistan Air Force 
). It is an exacting compendium of the history of the PAF from its inception The 1971 War lias been most accurately narrated. Sadly though, I 
discovered during intrinsic scrutiny of events chronicled by the historians that something went tenibty wrong in several narratives of the events 
preceding and, during the 1 965 War. Quite often controversial eventsand bad decisions were circumvented by the authors instead of presenting a 
candid and honest analysis. Hence, no lessons were spelt out. Possibly one reason could have been that the officers assigned the task were not 
professional historians but an integral part of the controversies. No wonder then that recently, Indian historians have asked the question as to 

Author's Note | xix 

why the PAF insisted on some flights of fontasy when in feet it had performed so admirably against a much bigger adversary and why the entire 
Pakistani nation was being kept bemused with myths. 

While praising the overall perfonnance ofthe PAF, the Indian historians have been critical of the PAF claims of 6 th and 7 th September 1965, 
referring to the latter episode as the 'Sargodba Ghost'. They wonder why the PAF has deliberately propagated the myths of shooting down 5 
Indian Hunters over 1 lalwara on the 6 th of September and then shooting down another 5 1 fruiters in 22 seconds near Sargodba on the 7 th of 
September. In the opinion of the Indian historians, “Whether this was a belated attempt to boost the PAF for some internal power politics. . . it 
cannot be doubted that it was a cynical attempt”. Hie same Indian authors point out that till that moment on 6 th September, Sarferaz Rafiqui was 
the highest scorer with 3 aircraft shot down and he deserved the highest credit till he was martyred, hi the same vein, in 2005 another extremely 
well researched and better version of history, The India-Pakistan Air War of 1965 (IP A W) by Jagan Mohan and Samir Chopra gave the PAF 
more credit than ever before. Hieir book lias elaborately chronicled the perfonnance of the PAF kills in ground attack and in air combat, 
especially the destruction caused by our B-57 bombing at night, lfitberto unknown to the PAF. These statistics were officially released by the 
Indian Government. India has admitted the loss of over 70 aircraft in each of the two wars to all causes. 2 


According to the IP A W , ‘Hie PAF did well in the war. It's a pity that its government and its leadership saw it fit to denigrate its achievements by 
making claims that have ensured that the PAF is associated with bragging as opposed to its actual praiseworthy achievements”. For all those pilots 



who fought the 1965 War with indomitable courage, these have been distressing remarks. This indignation motivated me to systematically 
reconstruct all controversies with professional incisiveness and lay the phantoms of the 1965 air war to rest; if for no better reason than to tell the 
world that we can accept failures as proof of our courage and can tell the truth without embarrassment. The PAF owes it to itself to correct the 
unacceptable claims and to restore its institutional dignity for the sake of those whose claims have not merely been acknowledged by the adversary 
40 years hence but belatedly enhanced by India’s official declaration Hie B-57 night bombing results are a case in point. 

For Pakistani researchers, regrettably and inexplicably, the PAF in recent years has become reticent about releasing statistics and fects about the 
two wars. Forty years after the event, this attitude is indefensible and in feet harmful as it deprives students of air war history and the present 
generation of pilots from the benefit of the lessons of history. T here has been one recent exception to the 

2 Website Bharat Rakshak link, 1965 Indo-Pak Air War. XX | Flight of the Falcon 

inexplicable behaviour of the policymakers in the PAF; Air Cdre Kaiser TuM’s excellent dissertation on the femous air battles by Pakistani fighter 
pilots in the Subcontinent and the Middle East has added a professional and sanguine chapter to PAF’s history. 

My cardinal purpose of researching controversies in depth is to recapture some epic stories of the two senseless wars fought against India. Also, to 
unveil the colossal blunders committed by the Pakistan Amy high command. President Ayub Khan’s epoch and his legacy of usurpation of power 
which derailed and finally severed Mohammad Ali Jinnah’s Pakistan, has been researched and brought into sharp focus. Intertwined with the story 
of my life are die events during the eras of dictators and despots. My intent is to cleartbe opaque haze that has been perpetuated by vested 
interests over the past five decades. 

I have lived through Pakistan’s decline, being an eye witness to many a historical event. The prime mover and core of my autobiography is an 
investigation into why the 1 965 and 1 97 1 wars were started without a national aim or even a grand military objective. The treachery of die leaders 
during the interregnum will dominate my story. 

In writing this book, it is my prayer and hope that I can leave some thoughts to be pondered upon by the enthusiasts of history and the large 
segment of patriotic Pakistanis, especially the present generation. More specifically, I write this book for the combat elements of the PAF and 
other services who wish to discover veiled aspects of our national and military history in an honest expose. I merely hope to provide a catalyst for 
much deeper and more incisive probes than have been done in the past, and urge greater respect for the lessons of history and their application 

FOREWORD 

It is a privilege to have been asked to write tiiis foreword by die author with whom I have enjoyed a long and cherished association It all started 
on my return from flying training in the USA in 1 964 as a newly commissioned pilot officer. I was instantly inducted into die 'Sabre- Jet' equipped 
No 19 Squadron of the PAF tiien commanded by Squadron Leader Sajad Haider, the author. I dare say within die first three days I wanted 'out'. 

I sensed a feeling of intimidation by die heavy presence and imposing personality of die Squadron Commander, who was highly demanding and 
expected perfonnance on a war footing. Conversely, I drought I deserved a soft transition into the PAF environment (having been used to die 
relaxed surroundings of die USAF training establishments). 

Within weeks, however, my perceptions were to change dramatically as I got to know him better. Ironically, the change was to take place pa rtly in 
die now banished institution of the 'Bar’ . Despite being feted to oblivion in the years ahead, it had provided an amazing platform and culture for 
juniors to freely air tiieir grievances while die seniors patiently permitted debate to the extent of acknowledging their excesses if they were 
convincingly argued. The author conformed to such a culture. But what impressed me most was his outstanding quality to protect and defend his 
subordinates whenever the situation so demanded. This resulted in raising the squadron morale, confidence, and developed a sense of 
camaraderie. Even to this day he jealously guards and defends the PAF if unjustly maligned. It was, however, in the 1 965 War that he was able to 
demonstrate exemplary leadership. 

Today, other tiian a few exceptions, you see few aviators willing to put pen to paper to recount their experiences. That the audior has mustered the 
courage and commitment to undertake such an exercise is commendable and bopefolly a foremrmer to setting a tend. Consumed by his passion to 
sifttruth from fiction, he took no less than six years to research his story, drawing on scores of publications by diverse sources which he lias 
faithfully referenced. 

xxii | Flight of die Falcon 

The 1965 air war operations are subjected to a detailed scrutiny. There is no doubt that this war took place in an era of unadulterated ainnansbip 
and devotion will no diversions. The PAF's perfonnance is widely acknowledged to have outdone that of a much bigger adversary. The author, 
however, goes on to question certain events and command decisions in a fresh reappraisal, partly made possible by accounts becoming 
increasingly available from across die border. Hie audior's version, therefore, may 'add or subtract' from the official PAF history not privy to these 
inputs when published. 

While his core story spans over his two and a half decades of PAF service, it spills over either way when he paints a larger canvas covering critical 
national events on one side and his early femily life on the other. The lion's share of space, of course, is reserved for the two cataclysmic and 
senseless Indo-Pak wars of 1 965 and 1 97 1 . In a self confessed 'no holds barred' approach he is ruthless and comes down heavily on most of die 
national leadership who he holds responsible for consistent feilure in leading the nation to its otherwise 'potentially glorious status. The account in 
odier places is punctuated by rich tributes to the sterling leadership of Air Marshals Asgliar Khan and Nur Khan 

In a society generally given to confonnity, the author's penchant for outspokenness (such as the one when he criticized General Zia ul Haq's 


policies to his lace, not to talk of his skirmish with the Shah of Iran dining his diplomatic assignment in Washington) may have contributed to 
stunting biscareer, potentially destined to the highest pinnacle. But what will ultimately stand out about him is his sterling performance in the 1 965 
War, the ultimate test of one's moral and professional calibre; a war in which he led fi'om upfront and often beyond the call of duty. lifts was 
decidedly his 'finest hour.' He is bound to draw much comfort from destiny having bestowed upon him a heroic status, which all warriors crave but 
few are awarded. 

His story is gripping, fast pacedand lucid. While it will be read by the aviation fraternity in general besides students of the Indo-Pak wars on either 
side of the border, the uninitiated too will find it very absorbing. They will gain an insight into a career (that of fighter pilots) arguably the most 
challenging on the planet today; a profession that tests the combat aviator's physical, emotional and mental capabilities to their limits. Since the 
author desenbes some of the war missions most vividly, the reader will relive and feel the same excitement and sell-belief as that ofPAF combat 
crew - gladiators out to humble the mighty opposing force in the coliseum of air combat. So, you need to get your safety belts on to embark on a 
roller coaster autobiography that will keep you gripped to your seats. 

In the end, let me note that since the author lias taken many leaders and commanders (civilian and military) to the cleaners for what he considers 
their 

Foreword [ xxiii 

gross ineptitude, lack of integrity and mishandling of national or service aflairs, this will assuredly provoke rebuttals, reactions and ripostes. 
Ultimately, it is the author's story, his research and his conclusions and he appeal's ever willing and ready to defend them and meet any potential 
onslaught head on. In the air force lingo, ‘He is on red alert. ’ 

ACM Mohammad Abbas Khattak 

Fonner Chief of the Air Stall) Pakistan Air Force 

PROLOGUE 

A wann breeze ruffled the palm trees as I sat outside in the sun I could see the Mediterranean Sea in the distance, the emerald green of the shore 
giving way to sky blue then a deep, cobalt blue as the coastline fell to greater depths. The villas between the iabled La Concha Mountain on my 
right and the Mediterranean on the left, glistened white in the sunlight, and my mind went, as minds do when in an idle state, to looking back over 
my life. And what a life it has been, I thought, with its hopes and utter disappointments, and its mercies and sweet chants, the blood in war and the 
sweat in peace. 

I was thousands of miles away fromhome, in the countiy of my adoption which I love. Yet I love my own country too, with an almost fierce 
passion that has ruled my actions for the past forty years. But it was therein Spain’s legendary Costa del Sol that I first thought of putting it all to 
paper. 

I felt a strange nostalgia about how I got to be where I was, after all those exciting yet turbulent years. I began tracing the broad strokes of late on 
the canvas of my past, eventually steering me to the heavenly landscape on earth where I now was. Hie past started coming into sharp focus and 
Ifelt myself being transported back in time. It is truly amazing how the mind surpasses any computer invented. In a millisecond, the human mind can 
rewind decades into the past and stop or start at any point or moment in life that it wants. 

My mind scanned back to contemplate the most crucial turning points in my life. Besides the two intense wars and close misses with death, three 
indelible moments of my life came into focus with foreboding Hie first dark memory that came back with flashes of anguish was when I was 
arrested and charged with treason and mutiny on trumped-up charges of being a part of the coup d’etat to over throw Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto’s (ZAB) 
regime. What hell that was! The second was several years later, while in Washington as Air Attache when the Shah of Iran targeted me and asked 
ZAB in person to severely punish me for degrading him Hien came the coup de grace; dining the famous address by the then dictator General Zia 
ul Haq, to his cabinet, the armed forces high command and the filin' military governors, renouncing his promise to the nation of holding elections. 
My riposte to his speech produced a predictably rancorous and vindictive reaction. He wished to see me with a begging bowl in my hand. (Hie 

Prologue | xxv 

entire incident is briefly described in a recent publication The Gold Bird by Mansoor Shah. ) I had to walk away from my life in the air force, the 
only life I had ever known and loved. 

As it turned out, destiny had a different plan for Air Cdre Kliaqan Abbasi who, (along with the then Air Chief), had targeted me on trumped up 
charges of treason. An even more pathetic late awaited the Shah of Iran and General Zia ul Haq. In all my life, God’s miracles never ceased, not 
during my failures or in my triumphs. To Him I owe my strengths and good fortune. 

These thoughts abounded on that brilliant day in the summer of 1986. By the time I heard the silver laughter of the girls - my daughter Zaiena and 
her Spanish friend Carlotta, who often came over to our place - my nftnd had spun through half a century, leaving me in a reflective mood. That 
day, I made a resolve to fulfil a promise I had made to one of my peers, the third gallant Commander-in-Chief of the PAF, the late Air Mslft A 
Rahim Khan, to write my life’s story, especially my years in the Pakistan Aft' Force. Rahim Khan bad told nr many times, after we had both 
retired, that I should not postpone my memoirs while my memory was still fresh. I remembered him saying, “Sajad, time is a great healer but 
inevitably also a memory eraser; write your memoirs quickly before time takes its toll!” His words had resonated for a long time and I felt it was 
time I begun to envision an outline plan for the book. 


Over the next several years I tried, albeit unsuccessfully, to make a serious beginning, because there were too many distractions and demands 



upon me, with the children growing up. My modest business was being targeted by two generals from the Defence Procurement Division and my 
third marriage was on the rocks. Yet slowly but deliberately, it became an obsession with me to firlfil this compelling dream By 1 990, 1 had 
decided to pull the shutters down on my defence, aviation and communication company called Connorant, while honour was still an option With 
the endemic corruption and coercion by the sitting Director General Defence Procurement (DGDP), it had become obvious that either I resorted 
to giving kickbacks, or packed up. This was a choice between honour and financial lure, at the cost of dignity. Once again I walked away, to let 
fete propel me, where it wanted me to go. This was also a period when I had to make some difficult decisions about my matrimonial plight. 

About that time we had purchased some arid land in the rural suburbs of Islamabad where I started spending a lot of time to develop a small fenn 
in the rocky terrain, en route to Simli Dam, now called Las Colinas Farm (Spanish lor ‘Little Hills’). Despite all the travails and tribulations, I 
started to gather relevant books, magazines and old documents which I had preserved over the years for this undertaking. I began to read 
extensively about Pakistan’s history', with emphasis on the period alter the creation of Pakistan, the death of Quaid-eAzam and its consequences 
for the future of Pakistan 

xxvi | Flight of tlie Falcon 

My schooling at Quetta, the two years I spent at FC College Lahore and file episode of my joining the PAF were all still fresh in my memory. The 
years in file PAF, especially the two wars and the interregnum, were recaptured with the help of my own log books as well as those of other fighter 
pilots who had shared file skies during the war and peace with me. The series of interviews with at least a score of colleagues, junior and senior, 
provided me with infonnation which gave many important missing links. Hie support and encouragement I received from Air Mslil Asghar Khan 1 
and Air Mshl Nur Kharr was candid and valuable. Gen Sababzada Yaqub Khan provided valuable analysis of the fects leading to Operation 
Gibraltar and the feilure of the armoured offensive in the Kasur sector during the 1965 War. Some of file material about the wars with India was 
assimilated from compendium by Indian historians and diaries of senior Indian generals. I was now ready to start my journey. 

Writing my autobiography was to be a way of fulfilling my small responsibility towards ny country. During the 1 965 and 1 97 1 Wars with India, I 
was the commander of a fighter squadron and, commander ofPAF’s biggest tactical lighter wing respectively. I was a witness to history in the 
making and a country in the unmaking. During file 1965 War, I was ii command ofthe No 19 Squadron based at Peshawar, where I had some of 
the youngest and the best fighter pilots in the PAF. I had put them under the ‘warriors’ trailing regime before the war sirens were sounded. No 1 9 
Squadron earned out the most difficult missions of the 1 965 War and these have been detailedby British, Indian and Pakistani scholars in various 
history books. However, most of these historians have narrated the operational episodes of the war from both sides, as told to them by the 
participants and at times embellished by the authors to accentuate bravado of combat crews. 

Consequently, many of themhave become questionable for lack of incontrovertible evidence. Yet these controversial claims have assumed a 
pervasive aspect of history. I want to give a candid account of these two 

1 The first Pakistani Commander-in-Chief ofthe Pakistan Air Force, who created a formidable fighting machine in the eight years of his command. We went to war five 
weeks after he retired. He also had an important role in running the national carrier PIA and propelled it to the front line of world aviation. After retirement, he joined 
politics to oppose the despotic rule of Ayub Khan. Later he opposed Bhutto and finally went for Zia ul Haq’s jugular. He was often incarcerated by those who feared 
his upright and sterling character. He is a venerable man in his late eighties, still revered by those who value character and honesty above all else. 

2 The second Commander-in-Chief of the PAF who led ffomthe front during the 1965 War. An indomitable and daunting leader, he was always an achiever ffomhis 
school days as was evident ffomhis reports by the British Principal of the Royal Indian Military College, Deradoon, India. He ran PIA for 6 long years before Air 
Mshl Asghar Khan took over from him in a swap. He built the national carrier from fledgling flying club status to a world class carrier, hr the field of sports he infused 
Pakistan’s hockey and cricket teams with a spirit of excellence, creating world champions out ofboth. That is also what he achieved forthe PAF - excellence. His 
personal courage and sheer guts are legendary. As an octogenarian like Asghar Khan, he can still out climb and out do many half his age. 


Prologue | xwii 

controversial wars in which the leaders of both sides have claimed victory over the other - yet there was no clear winner. 

Nonetheless, the Pakistan Air Force, being one tim’d the size of its opponent, not only saved Pakistan, but emerged better by inflicting three times 
its own fosses upon the preponderant adversaiy. With the passage of time, the Indian writers of military history have come reasonably clean about 
their feilures and exaggerations. Sadly, no such candid attempt has been made from the Pakistani side. Even some of file better compendiums are 
mostly narratives without critique or apportioning of responsibility. This is why I felt that after four decades, the truth about the wars mist come out 
without any embarrassment or trepidation We owe it to our fiiture generations, particularly today’s young commanders and students of militaiy 
history, to set the record straight. There has been a reticence to cany out an honest analysis to foam from die lessons of these wars. This was done 
to protect the leaders who were responsible for their strategic incompetence. Their mistakes cost the lives of many pliant men and led eventually 
to the break up of Pakistan 

A small miracle helped me jump-start my story after I met Eeman Malik during an interview on the television with her as the anchor. The subject 
was the Pakistan Air Force (PAF) and it was an interesting experience to discover that this young lady knew PAF history better than any other 
anchor person who bad interviewed me in the past. I was impressed with her preparation for the interview. Hie next time I met her was when she 
contacted me to say that she was trying to make a short feature film on the life of a fighter pilot during file India- Pakistan wars. She was adamant 
that it had to be about my ventures in die PAF. One thing led to another as I was interviewed by her team until one day she asked me why I did 
not write my memoirs. I told her that it was my dream to write my autobiography but had problems with the computer and my typing was too 
slow. She jumped at the opportunity and made a commitment to help me with the computer work. Hiat was how my venture took olf It would not 
have been possible for me to take such a flying start bad it not been for such dedication by this young lady. Sadly, Air Mshal Rahim Khan had 
passed away in the meantime. This was a personal tragedy for me, and ftntber propelled me in devoting my energies to writing my memoirs to 
honour my promise to Rahim Khan. Before Eeman appeared like a divine nudge, I would incessantly dream about what and where to start, till that 


day on the Costa del Sol, I went M circle, reliving four decades of my life. 

I remembered that day in Spain well because it had a special significance for our iamily. On that day, 3 rd of July 1 986, my noble lather had 
returned to the Creator at die ripe age of 1 04 years. The evening it happened I was in Geneva with my tim'd wife and a couple we had invited to 
join us for the weekend in Palmas de Majorca, as guests of Prince Tacbeqetua of Spain We had retired 

xxviii | Flight of the Falcon 

very late after a sumptuous dinner, as the four of us had sat chatting about the good and not so good old times. I recall the phone ringing past 3 am, 
rattling me as it woke me up with a start from deep slumber. Groping for the phone in the dark, I fell off the bed; a bad omen, I thought nervously. 
On the line was my sister Kausar calling from London where she had been baby- sitting our two children My sister is usually an extremely brave 
person, not easily perturbed. But that morning her voice quivered as she whimpered. “Sajad, Abaji (lather) has passed away.” I felt as if my world 
had come to an end. 

More than any of us siblings, Kausar had been the closest to our parents, especially to our lather. She had spent her entire youth taking care of our 
aging parents at great sacrifice of hertemporal needs and own fiiture. For the next six hours there was mayhem in our lives as 1 tried to get airline 
seats and make a rendezvous with her at Frankfurt to catch a Pan Am flight to Pakistan. My two brothers living in the United States were already 
in the air as we took off on possibly the worst flight of our lives. A memorable chapter had come to its predestined end. 

Respectfully known as Baba-e-Baluch by his Baluch friends and lamilies, our lather was a daunting personality whose six feet and five inches erect 
frame and character seemed as though it had been cast in tempered steeL Even though we had a long innings with him and lived under Iris 
protective shadow for many gratifying years, there was a great sadness to the moment. The memory of a truly great soul came back to me vividly. 

We had grown up in Bugti House 3 before we moved into the small tin roof house in the Bugti complex built by Nawab Mehrab Khan, the 
fearsome chief of the Bugti tribe, the Nawabs of Bugti, Mami, Mazari, Magsi, Kalat and Jailer Khan Jamali and Abdul Gbafoor Durrani were my 
lather’s venerable companions throughout their lives. Although older in age to all of them, my lather had outlived them Nawab Mehrab Khan Bugti 
was my lather’s closest fiiend. 1 still recall that whenever Nawab Sahib was in Quetta, he invariably had lunch with my lather every day. That was 
the reason why my sister and I spent our fomnative period in the labled Bugti house, where Nawab Akbar Khan Bugti later lived with Iris Iamily. 

I grew up playing with Akbar Bugti’ s siblings after my parents had shifted to the house in the Bugti complex. I recall Akbar Bugti as a stunning and 
fearsome person who always called me chapeit or scrawny boy. His younger brother Ahmed Nawaz Bugti would take me with him every day for 
the driving lessons he took from a taxi driver who would turn up five days of the week to teach us driving. This was until it was tine for Ahmed 
Nawaz to 

3 We lived in Bugti House while the Bugti Complexof eight houses was under construction by Nawab Mehrab Khan Bugti. Two of those houses were given to my 
parents, where 1 grew up along with my siblings. 


Prologue | xxix 

return to Aitcheson College in Lahore. Thus, we grew up living in the midst of the fierce Baluch and Patban culture and our friendship was with 
children from these clans as well as a smattering of Hindus and Sikhs living in the neighbourhood. We grew up with inter- communal bamnony in 
Baluchistan. In those days there was a set of values which everyone lived by, without bias towards an individual’s faith, cast or creed. Life in that 
multi-cultural community was wonderful and uncomplicated. 

I stared at the Mediterranean Sea lost in my thoughts about my childhood, growing up in Quetta during the oppressive WW-II period. My 
thoughts shifted. How had I gotten to the Costa del Sol? What had brought me here, what were the events that had culminated in this vista before 
me, so lar from home? Well then, this is my story. 

1 

IN THE SHADOW OF MY FATHER 

My life' s dream to become a fighter pilot was a rendezvous with destiny when at the age of 1 5 I sat spellbound, no more than four feet away, from 
a man for whom my adoration was incalculable. He was truly the only one worthy of the title Quaid-e- Azam, because Mohammad Ali Jirniah was 
the man who created Pakistan single-handedly. A part of his speech that evening in Quetta was embedded in my mind when he spoke of how 
Pakistani youth would grow up to serve their beloved country, as lawyers, engineers, doctors, scientists and defenders of the God given land. He 
said (words to the effect), “. . .and then some of you will choose to defend your country with your lives as members of the a my, navy or the air 
force.” At that moment, I made up my mind to be a defender. It sounded so powerful. As a lean and scrawny boy, this was an ambitious path to 
tread. Which unifonn I would wear became my obsession for months, which I shared only with my beloved sister. I would see myself in the a my 
unifonn since Quetta was predominately an a my cantonment. However, khaki did not give me the high I was imagining; the navy did not excite me 
at all because of my sheer fear of water and the ocean. 

Then one day I saw a bunch of fighter pilots at Cafe Stanley, with their peak caps tilted and then' tunic buttons open in a real gung-ho style. This 
was terribly impressive for a teenager seeking a choice of unifonn I was moonstruck with that unifonn and the attitude they wore on their sleeves. 
The next day I saw them again, in their planes. At the time I didn’t know the planes were Spitfires, but I gazed at them, awestruck, and fell 
backwards into a rose patch as I followed the mock air combat. Shivers ran up my spine as I wondered if one day I could perfonn similar intricate 


manoeuvres. To me it will always be that momentous occasion and the Quaid's powerful words that motivated me with passion towards flying as a 
defender of my country. 


As I walked home in euphoria, not quite feeling the thorns on the rose bush, 1 wondered how my family would take the news that 1 wanted to 
become a fighter pilot. 1 thought my lather would understand, because after all he came from a long line of gallant people whose characters, as they 
say, had been forged by lire. 1 have always felt that family background and upbringing moulds one’s personality, conduct and character. 

My Heritage 

Moin-ud-Din Pur is a small village in the district of Gujrat in the province of Punjab, which became part of Pakistan in 1 947. The village was 
founded by our family elder Sayed Moin-ud-Din Shah, a direct descendant of the Holy Prophet (PBUH), and from the Khwarizmi clan, which 
dates back to one of the biggest Muslim empires ruled by the Shah of Khwarizm His empire was pulverized and finally obliterated by the hordes 
of Genghis Khan. 

Sayed Moin-ud-Din, his brothers, Sayed Said Sulman Shah and Sayed Jamal Shah along with their families had migrated from Arabia where they 
were being persecuted by the Ommayads for being from the lineage of the Ahle-bait (family of Prophet Mohammad SAW). After the death of the 
Prophet (PBUH) and the tragedy of Karbala, their harassment did not abate even after the and the tragedy of Karbala, their harassment did not 
abate even after the 62 Hijri (Islamic calendar year). Although the Abbasids had (ought the battles on the pretext to avenge the Karbala tragedy, 
they continued the discrimination of the Ahle-bait . The persecution became brutal and our ancestors made their escape to the empire of the Shah 
of Khwarizm. 

After Khwarizm was pillaged, the survivors who had by then assumed the identity of the Khwarizmi Sayed clan scattered all over wherever they 
could find refuge. Our ancestors travelled to the small town ofTuhimba near Multan and from there, with the passage of time the three brothers 
traveled to the empire of Jalal-uddin Akbar, and camped down at what is present day Gujrat on thebanks of the Chenab River. Owing to the 
family lineage of Sadaat (Prophet’s [SAW] descendants), the three brothers were treated with great respect by the Emperor and awarded huge 
swathes of land for pennanent settlement. Hie land was divided at some point in the 1 7 th century, and the settlements grew into big villages which 
are today known as the villages of Jamalpur and Medina, contiguous to our village Moin-ud-Din Pur, located two miles east of the city of Gujrat. 

My lather had two brothers and a sister. Sometime in 1 890 the three brothers Jeevan Shah, Fazal Hussain Shah and GhulamHassan Shah came 
out of their Haveli in the village and hit the dirt road leading out of Moin-ud-Din Pur. They were heading for their school, situated a couple of miles 
away. My lather Fazal Hussain and Uncle GhulamHassan (the youngest brother) hurried to get to school on time. The eldest, Jeevan Shah was 
sluggish and lacked the alacrity of the two younger brothers. About halfway to the school, Jeevan Shah headed for the huge peepal (banyan) tree 
near the Mazaar (Shrine) of ‘Saien Kawan Walla’ and sat under it for a respite. He sat there long enough to catch up with his two brothers when 
they were on their way back to the village after school had ended for the day. This day was to be the forerunner of their destinies. Jeevan Shah 
remained uneducated and inherited Saf aid Posh status which was an appointment by the ruler's as the village Choudhry ( village chief who was 
authorised to settle minor cases and crimes and was paid a small stipend for his services to the community) from our grandfather. Hie other two 
went on to make history in their own right. 

My lather was bom in 1882 and died in 1986. He was a pioneer of the Muslim League from 1936 onwards. He served as a doctor in WorldWar 
1 and later, he set up practice in Quetta at the invitation ofNawab Mehrab Klian Bugti (father of the late Nawab AkbarBugti), and Jafiar Khan 
Jamali. During WWI, he spent most of his time in Rouen in France. During a heavy German assault on their location at night, the enemy shells kept 
exploding continuously for several hours. There were huge casualties and more than a hundred soldiers were injured including my father who 
received a four- inch shrapnel wound in his groin, causing serious and lasting damage to his ability to jog or run But for that night, after giving 
himself first aid, he set about attending to the injured soldiers single-handedly since there was no other medic available until morning. Hie officer 
commanding the affected force was astounded at what he saw of his troops the next morning. When he was told how my lather had accomplished 
the impossible, the British commander wrote a befitting citation As a result, my father was awarded a medal for courage and professionalism 
beyond the call of duty, ft is a matter of pride for us to know that even today our father's portrait liangs in the Red Fort in Delhi. But my father 
never talked about the war and his achievements, owing to liis silent and modest character. 

We only heard about the episodes from our mother or lather's friends. Quetta was a small town in those days and everybody knew eveiyone else. 
Simple and honest living, integrity and a sense of honour were the keys to social status and stature. The Nawabs, Sardars and chiefs of the big 
Baluch and Brahvi tribes and the Pashloon Maliks, even though they were all persons with fiefdonis or large land holdings, were incredibly modest 
in their social demeanour. People by and large respected values over other assets. Father found a highly respected place among these families and 
was an exclusive family physician to most of them 

Totally dedicated to liis medical profession, father had to toil veiy hard in liis practice, treating a lot of poor patients at nominal or no fees at aft He 
responded to every single emergency call from seriously ill patients in the middle of freezing Quetta temperatures, travelling to faraway places like 
Dera Bugti to attend to Begum Bugti (mother of N awab Akbar Bugti) and wife of liis sworn brother N awab Mehrab Klian Bugti (a tradition 
between true friends, when not blood brothers) and to Rojahan Jamali (the village of Sardar Jalfer Khan Jamali), and many other remote villages. 

N ever to my memory did he once refuse or protest that the patient had outstanding amears of payment. He quietly put up with the odd call timings, 
the distances and particularly the mode of transportation which varied from a tonga (horse drawn cart) to a jeep, even horseback at times. 

Consequently, liis income just barely provided for liis seven children (three from a previous marriage and the four of us). Father stood very tall and 
had an imposing figure. He supported a very well kept beard and had very fierce eyes. He was slim and very broad shouldered; owing to liis height 
he was easily identified even in a huge crowd. Father was an impeccably truthful and brave person, feared by those who did not live by an honest 
code of conduct. He was blunt when necessary, but an absolute gentleman and an extremely generous person. 



Entering a Man’s World 


1 recall vividly his parting advice to me as I was boarding the Bolan Mail at Quetta Railway Station in December of 1 95 1 , to join the Royal 
Pakistan Air Force College at Risalpur. My mother and three siblings were sitting in the second class waiting room when my Mier signalled for me 
to say goodbye to them He walked me to my rail compartment. As we walked across the spacious railway platform, many people walked up to 
lather to greet him till we entered the second class compartment where I was the sole occupant. We had always travelled in Inter class like the 
majority of middle- class lamkies. Now as an Officer Cadet in the RPAF, I was entitled to second class. 

Father sat next to me and put Iris hand around my shoulder with affection I had not remembered before. He begin to say words to the effect. “Son 
you possess an extremely sensitive nature and a low threshold for harsh punishment, but now you are entering a man's world where you will come 
across different kinds of people; you are going to taker at times and make mistakes, so remember when you have emed, be strong enough to admk 
it and take the punishment boldly. Be carefik, because each man above you, especially in the career you have chosen, will differ in his assessment 
of your mistake and each will react differently. You will have to take whatever comes with courage. A superior with strength of character will 
generally resort to admonishment and good advice. On the other band someone with an inherently weak character and uncharitable disposition will 
punish you in extreme terns. Don't whimper or argue but take whatever comes with grit, never whine like a weakling However, if you have not 
emed and are innocent then make your case forthrightly and don't be cowed down by authority. Face the problem head-on to its just conckisiom 
One day you may be pushed kito a comer and you may have to choose between career and wealth or sell-dignity and honour. Then remember life 
without honour is worthless.” This was the gist of a long but profound sermon I could not recall the last time he had spoken to ire so seriously yet 
affectionately, but what I noticed for the first tine was the kindness and concern in his usually steely eyes. He kept his hand around try neck, held 
ever so lightly. 

As the guard blew Iris whistle, lather got up and held me with incredible warmth and stepped down. He stood a few feet away from the train and I 
noticed the rest of my lamily had come out in the veranda and waved vigorously as the train begin to move away. It was a strange feekng for a 
teenager to be leaving his lamily, forever, k seemed. Once the train station disappeared behind the sharp bend I stepped back and sat down 
Certainly, there was a sense of catharsis and I was not sure what 1 fek. My iather’s counsel did not make any knpact m those moments, but came 
back to ire in flashes at different turning points in my life. I can sense the depth and truth in Iris exhortation today, more than ever before. His 
words proved incredibly prophetic because the years ahead were frill of such experiences. 

My lather's words have rung very often and very strongly in my ears in tines of desolation, intrigue and wkch-huntkig when injustice was inflicted 
upon me. This happened mostly due to the vindictive nature of those superiors who were egotistical and demanded rather than commanded 
respect, because they did not have the professional stature to lead from the front. Yet, there were many superiors, whose strength of character and 
qualkies of leadership were reflected in their compassion and maturity while dealing with their subordinates. They expected professional excekence 
once they bad prepared the younger men in the art of airmanship through personal example, which was symbolic of the small but fomidable 
Pakistan Air Force in ks early years. Father had been so right in Iris parting seimon to me. But all that was to come later. 

The tram moved on until the winding track started the snake ckmb at a snail’s pace which was so ftmriliar from years of travel The Kolpur railway 
station had the significance of being the highest point in the journey. I sat by the window staring at the landscape, possessed by an irrepressible 
exckemenl. I was breaking away from everything 1 had ever known, leaving my oldlife behind, and a strange mixture of fear and exekement was 
twisting my insides until I could hardly breathe. I thought of my mother and my sibkngs, and home seemed veiy tar away. I thought of sitting inside 
a plane, of touching the controls; how would they feel? How would k feel to make the plane turn and dive and to know that 1 held my life in my 
bands? 1 thought of k, and I trembled; then the exekement took hold of me again and I dreamt. I knew that life was going to be bard now. My 
iather’s firm bind was no longer on my head, and would never be again When I would go back home to see trim, things would be different. I 
would have grown up. 

The train lurched, and I came back to the present with a start. I don’t know how many people have seen a train pulled by three steam engines ride 
over the steep ascent to the top of a mountain range. It is lascinating as one lrad to walk along the train for nearly a mile owing to ks slow crawl up. 
I kept lookmg at the desolate landscape and my past years started capturing my knagmation again. The towering personality of my lather was the 
overwhelming thought ki my mind. It ak started coning back; my lather's settling in Quetta and Iris poktical life and Iris contribution in the formation 
of the Baluchistan Muslim League chapter. His persona left such an kidekble impression on my life, that 1 told my children never to defend my 
taikires if they fek uncomfortable, and encouraged them to question even their own lather about Iris demeanour when they fek k was a contradiction 
of what I preached. In ak my lather’s undertakings with people, friends and lamily, honesty and truthfulness were the linchpin and therefore, bribes, 
nepotism and corruption were considered the most despicable human traits. 

The trail’s journey was smooth again I started tlrinkiig of Quetta and my clrildhood. I recaked mother telling us the story which she described as 
our good luck to be growing up in Quetta kistead of the village in Gujrat or Jacobabad, the hottest place ki the world. I sweated, because the trail 
was goiig into the plains now and k was hot. As the story went, during a posting at a town in Skidli as the Medical Officer, our grandtather 
became seriously ill. Father being very close to him, had asked for compassionate leave, which was not granted. He let! Iris resigpation on the 
office table and proceeded to attend to Iris lather, never to return to government service again After Iris resignation he set up two clinics, one in 
Quetta and the other in Jacobabad, essentially to attend to Iris close friends who were also pioneers of the Muslim League in Skidh and 
Baluchistan. Father was a committed protege ofthe Quaid-e- Azam and I was privy to Iris dedication to lend every support to the Quaid’s mission. 
He took me along to inanycongrcgitions despke my tender age. He wanted to infiise the spkit of Pakistani nationalism ki me at the nascent stage. It 
is a matter of great pride for our entire clan today that my lather was a passionate supporter of Quaid-e- Azam 

As the tram chugged along I was liked with a sense of gratitude and wannth for my lather and wanted to feel close to trim by remembering how he 
had influenced me. As though by extraordkiary perception I sensed my mother lookmg down at me in protest that ak her love and caring was being 
igpored as I delved so exclusively about it y lather. 1 suddenly fek a remorse for leaving her to take on a career which would be a constant agony 
for her. My mother was the last of four wives my lather had mamied and bore four clrildren, three sons and one daughter. Our sister Kausar was 



bom in Jacobabad on the 20 th of June, known to be the hottest day of the year on earth. Bunyad Haider and I were bom in Sargodba and 
Jawwad Haider, the youngest, was bom in Quetta. Our mother’s passion was us children and our education at home and at school. Hygiene, 
personal as well as environmental, was a code of life for her and she made it an inextricable part of our training as well Today, all of us between 
our mid-sixties and I, in my seventies, are notorious for cleanliness and for being environmentally conscious. 

Her left-over passion and time were devoted to social work. That was when I took control of my siblings, not so much my sister for 1 loved her 
too much to put her to work, but the brothers had to slave it out as 1 directed them No wonder they hold that bullying against me just as much as 
my sister and I adore each other. My mother was extremely religious. It was this closeness to God, and her faith in Him, that tided her over in the 
years she spent in prayer for me, when I was Hying high in the skies and she was terrified for my safety. 

This, then, was what I was leaving. Suddenly I felt very lonely. And yet, I was excited too. I was leaving something wonderful behind, butweren’t 
there wonderful tilings to be had ahead? The train slowed then sped up again. With my nose to the window, I thought about my past. 

At Quetta, I studied in Mission School, run by Christian teachers and sponsored by a great philanthropist and eye specialist, Dr. Luther. I studied 
there till fourth standard and was later admitted to Islamia School in fifth grade. Compared to Mission School, the teachers at Islamia School were 
very dedicated but ruthless. My penchant for the English language drove me into a frenzy to join the St Francis Grammar School at Quetta. It was 
a completely English medium school and a sophisticated one at that. After a lot of persuasion and more tears, lather finally agreed to let me join the 
school if I could pass the entrance tests. I managed to scrape through the tests just barely because the English at the school was of a very high 
standard. It was a great break and I think the three years there did me a lot of good as for as my joining the Air Force was concerned. 

1 had passed my Junior C airbridge examination when my lather advised that, instead of wasting time loafing around I should also clear my 
Matriculation examinatioa This would help me get into college quicker than completing Senior Cambridge. I thought that was a real bore, to get 
back to the books and especially completely different ones, to clear Matiic. Little did I know that lather had just propelled me towards my dream 

When I had completed my Matric, I was sent to Forman Christian College in Lahore. Forman Christian College was a whole new world to me. 
Tall, ancient trees towered into the sky as their deep shades cooled the ground where students sat to study, eat and talk. I was young, and had 
grown up in an extremely conservative family. This was my first real exposure to the fair sex, and although it took me time to become comfortable 
with them, I think Forman Christian College had a strong role in making me a more rounded person. 

After the first year I came back for the summer holidays, I had gone to see my friend Muzzafer Ahmed, son of an army major living in the 
cantonment. I noticed a big sign which read “Join Royal Pakistan Air Force”. The sign on the three- room barrack read “RPAF Recruitment 
Centre”, hi the background were a propeller driven fighter, a Spitfire, and a lighter pilot leaning against it with bis helmet over his shoulder. It was 
as though I bad tripped over a wire; friend forgotten, I walked through the gate as though I was mesmerized. I found nyselfin front of the veranda 
where the walls were lined with showcases with pictures of Air Vice Marshal (AVM) Atcherly, taking a salute at the Risalpur College, according 
to the caption. I entered an office occupied by an air force sergeant and respectfully asked how I could join the air force. He asked me try age and 
where I lived. He then made me 1511 out a form and asked me if I possessed a Matriculation certificate, to which I said yes. He went through the 
form and told me that once it was processed I would be called back to report for an interview and physical fitness and medical test. 

Thrilled, I was about to run home and share the secret with mysister. But suddenly the sergeant called out that the policy required that I get my 
parents’ written consent for joining the air force. This I would need to bring with my Matiic certificate when I got the call for the interview. My 
instant reaction was of apprehension; that it would be an uphill task to get permission from such over protective parents. Right then there was not 
much I could do except to wait for the letter from the recruiting centre. Much to my disappointment what came first was the end of the summer 
vacation and time to go back to college. No letter bad arrived from tire recruiting centre as the sergeant had advised me that it would take time. 

During the winter break when I returned to Quetta, the first thing I did was to go to the recruitment centre. Soon I had cleared all the requisite IQ 
and physical tests. Afier some truly gruelling weeks, nearly a month later, ny lather came home for lunch flapping a long brown envelope along Iris 
leg. My heart beat felt like a bongo dram as ny lather banded me the envelope. I thought I was goingto feint. I ran to my room and carefully 
opened the envelope. It was the anxiously awaited letter from the Inter Services Selection Board (ISSB), and contained a pile of forms and lists of 
tilings to do and what clothing to bring along. I went through it all and hied to muster enough courage to divulge its contents to the rest of my 
family, especially my mother. My mother went into a state of hysteria when she realized what I had been up to. I could see the reason why my 
mother was tom between her immense love for me and her fears about seeing me take up a career which despite its thrills was full of perils. My 
mother was a veiy religious lady and when she was not working or taking care of the chores, she was always praying. Today, as I look back at 
how closely I bad experienced death on so many occasions in war and peace, I am absolutely convinced that her prayers have protected me 
through all those hazardous incidents. 

2 

CHASING A PILOT’S DREAM 

The Inter Services Selection Board (ISSB) was a hard test of individual qualities. We were put through some strenuous physical, mentaland 
psychological testing. We soon discovered that the rejection rate was veiy high. Some of the aspirants were sent home afier the first day’s 
psychological tests. I was lucky to have made it, possibly through the skin of my teeth I only saw one other candidate from ny ISSB batch at 
Risalpa. But even he did not make it to be an officer. One strange phenomenon which deserves mention for the sake of posterity is that the 
assessment by the Group Testing Officers at the ISSB stood on its head as we matured in service. Many graded below average and average by 
the ISSB scaled the heights of professionalism Most of those who bad been graded as above average chopped out like over-ripe plans. 



Sometbing was patently wrong with the selection process. In the years ahead, we discovered that one of the contributing factors was that most of 
the side-lined officers (for professional mediocrity) were posted to the ISSB ibr the selection of future candidates. Hopefully, there lias been a 
change in this regard. 

After some nail biting weeks, finally on 1 5 th December 1 95 1 , the orders came to report to the RPAF College at Risalpur. On my way to the 
training college, I caught sight of some smartly dressed senior air force cadets at the railway station. They looked so dashing in their unifonns that I 
felt like going to them and saying “I am on my way to becoming one of you”. Somehow, I sensed that there was a certain aloofness exuding from 
them and I decided to let it go, not knowing I had made the first sensible decision of my career. Later on, I was to find out the jarring side of their 
impressive appearance when all the new arrivals were put through an elaborate phase of ‘Senior Cadet Ragging’. The first two days were absolute 
helL The traditional ragging was terribly harsh Hiere were cases where some of the cadets couldn’t put up with it and left within a couple of days 
of their arrival Senior Cadet Humayun known as the ‘Doc’ (not a real doctor) would order each newcomer to strip down and proceeded to 
stamp our bare butts with ‘Passed. ’ 

Ours was the largest batch since the inception of the academy. In later years, some of the best pilots of the Pakistan Air Force were from this 
batch called the 13 th General Duty Pilot’s [GD(P)] course. Heroes like Sarfaraz Rafiqui, ShaminiAhmed, Masood Khan (later Air Vice Mshl), 
Malik Soliail. Mehmood Chonara, M Iqbal, and others such as Arsliad Choudhry (later Air Vice Mshl), Agha, the Chughtai cousins, Waqar Azim 
(later Air Mshl) were amongst many other excellent young men. 

The first few days knocked the wind out of us because the routine was extremely tough as compared to the life all of us Hid led before. We were 
being regimented to respond to commands like robots. It seemed that our ability to think and sense of independence were being moulded into a 
preconceived fonnat. Looking back, I wish I could Hive put all my children through that experience where the margin of error was taught to be 
zero. Retribution for erring came swift and harsh It was only the craze to Hive a pair of wings on our chests that drove us and motivated us. 

Slowly, we all began to fall into a regimented mould which made us - all from diverse backgrounds - bond together. Speaking in vernaculars 
(Urdu) was totally forbidden and this British legacy was drummed into our heads sovehemently that we were afraid to even dream in the 
vernaculars. 

The first sense of change from the previous life to the new environment was the day our custom- tailored uniforms were issued to us. The first day 
shall always remain pleasantly nostalgic, for like a booster injection of concentrated vitamins that sprung us to our feet, something came naturally 
with the donning of that unifonn That was: don’t sit but stand, don’t walk but run and whatever you do, there must be uniformity. Left foot 
forward on the beatof the drum! Even meals became a ceremony with their well defined parameters which were to be strictly adhered to. How we 
dressed and how we sat, where we sat, and for some the use of fork and knife, seemed a kind of torture. In the dining room, where all meals Hid 
to be taken within certain time limits, there was an area reserved for the senior cadets, about two ft high, further accentuating the fact that the senior 
cadets were a genre apart and at a level far superior to us junior mortals. The seniors would walk in with a slight swagger and would ignore us, 
which was the usual practice; or when they found a reason to chastise or insult us then they would look disdainfully at us like we were new chicks 
waiting to be slaughtered. But it was a challenge that we all aspired to take up so that we might be there one day, if at all we survived that long. 

Gradually, we realised that this plan to mould us had its imperatives because we all came from such diverse backgrounds. I recall a couple of our 
colleagues would wear dhotis at night while going to sleep and their English was absolutely dismal It wasn’t until we received our evening apparel 
called the ‘Evening Mess Kit’ that we discovered the sophistication and finesse that was necessary to carry that unifonn in the evening With this 
came the culture of ‘Dining- hi Nights’. We learnt tabic manners and much more, in the British tradition, but these became a pain after a while as 
the day’s toil would exhaust us completely. Any notions which we night have harboured about making a smart escape from the burden of further 
college studies was shattered quickly because the reality was a wake up call We were put through themost strenuous educational programme with 
its myriad subjects such as aerodynamics, physics, ainnanslip, meteorology, Morse Code, history, English .... and the list goes on We only heard 
the roar of engines from the Academics Block and looked at the senior cadets in their flying gear with envy. Months rolled by before the good 
news came with all the attending euphoria. Flying training was to start soon! 

The first day of going to the aircraft for indoctrination and familiarisation was a momentous one. Tlie first sortie comes after several of these cockpit 
and instrument familiarisation exercises. Hien a long briefing on the blackboard followed about the execution of the familiarisation sortie. Hiis was 
the first time that we saw our names written as Fit Lt Abbasi/ Fit Cadet SS Haider - mission Fam- 1 , meaning familiarisation Hie night before my 
first sortie was totally devoid of any sleep since the anticipation was too much to bear. By this time, we had been taught the use of a parachute in 
case of an emergency and given detailed instructions on how to respect the sanctity of a parachute. We had to do many dummy exercises of pulling 
tire rip cord to get tire feel of the technique and pressure to successfully deploy the parachute. During this training none of us thought we would 
ever need to use one. Little did I know that I would have to use it twice to save my life! 

On the day of reckoning, we got into the front cockpit of tire Harvard aircraft, with the bulk of the parachute fonning the seat. The rest was taken 
care of by the instructor, sitting in the back seat. I was frozen stiff since we were not allowed to touch any of the gadgets. I had to keep my feet 
verylighlly on the rudder and just observe during my first flight. While taxiing, the instructor showed me how to weave in an arc of 1 20 degrees, the 
idea being to see what was in front. While this phenomenon may seem strange today with nose wheel as standard airframe equipment, we were in 
a tail wheel aircraft, sitting l/3 rd way behind the engine which ^ve no visibility in front, unless you manoeuvred the aircraft on tire ground from side 
to side. 

I Have the Controls 

The take-off was my first ever in life in a WW-II era piston aircraft. Hie feeling was euphoric, difficult to encapsulate in words. Hie Instructor Pilot 
(IP) kept a running commentary going as we headed towards the flying training area. On that first mission, the instructor demonstrated gentle turns, 
stall and recovery and general handling of tire aircraft. He levelled off at 5,000 ft uttering the magic words, “You have the controls” and that is the 



first time that I gripped the control column in the air and was guided by the instructor on how to maintain height and execute shallow turns. That 
was a sensational flight experience including the circuit and the landing. I recall I held the column ever so delicately and felt a bit timid. It was a 
tremendous feeling of being partially in control of a lighter; like a dream come true. I made a few turns and weaved around a little. After ten 
minutes of getting the feel of the aircraft, the IP asked me how I felt. I responded confidently that I felt great. 

Then the IP got the control back and cautioned me to recheck my harness tight and locked and take my hands and ft away from all the controls. I 
took my bands off the throttle and stick and ft back from the rudders and sat tight while thinking he was going back for a landing. Suddenly, the 
engine whine changed and I noticed the engine RPM (Revolutions Per Minute) needle move to 2000 and then he lilted the nose of the aircraft 
above the horizon and we went into a climb. Then he lowered the nose fortber and frilly towards the horizon and suddenly throttled back. I noticed 
tlie speed dropping quickly from 140 miles an hour to 120, 100, 70 and the aircraft started quivering and I wondered what was going to happen 
next. Then he asked me to watch the height as the speed bled further. I saw the altimeter register a loss of about 1 50 ft. He came on with full 
throttle and gently lowered file nose further and Hilly recovered the aircraft in level flight after losing about 200 ft. He explained to me this is how 
file aircraft stalls and while file natural tendency is to pull file nose up to recover, by doing so it would lose altitude even fester. So he taught me 
how to lower file nose and bring the throttle forward and recover from the stall He agamc limbed up to 6,000 ft and I was taken through file first 
loop of my life. Due to the ‘G’ forces which I also experienced for file first time, I blacked out. 

From this point the IP turned towards Risalpur for file return fligh t. We descended down to the circuit height and the IP entered into the landing 
pattern. There were several aircraft in the circuit and it seemed amazing how they were all being neatly stacked one behind the other with plenty of 
safety margin to avoid air collisioa Several aircraft were carrying out circuits and landings - the first exercise when the training begins. The aircraft 
would touch down, tail would come down, and the IP would ask the cadet to carry on rolling and repeat the circuit and landing. We got onto 
down wind, which meant nmning along the runway but opposite to the landing direction Hien he asked me to lower the landing gear, and continue 
along file down wind. When our wing- tip was past the touch-down point we turned through 90 degrees onto the base- leg before turning onto the 
runway for landing. I kept watching all the changes very intensely as the IP dropped the air speed to about 90 miles an hour and file flareout 
depleted file speed further till the touch down at about 85 miles an hour. 

The landing part was a difficult proposition in all aircraft as we were to learn, but in a Harvard it was particularly hazardous owing to the vicious 
swing characteristics of the aircraft as the tail- wheel touched down Hie sortie lasted for about 40 minutes. In those early days we did not have the 
luxury of a long, broad runway ahead, instead a grass strip was used at Risalpur for landings and take-offs. As we were turning off the grass 
runway, my IP pointed out a cement structure well off the side of the landing field, a much talkedabout feature known as the ‘Finger Point’. It had 
file sign of a middle finger pointing upwards; this we were to learn slowly would be the chastisement point for young cadets who had committed an 
error during the training sortie. While driving a car I had a habit of keeping my elbow on the edge of the car window. I paid a price for undoing this 
habit in the cockpit after the canopy was opened in file landing pattern The IP had thrown a fit as soon as try ami slid onto the canopy rail I 
remember how he taxied the aircraft towards the Finger Point and I was ordered to disembark and had to walk back about a mile in file heat of 
file blazing sun, with a heavy parachute slung over my aching shoulder. 

I had to do this “desert saferi” twice during my training period, before my arm got disciplined. After the landing we would be debriefed by the 
instructor and he would explain the entire mission profile in detail Hie femiliarisation process was spread over three missions. By the third sortie, 
we were given controls through the landing pattern and were required to touch down a few times and take-off again to practice the circuit landing 
exercise. 

My First Solo 

The moment of truth for a cadet pilot is his first solo. The maximum time in which a cadet had to go solo was around 30 hours of dual flying, or 
suspension was almost guaranteed. However, depending upon the previous flying experience, individual capability and perfonnance of a cadet, 
some would be cleared for a first solo earlier than the others. Shamim Ahmed, SarferazRafiqia, Masood Khan, Aglia, and Mahmud Choonara 
were amongst file first to solo 1 . Most of them had the advantage of flying several hours including solo on Tiger Moth aircraft at file University Air 
Squadrons. On a fine morning, I was detailed with Fit Lt Chunoo Abbas i, my very demanding and unforgiving flight instmetor. The mission was 
general flying, aerobatics and practice forced landing. 

The take-offwas normal; I left the circuit and climbed to 10,000 ft. It was a clear day with perfect visibility. We levelled offinthe training area 
which was roughly 30 miles away from the airfield. The instmetor asked me to showhima spin and recovery which I did without any comments 
from file demanding instructor which meant that it was pretty good. This was followed by climb back to 1 0,000 ft. I was instructed to perfonn a 
loop and then a stall turn I recall file stall turn was not good so the instmetor for the umpteenth time guided me through a smoother turn Finally, 
file aerobatics ended with a roll off file top. Then he immediately cut the engine and asked me to force land. We were at about 5,000 ft at that time 
and I managed a pretty good pattern right to the finals. Then he asked me to go around and clini) to 4,000 ft and once we got there, he cut file 
engine again and asked me to turn and force land in a right hand pattern Once on the final approach, he told me to take it around for another 
practice forced landing. 

1 Solo means to be allowed to fly the aircraft alone without an instructor. This is a defining moment in a learner’s life as a pilot. 

Having completed the planned exercises in the training area, Fit Lt Abbasi asked me to return back to the airfield and rejoin the circuit. After 
joining the circuit I carried out all the standard operating procedures and touched down in a wheeler landing. This required touching on the main 
wheels and gradually letting the tail wheel come down With some help from the instructor, I managed to keep the aircraft straight and heaved a 
sigh of relief Taxiing back, I felt quite safe going past die Finger Point, feeling confident that the instmetor had not yelled at me throughout the 
mission What’s more, even my left elbow was kept well under control after learning to do so the hard way. 

Just as we were returning towards the apron, file instructor took over the controls, turned around and went back to the beginning of the strip. He 


asked ire to put the parking brakes on and lock them I saw the rear canopy moving forward and the instructor getting out of the aircraft. He 
stood on the wing for a while and bent in Iris cockpit and I thought he was stowing his parachute. He closed the canopy and stepped up to my 
cockpit; I lifted my helmet ear phones and he told me “Ok boy! You arc on your own, don’t break up the aircraft and don’t do anything silly!” 

I was stumped for a while but quickly regained my composure and waved to him, took permission from the tower and lined up on the runway. I 
was cleared right away as there were no aircraft on the down wind leg I rewed ip the engine, checked the magnetos again and let go the brakes, 
breathing heavily through out take-off and went screaming into the air. Gears up, speed at 1 1 0 miles an hour. As I timed away from the circuit, an 
incrediblefeeling overcame me. I can capture it very vividly but can’t explain vvliat it was. It was a sense of freedom of self esteem, and no 
apprehension The one thing I recall well is that I kept turning my head to be sire I was alone. I climbed away to 8,000 ft heading for the Hying 
training area. Once settled, I started with some steep turns and stalled throwing the aircraft around in yo-yos. I think I was screaming at the top of 
my voice with joy, knowing there was nobody watching me over except God Almighty. I did a loop which wasn’t very good but 1 tried it again and 
the results were slightly better this time. Then I did a few stallsand many rolls to the right and left but barrelling out at the end of each 

I skipped the stall turn which wasn’t my favourite manoeuvre and went for a practice forced landing. It was time to head home since my instructor 
bad asked me to return after 30-40 minutes. I headed back for Risalpur and joined the circuit. I lowered the gear on the down wind and carried 
out all the pre- landing vital actions. On base leg flaps were lowered on towards the final approach I sensed that I may be slightly undershooting 
so I gave a burst of throttle and came down on a landing which was neither a three point nor a wheeler but as the tail wheel came down, the 
aircraft started to buck on me but I managed to kick the rudderinto the swing and controlled it. I held my breath until the aircraft came to a 
standstill I exhaled a big phew and thanked God for the safe landing. Tlie instructor came and said ‘You clot! (His lavourite phrase which 
practically replaced my first name throughout the flight training) You almost swung the aircraft”. But that was the only time I almost, but not quite, 
swung the aircraft and it never happened again This was my first solo which was a momentous achievement for me. I performed my first solo after 
about 22 hours of dual instructions. Hiis was rather slow progress but I maintained my position in the middle of the course. 

Days turned into weeks and months as we learnt more about aerodynamics, mathematics, meteorology, Morse-code, English language, history, 
physics and you name it, we learnt it. Flying progressed from ab-initio handling and safety exercises to aerobatics, navigation, formation flying and 
die most boring yet demanding instrument flying Night flying was great fun once we got used to the darkness all around. Then came the final stage 
of assessment of each cadet in all aspects of a future pilot, an officer and a gentleman 

As all the tests for flying and other subjects were completed, the tension started to build up since one is never sure how well one has fared and 
whether we were up to the mark to get the wings. Hie torturous parade rehearsals for the day of reckoning also stalled. One of the cadets would 
make a mistake and cause the entire parade to suffer die whole process from the very outset, all over again. As the date of the passing out drew 
nearer, the list oftliose who bad been declared successful would be posted onto the notice board any day. Hiat meant many sleepless nights. One 
day the inevitable happened. When we arrived at the squadron, the list was pasted on the notice board. Our hearts racing fast, we searched for 
our respective names. Hiere were screams of joy as soon as one of us saw his name on the list of successful cadets. Hiank God, Ifound my name 
somewhere in the middle of the fortunate ones. However, there were a few who had been relented to the next course and some who had been 
suspended. This course became distinct in the history of Risalpur in having an almost 80 percent passing rate, with nobody below the grading of 
’average’ (B5). 

The Big Day 

After a few days of torturous parade rehearsals, came the Big Day for the young men who had worked bard to arrive at this long- cherished 
moment. The anxiety that overwhelmed all of us for the last week was an excruciating experience for most of us (even though almost 90 percent of 
us knew that we would get our wings). The uniforms of the cadets were sent to the tailor to get three press buttons for the flying wings to be pinned 
a few days before the graduation parade. Hie night before the last day was sheer anxiety and almost none of us could get much sleep. I pleaded 
with my parents to come over for the graduation but unfortunately both Bunyad and Jawwad and my sister Kausar were taking exams and it was 
virtually impossible for them to leave the others on their own at such a crucial time. 

The morning of the passing out parade day was a totally different one from any other in my earlier, uneventful life. It was a sweltering hot day in 
June in Risalpur. We were woken up at 5:30 am with the usual steaming hot cup of tea. We took turns to get into the bathroom to shower and 
shave. My room-mate was Sergeant C adet Shamim Ahmed, brother of Admiral Rashid Ahmed, a bright naval officer. Shamim was a cool 
customer. But on a day as eventful as this even his sombre persona was upbeat. Our batman Baboo was equally excited and had made sure that 
our shoes were mirroring our excited laces. The uniforms were so well starched that we virtually had to climb into them Hien we rushed towards 
the Mess hall for a quick breakfast. We barely managed to swallow our breakfast because we couldn’t wait to get to the parade ground. 

Formed up on the parade square, we saw parents, relatives and friends who hail stalled to arrive. Seeing all those people sharing the excitement 
and joy with other cadets, for a moment, I felt quite depressed that my parents hadn’t been able to make it. Hie Cadet Wing Under officer, in this 
case Masood Khan, (later to be Air Vice MsM, who recently passed away) was the parade commander. The 13 th GD (P) Course was ordered to 
march forward a pre- determined number of steps and all came to a resounding halt, without any command. Then the Wing Under Officer marched 
up to the dais and saluted the Guest of Honour and announced that the parade was ready for Inis inspection This was the defining moment of over 
30 young men, who had given their best and won a place in the service of the nation with this elite air force. 

The Reviewing Officer walked up to each cadet and pinned the flying wing above Iris left breast pocket. Surely, his fingers must have sensed the 
pounding hearts right beneath the wings. This was a moment that remains wedged in the memory of the cadet for the rest oflris life. Just as it 
remains fresh in my mind as I write this. The ceremony over, we were dismissed. Unlike the US and other Western air forces, where the cadets 
throw their hats high up in the air, we followed the British tradition of silently breaking- off and then suddenly there were hard and warm embraces 
exchanged between all die batch mates. It was a moment of catharsis and all the tension of the past years seemed to be draining, taking along with 
it some of the emotional highs of a few minutes earlier. The next day or so was spent in clearing up and getting ready to proceed to our homes for a 



three- week break before joining the relevant conversion schools. Everybody caught trains in the direction of their homes. My three weeks in 
Quetta were extremely jubilant, but the curiosity to get on with the fighter conversion was oveniding and constantly pervading try mind. 

Fighter Conversion 

We finally arrived at Karachi railway station in dribs and drabs, but by late afternoon, most of us coming from tlx; Punjab, NWFP and Baluchistan, 
arrived at different intervals. A PAF truck brought us with our baggage to the PAF Station in Mauripur, and dropped us at the Officers’ Mess 
Reception A chart displayed in the reception indicated room allocation in pairs. My room-mate was to be Sarlaraz Rafiqui. We settled down in 
our rooms and the next day, were taken to the Fighter Conversion School barracks on the airfield. We were all asked to take our seats in the crew 
room and after a while the Chief Instructor, Sqn Ldr Ashraf Chaudhry accompanied by other (lying instructor's, arrived. He addressed us about the 
scope of the course, adherence to flying discipline, and serious attention to ground subjects. He then introduced the instructors present there, who 
were Fit Ft Jan Mehmood, Fit Ft Trevor Gottings and Fit Ft Qayyum. Tlie former two had amiable personalities, reflected through their smiles and 
the Chief Instructor also seemed very congenial and relaxed. We were plunged into ground subjects for the first week, which included most of the 
subjects studied at Risalpur, but the airmanship subject was more comprehensive as were the operating procedures of the Tempest aircraft. 

The Tempest was a WW-II aircraft, but it came on line after the war was over, hi iact, it was a superior version of the iamous Spitfire of the ‘Battle 
for Britain’ . hi the second week (King began, and between Fit Ft Jan Mehmood and Fit Ft Trevor Gottings, all of us, about 25 pilots were 
converted in the dual- seat Fury. Hie dual Fury was the trainer model of the iamous Sea-Fury, which was considered the fastest and most effective 
fighter ofthe post WW-II period. 

Our Tempest conversion was the first completely Pakistani mn aflair. Prior to this, contract pilots ftomthe Battle of Britain were employed by the 
PAF, to carry out the conversion Our course was to be the first experience in totally indigenous flying and ground staff These Tempest aircraft 
had been received by Pakistan as its share after Partition, and were handed over in a terribly dilapidated state. 

The Tempest was a powerful aircraft, however, and a phenomenal change ftomthe Harvard we had been flying as cadets. We adapted to its high 
performance characteristics quite weft A lot of the credit goes to the two instructors, who walked us through the flying exercises with great 
affection and consideration However, nothing is perfect in life, least of all, people. I had my first bitter showdown with my instructor, Fit Ft 
Qayyum, while flying an instrument training mission in a Harvard aircraft. He obviously had a chip on his shoulder and we never saw him smiling. 
During the sortie, I was canying out a 45 degree bank turn under the hood, simulating cloud conditions, when I lost about 75 ft during the turn 
This was still within good average (lying parameters. Hie instmetor got riled up out of proportion and calling me a “stupid idiot” and told me to 
watch my height. Five minutes later, he used even more abusive language, because as I straightened out of the turn I overshot the intended heading 
on the compass by a couple of degrees. Once again, a very acceptable error but this time I could not control my rage, and yelled back at him 

He screamed at the top of his voice, and using a proianity, told me to return to the airfield. I retorted back and told him, "You take me back, Sir!”. 
I did not care any more about the dire consequences when we landed back. As soon as he had switched off the aircraft, the norm was for the 
student pilot to wait till the instructor jumped out ofthe aircraft. But I was simmering and virtually catapulted out of the aircraft and went straight to 
tlie ordeiiyroom and asked the clerk to give me two blank sheets of paper. Returning to the crew room, teal's rushing from my eyes, I stood by a 
table, and started to write my resignation Several of my batch mates tried to pacify me, and advised me not to rush into a rash course of action 
But I was hell-bent on retaining my selfesteem 

Before I could figure out how to forward the application. Fit Ft Jan Mehmood got wind of the incident. Hiis wonderful roly-poly man came and 
put his hand around my neck and took me into the veranda, and asked me what had happened. I repeated the incident; explaining to him without 
any embellishments and holding back my tears. He smiled and told me to go and sit in the crewroom and calm down Just a few minutes later, I 
was sent for by tlie Chief Instructor, Sqn Fdr Ashraf I entered his office, saluted him and took the folded paper out of my pocket. But before I 
could give it to him, he asked, “What happened young man’? I replied, “Sir, I have written everything on this paper”, andput it in front of him on 
his desk. He unfolded it and read through my redress of grievance. He folded it, tore it into lour pieces, and placing it in front of him, he said, “Go 
boy, and fly well, you will make a fine lighter pilot”. I was speechless. I marched out, and the course finally finished. I made second place amongst 
my batch, which was a quantum jump for me from my performance at the College in Risalpur. Sarlaraz Rafiqui, hero and martyr of tlie 1 965 war, 
topped the course. 

The course ended on an unpleasant note due to rather a minor incident. On the afternoon of the Dining-Out Night for the course, Fit Ft Jan 
Mehmood invited about six or seven of us for a beer session in the Mess bar. Adjacent to the bar was a room which was used by officers as a 
bridge-playing room We were in great spirits and our laughter and guflawing was highly inflating for a Wing Commander and his colleagues 
playing bridge. The incident was blown out of proportion and reported to the Commandant. Dining the Dining-Out Night, Gp Capt Kliyber Khan 
stood up with a fierce expression He said, ‘Gentlemen, I had intended to pay some of the highest compliments to this course, for its perfonnance 
and to tlie instructors for doing such a superb job on tlie first allPakistani Fighter Conversion Course. However, the despicable behaviour of tlie 
student pilots earlier in tlie afternoon reported to me by a senior oflicer, made me change my mind. So I am replacing my kudos to you, with tlie 
following punishment: tlie course leave is hereby cancelled, and for those two weeks before joining your respective fighter squadrons, you will all 
report to the Station Headquarters, collect picks and shovels to break- up the concrete platfonn in fi'ont of the Conversion School, and turn it into a 
grass lawn”. Hiis must have been the most miserable start of our career, especially the cancellation of leave. Ten days and a broken up tarmac 
later, we were allowed five days in which to touch base with our parents, and report on time to our new units. I was posted to No 14 Fighter 
Bomber Squadron at the PAF Station in Peshawar. 

First Fighter Squadron 

On the day of my departure from Quetta, my lather and mother as well as my sister followed by my two other siblings, Bunyad and J awwad, came 
to tlie railway station Long, tearful goodbyes followed, along with promises to stay in constant touch It was a long and tiring journey to Peshawar, 



but uneventful. Hie transport sent by the PAF once again collected us in batches as we anived, and femied us to the Officers’ Mess. I recall that 
we arrived on a Saturday and the next day was a holiday, which allowed us to settle into our Bachelor Officer's’ Quarters (BOQs). Luckily Pilot 
Officer Zaheer Hassan (Tinchoo for bis short height and sprightly personality) was to be try room-mate. Tinehoo was a real fireball, and a 
wonderful friend. We enjoyed some good times together at Peshawar. On Monday morning we arrived at the squadron, with great expectations, 
but apprehensive about the unknown elements we were to confront. It was a surprise to meet with the Squadron Commander, the handsome and 
suave Sqn Ldr Masroor Hossain He had a cut on his lip, which added a certain charm to his visage. It was a highly civilized briefing by him on 
what was expected of us. 

After work, we all proceeded to the Officers’ Mess. Sarferaz Rafiqui, Arshad, Tinchoo and I were climbing up the stairs to the veranda of the 
Officers’ Mess, when a portly gentleman, a senior pilot from No 14 Squadron, signalled us towards the door. He asked us to come inside the 
door, which turned out to be the Mess bar. This gentleman and a great officer was Fig OffMunir-ud-din Ahmed (fondly and respectfully caked 
‘Bha’ Munir). Stuttering profusely, ‘Bha’ Munir placed four' glasses from the counter in our hands. A huge jug lull of frothing beer was poured into 
the glasses. This was a fabulous launching of four brand new fighter pilots (young cubs to Munir j, into the realm of fighter operations. This jug of 
shandy (beer in lemonade) became symbolic for us in the sense that for many years, whenever this group happened to be together at a flying 
station, shandy was the thirst quencher of choice. 

We were launched into Hying almost immediately under the supervision of two outstanding officers and fighter pilots; Fit Lt Titch Rehman 
(addressed as ‘Boss’) and Fit Lt Durrani (Dan), the fierce fighter pilot. The other person besides ‘Bha’ Munir was Fig Off Cullen (Lenny). Hiey 
were to be our instructors over the next six to eight months of (lying the Sea-Furies. 

The Fury was for superior to the Tempest we had just flown: these Furies were very new and awesome to look at, and fobulous to fly. Those days 
the concept of flight safety took a back seat, and the flying character of the air force was more on the WW-II RAF gung-ho style. Low gear 
retractions, curved approaches and three point landings were considered the mark of hot rod pilots. After a couple of months of (King, a new 
Officer Commanding ofthe Flying Wing, Wg Cdr Rahim Khan (known behind Iris back as Shantay Khan), took over the Wing. He was a nirch- 
feared person and had a very strong presence and personality. I was to get to know him in later years and discovered that he had the kindest 
heart, yet a lot of ftny in his personality. 

An exercise was held every Monday after his arrival, in which the Squadron fromMiransbah (the ferrous outpost of the Scouts) used to arrive at 
Peshawar, and a combined Wing exercise would be held between No 5, No 9, and No 14 Squadron It would be planned for 18 Furies in the 
attack role, and one squadron with all its aircraft was assigned the interceptor role. Beforethe briefing, it was a sight to see nearly 24 Furies lined 
up according to the squadrons, having been washed and polished by the pilots the previous afternoon Tlie Squadron Commanders would stand in 
front of the units, with one pilot in front of the propellers of the aircraft, and two airmen along the wings. TheWing Leader, Wg Cdr Rahim Khan, 
would descend from what was tauntingly caked the ivory tower 

- his office, perched at the second level which was a two room structure. He woikd then walk to each squadron, which was brought to attention, 
and examine every aircraft one by one with the Squadron Commander trailing behind him With shaky legs, each fighter pkot would answer his 
questions. These ranged from knowledge of aircraft engine, specifications, to the names and welfare of the airmen standing on the wings. It was not 
unusual for him to puk out his pristine white handkerchief from his pocket, and run it through the engine cowlings to check if it would leave any 
marks due to a poor polishing effort. 

This ordeal over, the next would begin in the No 14 Squadron briefing room Ak the fomnations were already drawn up on the black board, with 
different colours denoting different squadrons and formations, and the strike missions drawn in chalk. The interceptor squadron was not akowed in 
the briefing room, so as to keep the (light plan of the strike mission secure from leakage. These were like the WW-II strike missions against 
Germany. Hie common fear was that if anyone lost the leader dining this exercise, he would have to rok up his bedding and await posting to a 
transport squadron or Risalpur to become an instructor. This was the same style which Rahim Khan maintained in the first j et squadron, the No 11 
Attacker Interceptor Squadron. Hie first time when we were attending this exercise, I almost spun on the spot, as I saw my name as his wing man: 
the most unwanted position that pkots generally feared to be in Hie briefing was a short mumbling session, because he was not given to articulation 
like Sqn Ldr Saeedukah who bad a crisp British accent. Hierefore, people had to have their ears detached from their bodies and be strategically 
placed to make senseout of his briefing. For me, that day was a continuous haze, and my mind only focused on how to stay in position as his 
wingjuan, and not to lose him I survived as did the rest. 

Hie last memorable event of my short seven-month posting to the first fighter squadron was the adventure of No 14 Squadron proceeding to 
Dhaka for one month This was to be the first lighter squadron to fly across India, transiting through Palam Airport, for a goodwik mission to East 
Pakistan Landing at Palam was quite exciting as the formations of four stacked in astern were in close formation and the break-oils were 
deliberately aggressive as it was a matter of national pride to perform to perfection over an Indian airfield. Ak the aircraft landed safety, and after 
refuelling took off again without any contact with our Indian counterparts. Hie flight to Dhaka was uneventful and finally, after a long day, we 
settled down in smak bhasha (bamboo huts), supposed to be the BOQs. Dan Durrani got hold of Tinchoo, Cuken and me, and suggested we go 
up to the femed Dhaka Club for some entertainment. In those days, this Club had a reputation of being one of the finest in the countiy. We arrived 
swaggering into the bar, and the handsome Patlian, Dan Durrani, thumped the bar and said, “ Abdar (barman), please give us five whiskeys”. 
Certainty, we from West Pakistan had an attitude problem when it came to the Bengalis. But what we learnt in that one month was that our attitude 
problem was equally and forcefully reciprocated by the educated Bengak class. Hiat evening however, we were to experience a smattering of 
both attitudes. 

Hie banuan did not budge from where he was standing but asked a question in response to Dumani’s demand, “Are you a member of this Club, 
sir’? Durrani was quite taken aback as were the rest of us. Durrani repked, “We are officers of the Pakistan Air Force, and I want you to serve us 
the drinks”. Instantly came the retort rather than a polite refiisal, “Sorry sir, only members can be served here”. Witnessing this drama was a lady 
sitting at the other end of the long bar counter. Addressing the barman by name, the lady said in a veiy authoritative voice, “Give the gentlemen 



what they like now and whenever they visit the club, they shall be my guests.” The barman sprinted towards his service counter with unusual 
alacrity, and started pouring as he was ordered. All of us were quite stunned at the happenings of the last few minutes and did not know how to 
thank the lady. Dunani clicked Iris heels and took a veiy English bow lacing the lady without a word. The woman said, “Welcome, gentlemen, to 
East Pakistan, and feel free to enjoy the hospitality of our city. I am the Begum of Dhaka and you shall be my guests at the Club whenever you so 
wish”. Durrani signalled all of us and we walked up to the Begum of Dhaka and started a polite conversation 

Some other impressionable incidents took place during the month. Unfortunately, our visit was construed by the politically awareand educated 
Bengalis as a threatening gesture rather than one of goodwill Today, as I write these lines, I can look back and see that the seed of discontent was 
laid by the West Pakistani dominated government with a dishonest bureaucracy. Even though the Prime Minister of Pakistan at the time, Khawaja 
N azimudin, was himself a Bengali, he load been checkmated by the political shark Mumtaz Daultana, and the army leadership under Gen Ayub 
Khan. Nazhrudin was removed soon after the killing spree by the Jamaat-i-Islami andKhaksar brigands, in a conspiracy by the Punjabi Governor 
General Ghulam Mohammad, with a nudge from the over ambitious army C- in- C Ayub Khan. East Pakistanis had begun to dream of 
independence then. 

Upon our return from Dhaka, one fine morning, Tinchoo and I were summoned by the Squadron Commander. Dan Durrani, playing the joker, 
looked at us seriously and said, “What the hell have you two been up to, boys, the Squadron Commander is livid with rage”. I replied, “But sir, 
what did we do wrong!” He told us to double up to the Squadron Commander s office and find out for ourselves. With hearts palpitating and legs 
quivering, we entered and put out our best salute in unison. Tliere in front of us was the smiling Squadron Commander, Sqn Ldr Masroor Hossain 
He said, “Well, Haider and Zaheer, by all accounts you two have done very well in the past few months, and the AHQ wants to send young and 
energetic fighter pilots to No 11 Squadron”. The very name of the No 1 1 Squadron used to spike the stomach of every fighter pilot because it was 
the first and only jet squadron in the Pakistan Air Force. This posting was considered a harbinger of a promising career in fighter command. We 
left the office hugging each other. 

3 

FIRST JET SQUADRON IN PAF 

No 1 1 Squadron holds a very special place in my heart and mind for several reasons; the most important is that it laid my true foundations as a 
fighter pilot in all its manifestations. It propelled me to follow the professional excellence of legends like Air Cdre FS Hussain, Air Mshl A Rahim 
Khan, Air Cdrc ‘Mitty’ Masud and Sqn Ldr Alauddin (‘Butch’) Ahmed. Here is a brief flashback of memories in No 11 Squadron 

First and foremost, it was the posting to No 11 Squadron that earned a tremendous significance for young fighter pilots moving from the Fury 
squadron It was the first jet squadron in Pakistan (oddly, a tail wheel jet aircraft) and to be selected fbrthis squadron was a dream For Fig Off 
Zaheer (‘Tinchoo’) and me, the news came when we had had barely 25 hours on the Sea Fury, an incredible WW-H (ighteritsclfi Our selfesteem 
skyrocketed and we walked in semi- euphoria above ground level until the time came to catch a train to PAF Station Drigh Road. 

Our first encounter with the pilots of No 1 1 Squadron was as happy and exhilarating as being treated to a glass of shandy by ‘Bha’ Munir on our 
first posting to No 14 Squadron at Peshawar. After arriving at the squadron hangar (there was no crew room per se) and checking in at the Station 
Adjutant’s Office, we were warmly met by the inepressihle Fig Off Alauddin Ahmed (Butch to all his fiiends). Butch truly never had an enemy; 
everybody loved Butch, especially the girls from the Burt Institute (an Anglo- Indian club operated by the Railways). We had already met Sqn Ldr 
Rahim Klian (Shantay Klian) who was the first Squadron Commander, and heard exciting stories about his subsequent successors, the legendary 
FS Hussain and Fit Lt ‘Mitty’ Masud. 

Learning the Ropes 

Life in 1 1 Squadron had an exciting start. Butch called us new arrivals and handed us an operational manual on the Attacker aircraft. Hie next few 
hours he went over the salient features of jet engine handling as opposed to a piston engine, explaining the function of various indicators in the 
cockpit and the importance of respecting the limits of the aircraft. After giving us a comprehensive brief we were ushered to the aircraft. Tliere, 
joined by Fig Off Naqvi (who later collided with Fit Lt ‘Pete’ Malik over the airfield during a formation loop and crashed), each of us was given an 
external check practice and engine start up. This was followed by a brief taxiing practice, which proved extremely tricky because of the tail wheel 
and limitation of engine power application This, in sum total, was the entire description of our training classes. We were told by Butch to study the 
emergency procedures for the rest of the day. In the evening we were given the news that whoever passedin the emergency and other procedures 
the next day would be going solo. 

So, the next day some of us went solo after that day-long familiarization, without any dual check because there was no such configuration for the 
Attacker. From then on, we were put through some of the toughest flying anywhere in the military aviation world. The Attacker had no cooling or 
heating systems, no navigational aids and a miserable manual (non- boosted) flight control system, which made it necessary for the pilot to use frill 
force of both bands to perfonna loop. Formation aerobatics, therefore, were a feat of' flying and soinctimes deadly. Tlie real torture was the long- 
range flights to Lahore, Chaklala and Sargodha or the much-disliked ‘high- low- high’ strikes. What happened to some ofus was that owing to the 
lack of heating at high altitude, we would experience the bends, that is air trapped in our joints especially shoulder joints and gums. Hiis sounds 
tunny but it was much more than that! Hie pain was so excmciating that once I recall on the way to Lahore, I was over Sukkur when my gums 
started hurting. Clenching and screaming (a common relief action in excessive ‘G’ conditions or pain from bends) didn’t help. So to relieve the pain 
I tore at my gum with the fuel tank opener, until it bled. And during all this agony we had to be in proper battle- formation! 


‘Mitty’ Masud and ‘Corny’ Karim were terrors in the sky, they would tear you apart with seething transmissions if you fell out of the briefed 



position Sumners in Karachi were agonizing, especially without cockpit airconditioning; with the heat and blithering humidity it was like being in a 
sauna, especially during low-level strike missions and armament sorties at Gizri Range. Luckily, we not only survived but were trained and 
motivated to aim high and dearly understood that just being average was not acceptable to remain in the first jet squadron. In all this bard flying, 
there was some sensational (lying skill and outstanding leadership demonstrated by the Squadron Commander, Sqn Ldr FS Hussain 1 , a world- 
class legend of military aviation, I say with absolute confidence. 

Our first experience of FS Hussain’ s total mastery over the Attacker, for that matter any aircraft, was witnessed just a few days after we had been 
inducted into the squadron We were all standing around the crew hanger when suddenly there was a thunderous sound followed by a screaming 
whistle. At the front end of the noise was an Attacker at less than filly ft off the deck on its back! FS Hussain pulled up into an inverted loop with 
thick contrails at the wingtips. What a sight it was! It shall never lade in the memory of those who were seeing an inverted loop for the first time. 

We witnessed much more of this in No 11 Squadron. 

Life in the squadron and life after we dolled our unifonns (or flying coveralls) was equally challenging, but in different ways. Our living quarters 
were spread right across the Officers’ Mess area. One block was at the eastern end below the road level and the other was on the western side 
past the Officers’ Mess, situated on a high mound called ‘Hie Lavender Hill’. The six of us living in three rooms were known as the Lavender Hill 
Mob. My roommate happenedto be Fig Off Dutta, who was recently posted to No 11 Squadron. Other than FS Hussain only Zaheer Massey 
owned a car: die miniest of minis, a Fiat 500. ‘Lucky’ Hayat, the most colourful character, owned a rickety old motorcycle which was used by all 
of us who knew how to ride it. Lucky lived outside the Mess since he was married - of sorts. The rest all lived in BOQs. The working hours were 
very busy with (lying and some measure of academics. We had FS Hussain’s spectacular ‘beat- ups” on the airfield to entertain us every once in a 
while. 

There was an unforgettable situation that FS Hussain found himself confronted with, one fine morning. Sensing a commotion outside the crew 
room, we all ran out and saw an Attacker on its back, very low, with one gear sticking out. Soon we were to leam that FS, as he was commonly 
known, could not get the right gear dowa One would imagine that a “one wheel landing” would be a hazardous exercise but not for FS. He 
carried out some blood curling manoeuvres at low speed because of the “one gear” hanging down, in order to, what he called ‘bum out maximum 
fuel to eliminate the hazard of fire on landing”. He made a perfect one- wheel landing and held the opposite wing up with Iris control column and 
gently lowered the wing as the speed came dowa Hie belly tank helped the asymmetric wheel landing with minimal damage. It was amazing to see 
tlie same aircraft on line the next morning. This reflected the dedication and professional competence of the technical staff Even the British 
technical representative of file Super Marine Corporation was amazed at the perfection and flying skill of our Squadron Commander and the ability 
of technicians to bring the Attacker on the (light lines without wasting a day. Now, these kinds of stunts were only the Squadron Commander’s 
prerogative and no one dared venture such risky stuff even though any concept of flight safety was totally non-existent. This was manifested in 
some of file silly near misses and accidents which I shall recount. 

1 As the first young Flying Officer, the second lowest rank of a pilot, FS Hussain created the Commonwealth Air-to-Air Gunnery record at the Royal Air Force Central 
Gunnery School in August 1948. This was a great honour for the Royal Pakistan Air Force. 


There was a tradition of doing air shows for visiting dignitaries and on special occasions like Independence Day. Hie air shows were rehearsed 
well to put up spectacular firing and aerobatics, individual as well as in close formation. The targets in this case were laid out on the south western 
side of the airfield with clear overshoots just in case there was a runaway aircraft. Hie audience included the President and the Prime Minister of 
the time. During a strafing run the pilot suffered target fixation, a phenomenon not common, but possible, as in this unfortunate fetal accident. Right 
in front of their eyes the audience saw file Attacker % straight into the target, exploding into a thousand pieces. It was very tragic, but such was to 
be the shape of things during those early days of fighter flying. On another occasion a fonnation aerobatics team was to be formed and various 
pilots were being tried to select the best. The Flight Commander, Fit Lt ‘Pete’ Malik was practicing loops and rolls over the runway, with good old 
Fig Off Naqvi in astern position. Right in front of our eyes, Naqvi hit the tail of his leader’s aircraft and spun into die ground on the other side of file 
runway. N aqvi was a popular chap and was badly missed by all of us. 

These accidents happened right on the airfield and stayed in our minds for a long time. But flying went on as usual even on the day accidents took 
place. This was essential for young pilots like us to understand that we were in a risky profession and had to leam to not only deal with file 
emotional aspect but to draw lessons from each experience in order to avoid repetition of mistakes. We grew into the adulthood of fighter flying 
swiftly. 

The spell of nonnal flying training was broken when there were interservices exercises or major inter- squadron events. These entailed cross- 
country flights to bases in the north In this connection, there was to be a major air show at Lahore which was not an operational base. Three Sea 
Fury squadrons were already there and all personnel lived in tented accommodation with field toilets and improvised baths covered by Hessian. 
Being from file only jet squadron, we walked with a swagger and tried to be different from the prop jocks. So it was in this atmosphere that 
rehearsals began. 

My first sense of rage and frustration was felt when Fit Lt ‘Corny’ Karim, the junior Flight Commander, bullied the life out of me for being unstable 
in close fonnation where I was flying in the No 5 position All my imploring that the aircraft in front, ie No 3, was in a constant porpoise making it 
very difficult for me to be steady, was unacceptable to Karim He kept me on the ground the next day. But there was to be a silver lining at the end 
of this dark day. Mitty had been grounded from flying and was hanging around with FS Hussain - his great buddy. In spite of his disposition he 
was flying and doing synchronized aerobatics with FS. He walked up to me and asked why I wasn’t flying, I nearly burst into tears, but he 
provided solace and said “Your day will come, just take it lying down”. 

His words proved prophetic, as a year later, Karim was flying T-33’s as an instructor while I was flying No 3 in the PAF official formation 
aerobatics teamlead by the consummate professional, ‘Mitty’ Masud. Hie day we performed over the Mauripur airfield inF-86s, Karim was the 
first to come and congratulate me for an excellent perfonnanee. I told him that he was responsible for my success and I reminded him when he had 


grounded me for a day for formation trouble. He bad a good laugh and patted me for being selected from tlx; entire PAF. Hie final show was 
watched by thousands of Lahoris and mercifully it was uneventful and we planned our return to Drigh Road. There was a problem as there was a 
jet stream at our cruising altitude. This reduced our ground speed sufficiently to give us dangerously low fuel at destination, with little in reserve to 
divert in case of runway blockage or weather conditions. Tlie met officer told the Squadron Commander that the winds were likely to die down in 
the next 24 hours. 

Our Flight Commander, Fit Lt ‘Pete’ Malik had a ‘homitis’ syndrome because he was missing his sweetheart and wanted to get back come high 
winds or high water. The first fonnation of four to depart included me, Pete, Dutta and WD Ahmed. We had prepared a very thorough (light plan 
and, if all went as planned, we would be landing with less than a hundred gallons of fuel which was precariously low. It was alright for the leader 
because he would have a constant throttle setting, but the rest of us had to maintain battle formation, punping our throttles up and down to keep 
position 

Until we were abreast of DG Khan, things went almost as planned. Then the Jet Stream (high altitude winds) hit us and our ground speed felL Near 
Sukkur the formation was very loose and as Dutta called out Iris remaining fuel the leader announced that “every one was on Iris own”, meaning 
that we don’t waste fuel trying to keep fonnation I was almost abreast of him at that time and decided to leave my throttle where it was. Hien 
another phenomenon further complicated matters. Cirrus clouds reduced visibility and soon the formation’s integrity was lost. This was my first 
experience of very poor leadership, by any standard. I found myself to be the first to join the circuit. It was good to hear good old Lai (Fig OfFLal 
Shabzada, ATCO) on the radio. I made a tactical approach despite low fuel On the downwind as I hied to level off I got no response as though 
my aileron was jammed and I started losing height. Hie controller cleared me to land but I was fighting with all my force to lift the left wing up. I 
was going through 500 ft and sweating profusely. Slowly, in fact dangerously slow, I got a response with my full night forcing the control column to 
the right. The aircraft levelled off when I was perilously low on finals. Thank God 1 had remembered to lower the under carriage as I called the 
tower and announced that my controls bad frozen but were now responding somewhat. My tactical approach was forgotten and I gingerly 
managed to make a landing with a huge thud. It was a bad landing but I was in one piece. 

As I turned off the runway on to the taxi-track, I tried to check my ailerons but couldn’t see anything. After switching off I climbed down, my 
heart still pounding. The sergeant in charge of (light lines came to greet me. I told him what had happened on landing and walked towards the 
aileron. There was a wire stuck in the aileron, twisted from the force 1 had applied but it was there all the same. I stood in shocked horror, 
thanking God again that I was on the ground safely. What was most surprising was that nothing was thought of this near shave I just had! Such 
were the stakes for survival we bad to display resoluteness in facing the tough challenges of our profession. 

After a few months, there was yet another major exercise involving the army and tlie air force in the plains of the Punjab. Our squadron wasto 
move to Sargodba in December of that year. The events during the exercise are worth recounting. After landing at Sargodba we underwent the 
ordeal of settling down in our tented accommodation. I was sharing mine with Fig OffSardar, my mate and a wonderful chap. On the second day 
of tlie exercise I was detailed as No 2 to Jamal (later Air Chief) on cockpit standby as the first pair at dawn 

The Sea Furies were the attack force and No 1 1 Squadron was assigned as the aggressor squadron in the interceptor role. It was freezing in tlie 
cockpit and to keep the circulation going I kept clenching my hands and feet. Owing to the absence of low- looking radars, tlie raid warning was 
provided by the different layers of Mobile Observer Units (MOUs). Given the organizational delays, the warning about an incoming raid was very 
short and tlie jet engine start-up and taxi was longer than the piston engine Furies. So, it was always a tense moment. We bad to get airborne 
before being caught on the ground, which could be very humiliating. 

A dawn attack predicted by Combat Operations Centre (COC) was a good possibility and we were waiting with anticipation to hear the scramble 
sirens go off any moment. Minutes passed into half an hour and then into an hour but not a buzz so far. ft was just then that I saw ‘Pete’ Malik, 
walking towards us. It was the sight of Fig OffSardar, my tent mate that got me worried. I pretended not to sense Pete’s proximity to my Attacker 
(named ‘Jezebel’, as we were allowed to paint our choice ofname on the allocated Attacker's). Pete thumped my fuselage and as f looked downl 
saw his effusive smile, thumbing me outof tlie aircraft. I took off my helmet and implored him to give me just fifteen more minutes. Sardar was by 
his side looking somewhat sheepish, knowing my anguish when I was deprived of a mission. Clumsily, I laboured out of the cockpit and down onto 
tlie ground. Pete patted me and said he would put me back as a fourth pair on stand-by but I was exasperated at his decision I blurted out ‘How 
come Jamal is still in?” Pete told me that Butch was just finishing breakfast and would be relieving Jamal in a moment. Sure enough, as I entered 
tlie makeshift Mess Tent, Butch was polishing off tlie last bite of his paratha with khageena wrapped inside. Pete joked and asked the Mess 
waiter to get mea s izzlin g hot cup of tea, adding that it would cool me down Accepting the moment as a fait accompli I took my mug of tea and 
walked with Butch out of the tent as he strode towards the aircraft to replace Jamal 

I couldn’t believe my ears as tlie scramble siren went off accompanied by the yelling of the Duty Officer: “Scramble, scramble”. Butch let out a real 
solid four letter obscenity, cursing his bad luck. Well that was part of the fun of operational exercises and its electric effect on young lighter jocks. 
The two of us stood watching tlie Attackers start up while some others came out of the Mess tent to watch the lucky ones going for a score. The 
Mess, the apron (where aircraft were parked) and tlie runway were all in close proximity, therefore, we could watch the take-offs. It was a left 
band turn out of traffic so the Attackers became visible again as they flew along the runway down- wind. The leader was staying low and the 
wingman could be seen cutting in on his left. The last sighting was of the formation going into left turn and then it disappeared from sight. Pete had 
joined us in tlie meantime and gave me a look of sympathy. 

Suddenly, a loud bang startled all of us. It sounded like a thousand pound bomb had detonated nearby. Hie senior lot huddled around the field 
telephone maimed by tlie Duty Officer. Hiere was a nervous crackling in the air, but not for long FS Hussain’s hand went up to his forehead as he 
straightened up and sighed, ‘My God, No 2 has hit the ground”. I was stun-sbocked. Sardar was gone, Jezebel in smithereens. Jezebel would be 
replaceable but not bushy brows Sardar. Hiis was tlie third fatality in a few months, fn my opinion all were avoidable, had tlie concept of flight 
safety and responsible leadership been an essential requirement of fighter flight training. Sardar was an extremely amiable and warm person; his 
absence was felt for a very long time. But life goes on and time diminishes the haunting shadows of fatal crashes and loss of comrades. If I recall 



well, the Court of Inquiry determined that the formation stayed too low after take-off and as the No 2 was getting into echelon left, that is inside the 
turn looking up at the leader, he didn’t realize he was too close to the ground. His left wing connected with the ground and cart-wheeled breaking 
up the aircraft. Since the aircraft was foil of JP- 1 foel the inpact produced the enormous bang resembling the sound of a big bomb. 

The rest of the Hying from Sargodba was suspended for a short while, but 1 believe the exercise was resumed later in the day. The entire crew of 
No 11 Squadron, as well as many of Sardar’s friends from the other Units dropped in to commiserate with us. His fimeral prayers were held with 
foil honours later that day. I could not hold back my tears, which kept flowing as we prayed for our departed friend and comrade- in- anus. Death 
ceased to be so terrifying for us young men in our formative years after seeing three close friends depart one after another. This was a major 
change from the past, when living with our femilies, even the news of a for off relative’s death would cause mayhem. We were learning to accept 
the loss of compatriots as a risk in the profession we bad chosen 

There were several other happenings that we as young pilots couldn’t gasp, because these came to us naturally without conscious effort and 
therefore, did not register as a major change in our overall behaviour. Tlie prime catalyst in what I am getting at was the honesty and dedication of 
most of the senior officers. Hiere were no tensions, insecurity about the fixture and least of all, worry about financial solvency. Money, marriage, 
mediocrity and moaning were taboo in the fighter pilot world of RahimKhan, ‘Mitty’ Masud, FS Hussain and their ilk. 

The posting to No 1 1 Squadron was a quantum jump in many ways. What was happening to us was an attitude change. We were now surrounded 
by highly motivated superiors who impacted our lives most profoundly. We picked up a lot of their mannerisms, life style and convictions. Quite 
naturally, we adapted to some of their weaknesses as well, but not incurably. ‘Mitty’ Masud made us learn the national anthem before he taught us 
low level strike planning. We sang it with geat pride. For us the seniors become icons and most remained so at least for me, for the rest of my life. 

The next episode that is embedded in my memory was yet another near miss (in air force lingo, ‘close call’). Once again, it was an exercise 
involving the air force and army. Air Vice Msbl Sadruddin tells me it was ‘November Handicap’. As at Sargodba, we were deployed in the 
interceptor role, tented down near the dumb-bell runway in use for that time of the year at Cbaklala airfield. One fine morning 1 was detailed as 
No 2 in the pair on cockpit standby. Jamal was the leader once again It was winter time and we were clad in the WW-II issue for boots and 
jackets. Hiis time around, the mission was to be flown at midday and I was sweating under the noon sun So I decided to take off my jacket - this 
entailed un-strapping and standing up in the cockpit. Just as I got the right ami out and was pulling the jacket off the scramble came. I had one hell 
of a time keeping up with Jamal on the runway with my straps still not lastened. 

The Attacker bad a tail- wheel and taxiing was a real art; one hand had to be on the hand brake. It was quite a hassle to get my straps lastened as 
we started to roll down the runaway. After take-off we earned out the vital actions like checking oxygen and QNH (standard altimeter setting 
corrected for sea- level to give all the aircraft flying a standard height indication, to avoid collisions). We were off into the ‘wild blue yonder’ (as we 
called it then), and switched frequency to the Sector Operations Centre (SOC) for intruder information and intercept instructions. After a series of 
turns and levelling at 15,000 ft the controller advised the leader that the target was so many miles 12 o’clock. The distance was closing as we were 
at foil throttle and high speed. The leader was asked to descend to 10,000 ft and look for the target at 10 o’clock low. Just then I spotted the 
bandits (tenn used for enemy raiders), four Furies in battle formation. After a pause my leader asked me to take the lead as he had not spotted the 
bandits and time was too crucial to lose the opportunity. I overtook him from the left slowly as I had a small power margin. Soon the leader called 
contact as we got to around two miles of the bandits. 

The leader assigned the left pair to me and he went for the right pair. Soon we were in attack profile and the Furies broke bard in opposite 
directions. I was onto the left pair and shooting at the wingpnan (with camera film of course). I pulled slightly up and right to go for the leader by 
diving hard left. I had my sight right on the target and finger on the trigger closing into 1 ,000 ft. Just as I pressed the trigger I heard the Squadron 
Commander’s voice on the radio, “Red Section, check fuel.” In the heat of the chase, the leader had missed the call for foel check and I hadn't 
looked at the foel at all As I looked in, the foel gauge seemed to stare back mockingly: it was bad news as the foel was very low. I broke the 
attack and heaved straight up, trading height for speed and turned west into the sun As we checked in our ftiel state, FS Hussain nearly screamed, 
“Get back to base, idiots, if you can reach it with this foel!” 

In the next transmission from FS he asked our respective ground positions. I had lost sight of my leader and he was unaware of mine. I called out 
try ground position as Qadirabad Headworks, and gave try height and heading for base. FS then called Jamal and asked him to climb up 
immediately. My leader had pressed on behind his quarry for a little longer than the prudence demanded. This became apparent later as we 
headed towards Cbaklala for recovery. I changed radio frequency to the Air Traffic Control (ATC) for joining circuit, as I virtually glided towards 
Cbaklala, too scared to increase power. Hie foel was running out laster than my heartbeat, by this time. The adrenaline rush of tearing through the 
sky looking for the targets bad now morphed into serious apprehension; would I flameout before or after landing? 

Suddenly, as I passed through 4,000 ft, I remembered I had to perform vital actions before landing QNH was set to the airfield pressure as 
advised by the ATC. I heard the Squadron Commander on the ATC frequency asking the controller if red section was in the circuit. He was 
advised that No 2 was in contact. FS asked my position I told himl was passing through 3,000 ft and the foel was just 30 gallons (the foel 
quantity indicator was near the empty mark). He suggested I make a direct approach for a landing on the runway in use. I replied ‘Roger, sir. I am 
coming in for a straight in landing!’. At this point I hadn’t heard my leader on the ATC channel I timed on to downwind and lowered the gear, 
praying profusely it would come down without a hitch With the thud and click of each wheel my heart would jump. Luckily, I saw all greens on the 
panel and took a deep breath. It was time I started to concentrate on the approach I was hyperventilating like a sprinter in his last lap but the 
wheels touched down in a surprisingly smooth landing, a fluke indeed, given the tense situation. I only heard the ATC start to address the leader 
when the controller said, ‘You’re clear to join Red” but he stopped transmitting before he said “Leader”. 

It was much later in the day that I found out the reason; the leader had maintained the radar frequency, probably in the heat of the foel crisis. The 
controller by error must have started his transmission and realized Red Leader was calling him on the intercept channel As I finished the landing 
run 1 tried to turn left off the runway to move onto Hie taxi- track. My tail wheelwouldn’t unlock. I added power and bad foil rudder into the turn. 



holding tight the brake lever, but to no avail. I sat there like an idiot wondering how Jamal would turn o (II knowing he must be on the final 
approach 1 didn’t have to worry for long as I saw an Attacker swish past me at a hell of a speed on the lair- weather strip, about 1 5 It on my left. I 
couldn’t believe my eyes and my heart restarted pounding like abongo drum! Then alter crossing the end of the aui way’s boundary barbed wire, 
the aircraft came to a halt with a huge mushroom of dust enveloping it. 

My immediate reaction was to get to Jamal, praying he wasn’t hint. Incidentally, if memory serves me right, the aircraft was on its belly and not on 
its wheels as it sped past me, hence the cloud of dust. I switched oil' right where I was after informing the ATC that my aircraft had to be towed 
back since the tail wheel was refirsing to unlock. Before jumping out of the cockpit I took my camera magazine with me (hopefully, one ‘kill’ and 
one "damaged’) captured by it. 

As I drew closer to Jamal’s aircraft I realty prayed hard for his safety. I approached Iris aircraft nervously and got on the left wing. He looked a bit 
dazed. Clearly he had seen the impact and its tragic outcome. As he noticed me coming towards him, he unstrapped and stood up in the cockpit. 
After he climbed out, I reached over and took out Iris film magazine also, now that I knew lie was safe. Meanwhile, the crash tenders and other 
vehicles had approached the scene. Unfortunately, there was a lot of commotion on the road across the airfield parameter owing to some of the 
spectators receiving serious injuries. One of them, I think, was fatally wounded when the aircraft crossed the barbed wire and hit the onlookers. 

Back at the squadron, everyone was happy to see Jamal safety back. A Court of Inquiry was ordered to determine the cause of the accident and 
apportion blame. In the hullabaloo that ensued Jamal probably escaped the Squadron Commander’s wrath for negligence about firel and for 
overshooting the runway. I thanked God for small mercies and tried to get over the sortie. What actually happened was that the leader had 
forgotten to set the QNH and since he was not on the ATC frequency, thereby, on down wind he was higher by the height of the airfield above 
sea- level This caused him to be high and hot on the finals, with no foel to go around for a second approach. Given our experience and the 
operational spirit which tended to make us some what casual such accidents took place often as flying discipline was lax. 

We returned to Drigh Road after some days and this time FS Hussain was leading the entire squadron in one big formation. Once back home we 
settled back into the routine of life in the grand metropolis with its nocturnal excitement and challenges of advanced flying missions in the day light 
hours and the introduction of night flying. 

The following days were engaged in armament sorties, firing guns, rockets and dropping practice bonis at Gizri Firing Range. Unfortunately, Mitty 
was not as good in armament as in strikes, close fonnation and dog- fights. Therefore, as we learnt the art of leadership, navigation, fonnation flying 
and aerobatics, annament came slowly but surety. One day we were told that a new rocket called Hispano- Suiza, from Switzerland, was going to 
be tried out and all of us were going to get a chance to fire these very last rockets. Soon thereafter, the Hispano- Suiza rockets were demonstrated 
in front of the squadron. A Swiss technical expert gave a briefing about the performance parameters of the rocket and the firing envelope. I recall 
vividly on that day there was a portly man, who had a constant twitch in Iris neck. That was the great character‘Maanah’ Rehman, a very 
prominent person on the rich and lamous circuit of Pakistan He must have been the agent for the Swiss company. Many years later I got to know 
the gentleman quite well 

The next day onwards, we all were given two sorties each to establish the effectiveness of the new weapon I am not sure what became of the 
induction of the new rocket but my second mission remains a shattering memory of one of the close encounter's with death in my flying career. We 
were flying the trial missions single- ship, so that we were not hassled with keeping position in a formation and had all the time to fire the rockets 
and to plan the circuit with ease and, fire without any other pressures. I had fired both the rockets and much to try disappointment both were way 
off tlie rocket pin (bull’s eye). Disappointed and prepared for some dressing down by the bosses, I joined the circuit and called down wind. 
Seconds later I heard a somewhat panicky transmission by the ATC controller, “Your aircraft on fire, bail out.” For a moment I froze in the 
cockpit, try adrenaline spiking and stomach turning. Not sure the transmission was as I had heard it, I asked, “Drigh Road, say again”. At the 
same time I lowered the gear. 

The tower yelled back this time, and repeated the earlier message, ‘You are on fire, get out!” I was totally confused because 1 didn’t have the 
height to bail out. Hie Martin Baker egress system was rudimentary and the minimum height for bail-out was around 800 ft AGL and the rest of 
the actions were to be perforated manually. There was no chance to egress in the situation I was in hi a slight daze I continued the landing 
process, touching down with a thump. The controller kept making transmissions but I wasn’t listening. As the aircraft touched down I switched off 
the main fuel cock, cutting the fuel to the engine. As the aircraft slowed down, I un-strapped myself and held the brake lever folly closed, not caring 
iff would burst the tires. I recall jumping out of the cockpit and running at top speed. A jeep overtook me and stopped to get me onboard. Hie 
British technical representative fan, who was stationed with our squadron, was in the jeep and as t hopped in shaking f heard him say, ‘You lucky 
‘B’ look at your aircraft”. As I looked back, I saw the rear of the Attacker in flames. 

Taking a wide berth, he drove past it as the crash tender started to get into action to suppress the fire. Later in the day when all was backto 
nonnal it was discovered that the exhaust pipe which carries the jet flame outwards had severed at the joint where the engine ends; thus, the flame 
was leaking out in the middle of the fuselage melting the metal at the joint, hi fact the fuselage had been separated in the next few minutes after f 
had landed. The technical representative opined that if I had stayed 10 or 15 seconds more I would have been history. 

After-Duty Capers 

My fonnative period in No 1 1 Squadron was exciting and an education of a different kind, after duty hours. Episodes during this period in our 
social and personal spheres were something to be remembered fondly. To better describe the environment of how and where we lived, a mental 
sketch would be helpful Indeed, there was an Officers’ Mess with the usual dining lrall, ante- rooms and living quarters for juniors and seniors, 
spread across the big complex. Butch and others of senior standing were living in the middle block adjacent to the senior (later VIP Block), where 
FS Hussain and ‘Mitty’ Masud lived along with KM Ahmed (a brilliant technical officer). Between the Mess hall and the senior BOQ’s was a 
wooden hut and a small pond in front, called the ‘Rose Revived’ . Most of the interesting Mess events took place at the ‘Rose Revived’ . But our 



squadron considered it our exclusive domain when there wasn’t an official Station event. There was a small pond in the centre of the lawn which 
had a tortoise called Oscar, for some unknown reason Oscar was the squadron mascot and a great line and hook for a first date with a girl There 
were many stories about the ‘Rose Revived’ and many episodes of mischief and romantic tragedy - unfortunately, not all of them can be written 
about! 

‘Mitty’ Masud was a veiy dominating commander and we all considered him a role model. For many of us bachelor's, it was an absolute necessity 
to be in his company in the evening. Hie inevitable rendezvous was the Mess bar. We learnt many different tilings during the hours we spent with 
him It created a sense of bonding and camaraderie amongst us. He was a total misogynist at that period of his life, so talk about the opposite sex 
was minimal. Hiere was one problem in this otherwise happy family; the Station Commander, Gp Capt Cheema didn’t feel comfortable with our 
senior lot. His bias found expression in his taking the wrath out on us, the junior fighter pilots. One well known fact was that the Station 
Commander tried to fly the Attacker but couldnot get beyond taxiing and would get the tail wheel locked eveiy time he made the attempt. We 
didn’t know what went on between him and the Squadron Commander, but we gave him an opportunity to really put us on the mat. 

The Squadron Commander, FS Hussain owned a 1 lumber Hawk, and along with that, Zaheer Massey’s Fiat and the incredible Lucky Flayat’s 
motorbike, we had a great time. Lucky’s motorbike has so many hilarious and, at times dangerous, stories about it that it would need a chapter 
itself Hiere were weekends when we had just enough rupees to pay for a Chinese meal but not for transportation So, Lucky would cart three at a 
time, making two trips back and forth from the Mess to Karachi’s Elphinstone Street. It was dangerous because liquid ‘refreshments’ had been 
consumed since we fighter pilots didn’t believe in eating on empty stomachs. But Lucky, being married to a nice lady named Martha, was not 
usually around to cart us around on our jaunts, which is how Butch came across a novel opportunity and wasted no time to seize it. On a New 
Year’ s Eve, we made plans to go to town in a big way having chipped in partof the salary earlier in the month Butch was to be the cashier for the 
evening. He called a cab from the Metropole Hotel, the well known hotel of that period. The cab turned out to be a Kaiser and the driver a young 
man called Qadir. What was novel about this cab was that Butch convinced Qadir to settle for a deal. We would fill Iris huge petrol tank which 
would be Qadir’s total fare for the night since he would use only 1/3 rd ofthe tank driving us around, and the remaining petrol would be his fare. 

The deal having been sealed, Butch added an unwritten clause to the contract: that Butch would drive, since there would be seven of us and that 
Qadir would have to sutler the discomfort ofthe car boot. Qadir timed out to be one hell of a sport and agreed to every unreasonable demand. 

He made the mistake of confessing that for him jet pilots were like warriors of Islam He paid a heavy price for it for many months to come as we 
considered this novel arrangement of ‘petrol for lare and driving a Kaiser’ veiy brilliant. 

It all went well until one day we were hauled into the StationCommander’s office. Gp Capt Cheema (alternately called Cheerful Charlie or 
Scarface, depending on the occasion) had never looked so ferocious. He was ready to lacerate us, and he did just that. ‘You little vultures”, he 
said with all the contempt he could muster, “with one broken down motorcycle and a rickety Fiat, how have you bloody miserable pilots managed 
to use 200 gallons of petrol from the PSI petrol pimp”? We all shivered at the realization that we had been exposed for our clever wheeling and 
dealing with Qadir, the good taxi walla . Hie PSI petrol pump actually belonged to the airmen’s welfare find. That is why we were able to sign for 
petrol Hiis was not all; with time we also had a deal with the young and smart manager of the pump to sign for petrol and instead of taking 
gasoline he gave us cash when we were strapped for bucks. He also curried some favours from us in return for the baiter. Then one day when the 
Shell tanker arrived to fill the supposedly expended gasoline, the tank filled ip much before anticipated and then the intelligence hounds were let 
loose to find out what was going on 

Indeed, we were all to share the blame even though financially we had not committed any indiscretion and always cleared the bills on payday. The 
parting shot by the Station Commander was something to cany back to our mentors, FS and Mitty. “Why do you think I gave this squadron its 
call sign ‘Pay Bill?’ It’s because none ofyou vultures clear your Mess bills on time. All ofyou think you are God’s greatest gift to theRPAF!”I 
recall that my call sign was ‘Pay Bill 12’. 

After dismissal, we marched off with some heavy punishments of ‘Orderly Officer duties’, enough to cover the next few months. As we strode out 
of the odious environment ofthe Administration Block, Butch said, ‘Hey, Lucky, he really went overboard with us for a minor prank, but he made 
some pointed reference to our bosses for notpaying Mess bills on time, which is untrue”. Lucky was fast to draw the inference and said, “We have 
to infomnthe Squadron Commander about this slight thrown at him”. Hiis would start a war as lar as we knew, between the FS-Mitty combo and 
Scarface. 

The Orderly Officer punishment totally demolished our social life as one of our close group members was always on duty, while the other was 
sleeping off a wakeful night. It was in this situation that Zaheer Massey and our great instructor from Tempest Fighter Conversion, Fit Lt Jan 
Mehmood flew in a T- 3 3 aircraft onto the Drigh Road airfield. Wow! What a fantastic aircraft that was, with a huge bubble canopy, air- 
conditioned and beautifully laid out cockpit and instrumentation Massey told us that after start-up the pilot could produce snow flakes by turning 
the airconditioning to lower temperatures. Hiis was unbelievable for us Attacker jocks used to intense heat in the cockpit. But wait, when we 
heard that the flight controls were feather touch and it was actually tricky to control ailerons on take-offbecause of the highly sensitive hydraulic 
control system, we fell over with envy, considering it took a strong Attacker pilot to loop with one hand. 

By this time there had been a pleasant addition to the squadron strength Pit OffMA Shamim had returned from Iris flight training in Australia, 
bearing a very pink face and smiley eyes. He soon got promoted to Flight Lieutenant and became try roommate since Dutta bad been allotted a 
single room Shamim was a very amiable and polite senior and the previous tension in the room dissipated. Since he had a ruddy pink complexion, 
he was nicknamed ‘Pinkie’ as per air force tradition, just as I was condemned to the nick name ‘Nosy’ which has stuck like glue. It was more 
often titan not that we were summoned to the bar or ‘Rose Revived’ by Mitty. We being young and impressionable, hero-worshipped Mitty and 
FS Hussain, so we responded with alacrity most of the time, but sometimes grudgingly, because of sheer latigue after a day’s hard flying. Shamim 
stayed away and declined to become part ofthe hot rod group. 


I remember one particularly funny episode that took place on N ew Year’ s Eve in 1 955 . Butch had been the organiser for a pub crawling night to 



herald the New Year. Short on cash and high on hope tor an exciting night, we set out with an exair force nut-case called Khawaja Sunshine and 
Georgi Durrani (another former air force fellow). Our first stop was La Buck, the Butt Institute. We always found it lull of fim- loving Anglo- Indian 
girls and, it was inexpensive for a starter. Eventually, four ofus men and three females including ‘Butch’ Ahmed’s girl fiiend Carol (later Sophie 
Ahmed alter she converted) arrived at the last frontier of fern and dance, the Malir ffotel and Club. As expected, it was lull of foreigners and we 
managed to get a table next to a bunch of burly men Hie binge began and the dance floor was packed with couples dancing to some Latin music. 

I was the only unattached guy at the party, and hoped to find a familiar lace amongst the glitterati. By 3 am, I had enough and I sauntered off to the 
parking lot and went to sleep in the back seat of Sunshine’s 1 lumber Hawk. I couldn’t tell how long I had been there when I was woken up with 
Georgj thumping on the car. I barely managed to open my eyes and asked him what the problem was. As I unlocked the door, an excited Georgi 
told me, ‘Come on buddy there is a fight going on between Butch and some foreigner”. I think Georgi came to me because I was the tallest one in 
our group, although I was very gaunt and not the type to get into brawls. Nonetheless, I had to show camaraderie, so I staggered behind Georgi as 
we ran back into the hall Hiere was a funny scene going on - Carol had a chair which she was swinging at this massive character. He must have 
been over 6 11 tall and huge. Hie hilarious aspect was that Butch was dangling from one of his muscular anus, while Sunshine was dangling from the 
other arm Both were desperately throwing punches at what turned out to be a burly wrestler from Hungary! 

On seeing the man’s size, my bravado evaporated as did the spirits inside me. I chose discretion over valour and frankly told Georgi thatthis was a 
no-win situation Meanwhile, Carol had scored a direct hit at the wrestler’s shoulder which broke the chair but I’m sure the wrestler didn’t even 
feel the inpact. Georgi picked ip another chair and was about to strike the giant on his head when one of his other colleagues got Georgi by the 
throat as I stood watching. Luckily, people intervened and Butch and Sunshine fell off the wrestler’s anns. At that point I told Butch and Carol to 
break it up and get back before the wrestler group broke our bones. It took some persuasion since Butch and Sunshine were unwilling to accept 
defeat! 

So this was the beginning of rny career, with my friends and my course mates and the highs and lows, but specially highs, of life in the Pakistan Air 
Force. 

4 

WESTWARD HO! 

By this time several pilots were being sent to West Germany to Furstendfeldbmck (known as Fursty) for T-33 conversion and then onto the USA 
for combat crew training courses. Hie Sea Fury pilots were already heading for West Gennany but not the original hot rods of No 1 1 Squadron. 
We were not realty pushed like the others from the Sea Fury Squadron about going for jet transition courses. Hen one day on a crisp winter 
morning we bad just arrived at the squadron hangar for a normal flying day when FS Hussain walked into the crew room with a discernible smirk 
and said, “How would you chaps like to go to a freezing city called Munich’? It didn’t sink in for a moment nor did we gather as to who was being 
addressed by the boss. As expected, the pet of all the seniors, Butch, took the initiative and asked, “Sir, is this about going the Yankee way with 
US aid?” Hiere was a happy commotion as FS shook his head in the affinnative saying that the names of the first batch would be announced 
shortly, and those not included would lb How soon. Hie rest of the day timed into great excitement, more I think from the thought of travelling 
abroad for the first time, than what awaited us by way of new and state- oft the art aircraft. 

As the names trickled in, there were shouts of joy from all of us who were selected for the courses to West Germany followed by conversion on 
the swept back F-86 Sabre jet of Korean War lame. There was a movie showing in town with John Wayne as the American fighter pilot and Janet 
Leigh as a Soviet fighter pilot. This movie called Jet Pilot was watched by all ofus from the ‘Lavender Hill’ mob led by Butch, the natural leader 
in all such undertakings. We wore uniforms and tilted peak caps in the style of WW-II pilots. God, what show-oils we were! 

Those were very heady days as we planned and dreamed about our first trip abroad. As the departure date drew closer the hype increased and 
we were packed off for the trip on a USAF Military Air Transport aircraft. We were soon airborne heading for some destination en route to 
Wiesbaden, the final point of disembarkation. I vividly recall the joie de vivre that permeated on board Hie aircraft amongst our crowd. Half an 
hour out of Mauripur Hie public address system came alive and the captain of the aircraft spoke with a heavy drawl through his nasal passage. 

“This is Hie captain speaking I regjet to announce that we are (just then we could sense the aircraft start to turn) experiencing some problems with 
one of Hie engines and are returning to Mauripur. We estimate it will be a few hours before we can be on our way again”. Hiere was deathly 
silence as we heard the ominous announcement and we conjured up visions of landing and being told that our trip was off and other horrible 
possibilities. So pessimistic and disappointed were we juniors, that someone from our crowd said, “Why can’t he fty straight on for Hie half hour he 
will take to land us back? Hien he could land outside Pakistan.” But that was not to be. 

Finally, in the early evening hours we were herded back onto the plane and this time we landed west of Karachi in the city of Dhahran in Saudi 
Arabia. Hiis was a desolate outpost of Hie US Air Force. Our next stop turned out to be an eye opener. This was our first glimpse of a European 
city, Athens in Greece. We were allowed to disembark for one hour and we passed through the terminal into the airport Duty Free shopping area. 
We Hie younger lot, were absolutely stunned by Hie array of beautiful shops, restaurants and especially the salesgirls, all young and beautiful Wide- 
eyed and in a trance we must havelooked like a bunch of morons. 

FS and Mitty, having been accustomed to such sights during their courses abroad, were highly amused at our awe- shuck demeanour. Butch 
signalled me to follow him to one of the counters lull of Greek souvenirs. It was not a coincidence that the sales girl was a stunner. Butch started 
chatting her up in Iris debonair style and tried to convince her that this was a dreamand, unless she pinched Iris arm and he felt the sting he would 
wake up and she would be gone. It seemed to have worked but she was even smaller than Butch She said, ‘You buy a souvenir and I will 
promise you will wake up tomorrow and every day to find the ‘Venus de Milo’ statue next to you, reminding you that you were realty in Athens 



and that you spoke to me.” Not easily defeated, Butchinsisted she pinch him first before he parted with Ins money. Both of us bought a 10 inch 
statue of Venus, while she gave Butch a cute pinch Taking a cue from the maestro, I asked her name and if she would sign on the statue. She did 
and we walked away, feeling it was our first minor conquest. The statue stayed with me for years and I always remembered the first encounter 
under Butch’s lead. 

Awe-Struck 

The rest of the journey was uneventfol and a bit hazy, owing to the time lapse. What 1 recall well is settling down in the BOQs, which were large 
and sparsely furnished rooms. Butch, Jamal and I roomed together. The winter of Furstenfeldbmck was severe and snow fell a common daily 
phenomenon hi feet most of the colleagues bad never seen such snow fell I had been brought up in Quetta and snowfall was nothing new for me. 
Actually, when I told people that the weather was not as cold as I had lived in, they would laugh it off For me it was easy to take the cold 
especially because all the indoor areas were centrally heated, a luxury I didn’t experience dining my foimative years in Quetta. 

There were certain novelties that we younger ones observed with awe, which need to be recounted at this stage. Upon reflection, we felt as though 
we bad been transported from medieval times into the space age. But in all feimess, as we entered into this new realm of sophistication, there was 
something real about the tradition we had left behind, hideed, our attitude towards (lying the Furies and later on, the Attacker, was a vestige of the 
reckless, gung-ho Battle of Britain style and most of the operational missions we flew were against the Faqir of Ipi and the hordes ( Ioshkar ) 
launched by the Afghan King to capture the northern areas of Dir, Bajaur and Swat. 

For us, the entire arrival procedure, the issue of flying kits, our first shell helmet (instead of the cloth one of British make), die Officers’ Club, its 
huge oblong bar and several eating places were highly organised and worked like clockwork. All activities were documented and operating 
procedures, timings and code of conduct were strictly observed by one and alL For us, a somewhat unruly bunch, it was a major change to which 
we bad to adapt and become experts in a veiy short time. Uiere was little margin for errorand all the aggression and initiative had to be marshalled 
into professional focus. The most peculiar element of all this indoctrination or rather conversion into the American system was that those persons 
who bad been our commanders and guided us through life had suddenly become our equals and at pan since we all had student status. This by no 
means affected our respect and admiration for them but a whole metamorphosis had come about. 

The tlyang training began on T-33 trainer aircraft. As mentioned earlier, this was a far cry from the Attacker we had been flying. It was luxurious 
and for us a highly sophisticated machine. To start with, we were put through an academics phase known as OJT (On die Job Training). This was 
really bard for all of us because our concept of (lying so fer bad been ‘ stick and rudder’ and ‘ % by the seat of your pants ’ . 

FS Hussain, understandably, was the first to go solo on a T-33 after two dual missions; proudly, I was the second to be sent solo after four dual 
sorties. My instructor, at the start, was Captain Ralph Johnston, a very serious and professional flyer as well as a Korean War veteran. His highly 
demanding standards peeved me in the beginning, but I soon realized that I was extremely lucky to be his pupil My first solo flight was like a 
dream, a nervous one at that. I carried out the mission as planned, performing all the complexities of moving from one radar controller to another, 
finally arriving in the general flying area. 

Climbing to 20,000 ft, I levelled-off on top of a cloud under a clear blue sky and the sun shining bright. After performing some stalls and 
recoveries, I carried out some loops, clover leafs and cliandcllcs which were all new manoeuvres for us who had been trained in the British 
concept of aerobatics. Every sortie was precisely timed and we had to amive overhead the runaway at a precise time, in contact with the control 
zone and to follow the instructions meticulously for a radio compass let-down At 500 ft we had to switch to Ground Control Approach (GCA) 
frequency while still in thick cloud. Hie GCA set me up for a very precise, controlled descent, where the rate of descent had to be very exact. Ten 
feet up or down and the controller would tell you very authoritatively to watch the rate of descent. The cloud base could be as low as 200 ft above 
ground level and one could feel one’s bottom quivering from the proximity to the ground. 

I think I must have been holding my breath when the controller infonned me my distance from the touchdown point. Suddenly the approach lights 
came into sight and I let go of my held breath and called contact with the runaway. The landing was fortunately normal and I turned oflf at the end 
onto the taxitrack. Very excited, for a mission completed safely and successfully, I did not know that it wasn’t over as yet. As I was about 100 
yards from the parking apron, the taxi- track which was slippery with sleet, sent me into a skid. Our briefing was to turn into the skid gently until the 
aircraft was aligned on the taxitrack. This didn’t help and my aircraft kept skidding uncontrolled, nearing scores of parked aircraft. Hie controller 
bad told me not to use brakes which I wasn’t in any case. Luckily, the aircraft stopped close to the edge of the parking apron Hie controller told 
me to switch oflf the aircraft, which 1 did instantly. It was a close call and I felt helpless, hi a few minutes I was towed back into parking position 
As 1 un-strapped to leave the aircraft, I was realty apprehensive of any repercussions of the last 30 seconds on the future of my flying. However, 
my instructor bad already arrived at my aircraft and gave me ahand to climbdown. I didn’t need to give any explanation for the skid because he 
said to me, ‘Hey, you did a good job on the GCA and landing; there isn’t much you can do to halt a skid on this god-damned sleeted taxi- way 
unless they use the snowplough”. I was relieved. 

One of our instructors, Mahalman was a WW-II veteran with 200 bombing missions to his credit. He was an incredible person with a powerful 
personality. Hie others were even more celebrated; one ofthemhad some 50 kills to Iris credit. Soon we were to meet one of the famous 
Luftwafle aces, Col Johannes Steinboflf - the fighter pilot with a bant fece whose name was mentioned in the same vein as Richthofen and other 
aces. He was oa co-pupil and after completing all the flying training in Gennany and later, on fighter aircraft in the USA, he started to lay the 
foundations of the new post-War Luftwaffe. He was promoted to the rank of a General and remained the Chief of the new Luftwaffe for many 
years. I had the pleasure of getting to know Mm at a personal level in the mid-seventies through a good Ifiend Admiral Fred Bardshar, who had 
been the Vice Chief of US Naval Staff 


FS for Flight Safety? 



Flying progressed from basic to advanced phase. Hie only unusual incident happened because FS got bored with such elementary training. One 
day FS and I were airborne for general Hying in different areas but in the same time slot. I was in the training area and the weather had cleared for 
a change, which gave unlimited visibility and hence an awesome panorama of beautiful fields and neat towns came into view. I was in a loop when I 
heard the familiar voice on the radio as had been pre-planned before take-off FS asked, “ kidhar ho ” (where are you). I answered, “jheel ke 
maghreb main ” (west of the lake). There was a big lake in the flying area near Wiesbaden, which was to be our rendezvous point. FS came back 
on the radio and said, “chakar lagao main aa raha boon ” (start circling, I am coming). Sol went into a steep turn enjoying the moment till he 
called contact, of-course in Urdu, and joined up with me. I levelled off and waited for his signal He rotated his finger meaning 1 should loop. I did 
and he maintained immaculate formation on my wing. Then followed a roll and a chandelle. fins went on for a while and then he broke-off to return 
as our mission time was coming to end. So, happily we relumed and landed back safely. We thought that was a great change from the routine. I 
requested FS that if there was another opportunity I should get a chance to do the same. He agreed, but that was not to be. Before the end of the 
day we were all asked to proceed to the briefing room for an address by the Squadron Commander, Major Smallcn. 

We had met the Major in Pakistan before our departure. Tlie USAF had sent its formation aerobatics team to Mauripur Station on a goodwill trip. 
The team of T-33s was led by Major Smallen, who, upon his return had managed to emulate RahimKhan (the Attacker belly landing at Sonmiani, 
after running out of fuel) by landing his formation in the desert near Dhahran, out of fuel There must have been nearly a 1 00 students in the briefing 
room, when we were addressed by the commander. After the usual pep talk about safety and Hying standards, Major Smallen came to the prime 
purpose of the short notice congregation. He said, “Now there arc some hot-rods around herethat make me uncomfortable. Today, you Major 
Hoosain (FS Hussain) violated the basic tenet of flying safety, I can send you packing home and you can do all the low-level aerobatics you want 
and I know you are damned good at it, but it won’t work here. However, I will ground you for one week and you can cool your shins. Remember, 
we know all the languages that are spoken here except one, and that’s got to be Pakistani”. That was the cat message from the Squadron 
Commander, who had enough authority to have taken an even harsher action but having witnessed FS perform during the stay of the USAF 
Aerobatics Team, he showed consideration which was welcomed by all of us. The pleasant and saprising part was that I got away scot-free! 

The USAF in Germany had a frequency monitoring agency and the monitor had heard a strange language - not Spanish or Italian, not even 
Russian. The radar network mist have analyzed all the signatures being painted, plus the join up of two aircraft, identified each flight authorization 
and come to the obvious conclusion that the alien language had to be Pakistani Then the timing of the transmission between FS and me, and the 
two of us being airborne in the same time block caused us to be identified. Hiat must have raised alarms and lienee the whole ploy of Smallen 
unravelling the incident during the flash de-brief Hiis episode remained the talk of Fa'sty (short for the training base) for weeks to come. The 
coase ended with no further incident and ten of us were selected to proceed to the USA 

In the Hotbed of Fighters 

We arrived in Phoenix, Arizona, three days after we commenced our journey. We had to get to a little town which was at the end of the long cross 
coaitry trip. Hie base was known as Williams Air Force Base - the Corrbat Crew Training Base. We had no difficulty finding the Base as 
directions were clearly marked on the main route. We arrived in the afternoon on a sizzling hot day, which reminded me of my childhood days in 
Jacobabad. We bad arrived at the hotbed of fighter flying, where we were to be converted to warriors and not mere fighter pilots. 

We settled into the new enviromnent very quickly and comfortably. Hie general arrbianee was different fromGennany and more casual and 
friendly. The first few weeks were all about OJT, learning about the F-86 technical details with a lot of tests and much study. The simulator training 
was a real drag ba had significant bearing on our overall grades because we had to master all the procedures of the USAF Hying training system 
The American approach to lighter Hying was extremely well organized and flight safety was the lynch pin of it all, without compromising the 
operational standards. Hien the day of my first solo arrived. Hie flying instructor assigned to me was a young Korean War veteran, as they liked 
calling themselves. Lieutenant Mansfield was a tall and very handsome fighter pilot. We had almost comparable experience, notwithstanding his 
war record and the fact that his entire flying was limited to some boa's on T-33s but mostly on F-86 Sabre jets. It was standard practice to have 
an IP chase you in the first two missions. It was a different experience to fly a swept back wing fighter from any thing that I bad flown before. Now 
I was ready for the more exciting phase of Hying. Our group conpleted the combat training with the USAF with distinction 

Time bad soon come when I was realty anxious to get back home and apply all that we had leamt in an indigenous enviromnent. Finally, the day 
came when we packed our meagre belongings and boarded an aircraft back for McGuire Air Force Base in Trenton, New Jersey, where we bad 
started from We had a two day wait before we caught the MATS Super Constellation for Pakistan 

‘The Group’ and the New Air Force 

Upon return, we were all given two weeks joining time to oa' new units, with their new equipment, the F-86s. It was wonderful to be home with 
my parents, my brothers and my dear, wonderful sister. The gifts I carried were basically perfumes and other cosmetics for the ladies, a few pairs 
of woollen socks for dad and little knick knacks for my two brothers. Forus the most exciting gadget was the tape recorder, which I carried with 
ire to my home in Quetta. It was a novel tiling and as the word got aroaid to my friends, there was a real crowd every day to see the marvels of 
science. Time went by quickly, and before I knew it was time to report to PAF Station Mauripur (later to become Masroor named after my first 
Squadron Commander). 

The difference this time aroaid was that I was more excited about the new air force we were going to be a part of with its enormous professional 
opportaiities. As always my sister Kausar packed a roast chicken stuffed with mash ki daal (lentils) and shami kebabs between layers of two big 
parathas . I was always seen off at the railway station by my friend Minoo Marker, the prodigal son of the wealthy and famous Parsee family who 
owned a big pharmaceutical manufacturing business. Minoo always carried a basket meant to cany Suit but this one would have a couple of beer 
bottles for the long journey to Karachi He would sidetrack my dad on the station and place the basket aider my seat in the first class 
compartment. Bidding farewell to my dad and brothers, I would hug old Minoo and whisper thanks in his ear for the gesture. 



On arrival at Mauripur, the reception had our room plan and I found Sarfaraz Rafiqui and Sattar Chaudlny sharing one room and Tinchoo and I 
sharing the adjacent room with a common bathroom for all four. What a coincidence, we were all from the 1 3 th GD (P) Course. On Monday 
morning we all reported to the Station Adjutant to fill in arrival reports and get our posting orders. I was posted to my old unit, No 1 1 Squadron. 
The moment I stepped in the squadron crew room, 1 had my first pleasant surprise to see Butch busy with the newly posted young pilots like 
Kamal and seniors including N izam and Shahid Hussain I errbraced Butch and wished the others formally because I didn’t know any of them 
Butch said that the Squadron Commander wanted to see me right away. “Who is it?” I asked, hoping it was not one of the propeller types of 
Peshawar vintage (with the exception of that great officer and a gentleman, Masroor Hossain). A few of them had come to Germany for short 
conversion and were likely candidates for command. ‘You don’t know?” Butch asked. “No, I just got in last night from Quetta,” I replied, still 
waiting for his answer as we came right in front of the CO’s office. “Mitty, who else”. Butch replied. “Oil, wonderful!”, 1 said with true joy. I 
knocked and entered. 

Mitty could be very dramatic at times if he wanted. But the problem was no one could tell when he was serious and when he was just kidding. 

“Oh, hello, what are you doing here; don’t tell me you have been thrust upon me.” I wasn’t sure what to make from this unwelcome comment. So I 
said I had come where I was ordered by the Station Adjutant, adding with obvious hurt, “Didn’t you want me in your unit, Sir”? To my utter relief 
he laughed out loud and said, ‘Get yourself outfitted and get your Operating Manual out, we should start flying in a couple of days”. So we did, 
and so began a last forward into some of the most exciting times in the life of a fighter pilot, under the command and supervision of an invincible 
fighter pilot and Squadron Commander. 

The aircraft were being allotted as they arrived and new units were being formed, all at Mauripur. SoonwehadNo 5, 14, 15, and 16 Squadrons 
equipped with F-86s; No 2 Squadron was raised as a T-33 Conversion Unit. No 20 Squadron was really a small flight with RT-33 recce aircraft. 
No 9 Squadron remained a Fuiy Squadron with all the toads in it. Each unit had a group of UStrained fighter pilots. 

ft may be slightly uncharitable to say this but for the reader it is important to know the anatomy of how the unwritten code for a pilot’s potential 
worked in the minds of our superiors. Hie best pilots were nearly always sent to a fighter squadron; naturally therefore, everyone at the time of 
getting their wings at the Flying College wanted to go the fighter pilot route. Only the top graders made it, however. They were sent for fighter 
conversion, others to transport units and the last category to rescue flights to % helicopters or other rescue aircraft. Then there was a category of 
average fighter pilots, who bad lesser potential of making fighter leaders, and these ended up in No 20 Recce Squadron Hiere were exceptions of 
course, in that, some of the top pilots were sent to the transport squadron to keep the unit from hitting the professional pit as it were. Prominent 
amongst these were Lanky Ahmed and Zahid Butt. 

Our course, the 1 3th GD (P), which was reputed the best course Risalpur College had ever produced, made the maximum contribution to the 
Transport Wing by entry of Masood Khan (Wing Under Officer of our course), Shamim Ahmed, Mehmood Cboonara, M Iqbal, and Malik Sobail 
(all outstanding pilots). Later Iqbal (alias Saab) also joined the transport wing. Ibis apparently was a wise high command decision to stop the rapid 
decline of the professional calibre of the transport unit. Hie decision paid off extremely well if one looked at it from posterity’s viewpoint. All of 
them from our course became W1P pilots in time and were awaidcd the exceptional pilot’s Golden Eagle. 

Shamim and M Iqbal (‘Bala’) went on to join the Bomber Wing when these were fonned; Shamim died in my anus after suffering a heart attack at 
a very young age, and ‘Bala’ Iqbal commanded Hie secret RB-57 Elint unit and earned out some incredible flying over Soviet territory. He was 
shot down by our own anti-aircraft guns over Rahwali by the sheer stupidity of the crew manning the radar and the guns. It became apparent 
slowly, that the high command policy was to eannark fighter pilots who had the potential to be fiiture commanders and leaders. A lot of the rest 
were sent to the training command, Hie jet conversion unit as flight instructors and the better ones to the boirber squadrons, after they were 
formed. 

This, by no means, is being judgjnental, nor has this theory held good for everyone. There were persons from the Boirber Wing such as Air Cdre 
Bill Latif who went on to command the best fighter squadrons and the hotbed of fighter and tactical command like PAF Sargodba. 

By now, we were into the year 1958 and all Hie Squadrons were getting settled. Armament firing had begun at the Sonmiani Range and pilots were 
hitting realty high scores. The old 1 1 Squadron crowd was stiUraltyiiig around Mitty and FS Hussain, and the Mauripur Mess was a lively place 
buzzing with the who’s who of Hie PAF. While most of us from ‘The Group’ which went to the USA, brought back a Grundig tape recorder as Hie 
symbol of our savings, there was a smarty embedded in our gimp. Hiis we discovered for the first time when Waqar Azim dazzled eveiyone the 
day he drove ip in his brand new Chevy Biscayne, 10 yards long and WOW! 

Mitty was trying to mister candidates for a lobster thermador dinner at the Beach Luxury Hotel that evening when Waqar was sighted driving 
towards us in his new ship-size Biscayne. One fellow from ‘Hie Group’ squealed to Mitty, “Sir, look at that babe; if only you bad kicked us out 
from Hie bar in Germany and the States and ordered compulsory savings, we would all be mobile today!”. Mitty gmnted and said "And miss all Hie 
tun you had in this one life?” 

About this time Fit Lt Rehmat Khan was also posted to Hie Conversion School I had a good rapport with him and went out quite a lotwith him 
and his fiancee, Hie lovely Anna. One day, he introduced me to the rather handsome Fit Lt Sadruddin, who had returned from abroad and was 
also posted to one of the fighter squadrons. I consider it important to mention these two colleagues because we were destined to share many 
memorable moments in the future, especially Sadruddin from whom I leamt a lot about flying in general and armaments in particular. 

Rehmat and Anna met this all American beautiful girl Lynn Gautier, daughter of the head of the US aid program in Pakistan I was introduced to 
her one day and we all had a picnic with Wg Cdr Gerry Khan and his wife at PAF Korangi Creek, where Gerry was the Station Commander. It 
was a memorable day and I was in love (oh, always!). 



5 


COMING OF AGE 

This was a period of peace in the Sub-continent; the Indians were licking their wounds after a humiliating defeat by the Chinese, and trying to 
rebuild and re-organise their defence services. Consequently, there was no sign of any impending hostilities from across the border. As a result, the 
leadership had to visualize ways and means to create challenges and competition for these eight newly fonned tactical squadrons. 

It was a great day when we heard the news that the highly respected Pakistani officer, a consummate professional and a person of redoubtable 
character, Air Mshl Asgbar Klian, had been chosen to become the first indigenous Commander- in- Chief of the PAF at the young age of 34 years. 
He had been an outstanding officer, one who had the reputation ofreliising the order from the British Force Commander to strafe a convoy of Hurs 
(disciples of Pir of'Pagara) because it comprised civilians including women and children. After aborting the mission when the British Commander 
showed his displeasure, Asgbar Khan bad told him that he would only obey a lawfiil command, and that this was a wholly unlawful one. Such was 
the character of the officer who would be our leader for the eight fonnative years of the newly equipped air force. 

This was one time in the life of the PAF that everyone in the service was happy and proud to have Air Mshl Asghar Khan as the new Commander- 
inChief For him this was an invincible challenge and a God- given opportunity to create history, and this he did magnificently. Another lactor which 
was very pertinent at this moment in history was that Asghar Khan inherited a most willing band of officers and men, imbued with deep patriotic 
spirit and a resolve to realise the hopes and objectives laid down by the Quaid-e- Azam It would be prudent to say that Asghar Khan inherited an 
air force which had all the positive factors to build upon, even though it lacked the desired resources. What the PAF at the time did possess was 
the leadership that would lead from the front, through the highest personal example. 

For better or for worse, US aid became available at the time even though it was inadequate in comparison to what was needed. Hie 100 or so F- 
86 lighters and a handful of bombers were made available as part of the American military aid for, what I consider, selling our sovereignty. It was 
in this milieu that the newly fonned Squadrons were provided direction for combat readiness, as well as to have elements trained for the public 
display of air power. Air Mshl Asgbar Khan directed Gp Capt Nur Khan to task the lighter command with demanding professional events. Nur 
Khan did two things: he told ‘Mitty’ Masud to build a world class formation aerobatics team, the likes of the Thunder Birds of the USAF (United 
States Air Force) and secondly, to train for fire power displays which became de rigueur during the successive years of peace time flying. These 
exercises were to be the harbinger of the PAF rising up to the level of a world class air force. 

The Falcons in Action 

The Falcons Four team was finally ready to show its consummate aerobatics performance to a wider public. One day after a practice run in the 
flying training area, the leader opened us into loose fonnation and headed for base. Before entering the circuit he told the tower that the Falcons 
would be perfonning over the base. Adrenaline started punping hard as we stalled our first dive onto the runway. Tlie leader took us into a steep 
dive aiming fertile beginning of Runway 27 and started to recover from the dive at about 150 ft above the runway, clocking 480 Kts (nautical 
miles per hour). The first manoeuvres began with our fonnation team, ten ft between each aircraft, zooming ip towards the sky, with Sonmiani 
beach in the background. From the vertically up position the fonnation timed 1 80 degrees and inverted on our backs as we haft- rolled, diving 
onto the runway again to perform a gentle climbing slow roll commencing at 200 ft AGL. 

This was followed by a chandelle manoeuvre to position for a vertical loop during which we changed position to line astern (by sliding behind each 
other) during the pull up . Over the top of the loop we stayed in astern position 1 0- 1 5 ft behind each other, and changing to line abreast (moving 
abreast of the leader’s aircraft) as we bottomed out over the runway again. Panting huffing and sweating we stayed glued at 10 ft from the leader’s 
wings. Up again, we changed to echelon right (all aircraft slide across to the right of the leader at a 45 degree angle). Hiis meant I had to skim 
close under the two aircraft and fit in as the third, as No 4 would slide onto my wing just as the leader commenced a slow pull-up for a slow roll to 
the left with three aircraft immaculately positioned on his right side, as though tied by a wire. 

Tremendous precision was required to perfonn these manoeuvres. Up again changing back to box formation, the leader would enter into a 5 ‘G’ 
steep turn over the runway at barely 50 ft above ground level. Hiis was perhaps the hardest manoeuvre at such high ‘Gs’ and nearly 90 degree 
bank, at the end of a constant 5 ‘Gs’ for 1 0 minutes or so. Hie end of a 360 degree turn was the final manoeuvre followed by formation landing in 
box. Poor No 4 had a tough job to remain in position dead behind the leader because he had to touch the runway before the leader to steer clear 
of his jet- wash As we rolled into the parking apron, we saw a crowd awaiting us. As we switched oil our colleagues broke into applause. Very 
conscious of ourselves, we alighted and walked up to the crowd, thrilled by its roars of praise. 

From here on many air displays were held for visiting dignitaries, and Pakistani leaders. These displays started typically with a sonic boom by four 
aircraft, the simplest of all the phases of display. This was followed by solo aerobatics, and quite often these displays were preceded by very 
impressive fire power demonstrations. During these displays, the most awesome annament munitions dropped were the napalm bombs, carried by 
F-86 aircraft, flying at 35 ft AGL, approaching the pyramid oftar drums which simulated the target. Four aircraft, in loose finger-four formation 
would drop eight napalms simultaneously, creating a massive ball of fire. Its core devoid of all oxygen, it would bum even rocks and all else over a 
few hundred yards. All this was done close enough for the spectators to feel the intense heat of the burning pctrolcumjelly. The spectacle always 
ended on the most spectacular and demanding part: ‘Hie Falcons in Action’. 

The display which deserves special mention here is the one held in honour of Chinese Premier Zhou-en-Lai. I am not certain of the date, but this 
was the first official fonnation aerobatics display by the original ‘Falcons Four team After initiating the first loop, as we were about 60 degrees 
above the horizon, a loud bang in try aircraft spiked up my adrenaline already punping furiously. I called, “Leader, bang in my cockpit,” while 
staying right in position “Stay with me,” he ordered as we inverted. On our back, he glanced at my tail pipe and asked me to check if the fire 



warning light was ‘on’. I answered in the negative as we came over the top of the loop. We went though the routine without further transmission. 


The show ended, we taxied- in and parked in front of the spectators stand. As we climbed out of the cockpits, and stepped down, 1 saw the big 
access panel on the left ofmy fuselage had ripped olf hence the bang Mitty, Butch and Shuja’at came around to examine the missing panel Mitty 
made my day as he said, “Well done, my boy.” We then went towards the crowd and lined up with the others. Premier Zhou-en-Lai was 
introduced to the participating pilots and as he came to me, Mitty told him (instantly translated by the interpreter) that I had performed despite an 
emergency situation in my aircraft. He looked me in the eye with such burning intensity that I can recapture the laser- like focus even now. He 
moved forward and patted me on the shoulder. This was a prize I shall cherish all my life. 

Legend has it that Air Msbl Asgbar Khan had not been satisfied with the Falcon Team with just four aircraft and asked ‘Mitty’ Masud to do 
something more spectacular. This is how the F alcons Seven came into existence. Tlie highly demanding Air Chief was still not satisfied and ordered 
that for the impending visit by the King of Alghanistan, the PAF must rise to the occasion and create a spectacle with a perfonnance unmatched. 
Thus the 16 F-86 fighters fonned the ‘Falcons’ team and propelled the PAF into the galaxy of the powerful air forces of the world. Nine more 
pilots of exceptional flying calibre were chosen from the fighter command. 

The training for the final display gained impetus as the entire professional energies of eveiy fighter squadron were focused on this first mega display. 
One by one, like individual solitaires, Mitty fitted each new member of the Falcon 1 6 Team like a consummate craftsman, to create a perfect 
diamond of 1 6. The aircraft sliced vertically upwards, going on then' backs and then hurtling down like lalcons for their prey, hitting their own jet 
wash left behind at the start of the loop, to complete a precise circle, fins process was easier said than done. Each of the additional nine pilots had 
to go through very rigorous fonnation aerobatics practice every day, relentlessly. Each pilot had to start with practice on the side of the leader’s 
wing till he was perfect. 

On 2nd February 1958, on a clear, crisp morning it was the dawn of a new age. A sense of urgency and intrinsic purpose was clearly visible in the 
way the 1 6 pilots walked towards their gleaming fighters. Everyone borea solemn look, for the moment of truth was staring them in the lace. 
Assisted by the ground crews, the pilots carried out their external checks and then strapped into their cockpits. A few hundred yards north of the 
tannac, were thousands of spectators gathered to witness this new bom air force go into action Excitement was surging eveiywhere at Mauripur. 
The rumbling of fighters taking-off had begun as the ‘sonic boomer's’ and fire power display aircraft rolled down the runway. Finally the ‘Falcon 
16’ got airborne in immaculate four-diamond fonnation take-oils. 

About ten minutes later, Mitty leading 1 6 aircraft appeared as a mushroom of smoke on the western horizon as the commentator drew the 
attention of the eager spectators. These included the King Zahir Shah of Alghanistan, Pakistan’s leaders and the entire diplomatic corps. As the 
aircraft approached the beginning of the runway, the commentator very quickly announced that world aviation history was about to be created in a 
few more seconds. The 1 6 F alcons pulled up in the middle of the runway and made a most spectacular view against the clear horizon; a 1 6 aircraft 
diamond, moving vertically up and over the top as the viewers tilted their heads back so as to not lose sight of the spectacle being perfonned. Then 
tlie 16 Falcons came swooping down as though aiming at the gasping and clapping crowd, to conplete a loop precisely where they bad 
commenced. Hie rear nine aircraft broke offlike a banana stripped simultaneously into nine precise peels. Hie seven pulled up, the distance 
between aircraft decreasing from 20 ft to 10 ft, changing positions during the vertical pull up, making the letter ‘F’ for Falcons, and continued into 
tlie next series of complex aerobatics changing positions in each manoeuvre till the second sequence was conplete. 

Three from the rear peeled olf leaving tlie core, the four original lalcons. Hiis signalled the ‘Falcons Four to tuck in as earlier described into very 
tight close formation, to perfonnsome very precise and awesome manoeuvres. These ended in the most demanding of the entire saga, a 5+ ‘G’ 
extremely tight 360 degree turn over tlie runway which was the grand finale. Hie four landed in close box formation to the deafening applause of 
tlie exuberantcrowd, as told to us by our compatriots watching from the spectators’ gallery. Hie PAF had just made aviation history. 

The day after we had performed in the air display and thanked Allah for our success, we were told that the loop would have to be perfonned 
again, this time around over the city of Karachi, for the world renowned British magazine Flight and Aeroplane , whose crew had arrived to 
photograph this event. Hiis was somewhat more dangerous than performing over Mauripur, owing to the huge bird menace over Karachi city. But 
luck favoured us and the loop was perfonned to perfection on that day. Hie Falcons made the cover of Flight and Aeroplane magazine in its next 
issue. 

Our mother air force, tlie RAF, which had laid our foundations, was shocked out of their wits one morning when they heard from the British Air 
Advisor in Karachi, that this ex-colonial flying club of Attacker lame had flown 1 6 F- 86s fighters in perfect diamond close fonnation through a 
loop. It was in this background that tlie RAF demonstrated its prowess by performing a loop with 2 1 aircraft soon after. Well done for the RAF - 
nonetheless, the PAF bad taken the initiative. Hie 16 Falcons captured by camera, in perfect diamond formation, vertically up against tlie Sonmiani 
coastline shall remain as though caught in suspended animation, for all eternity. 

A Rung up the Ladder 

Soon after this historic air display I was promoted to the rank of Flight Lieutenant and in September 1958, 1 was posted to No 16 Squadron as 
tlie Flight Commander. This was yet to be another milestone in my life because I had stepped up to the junior commander’s level where I would 
be teaching young fighter pilots the art of combat flying. Soon I realized that my training was not really over. I had entered yet another phase of 
learning and there were some humble achievements. Firstly, the new Squadron Commander was a pleasant surprise. Sqn Ldr Sadruddin, was an 
outstanding fighter pilot and a gentleman, whom I bad already known from earlier days in Mauripur and had developed professional as well as 
personal respect for him He was the type who kept to himself and didn’t show much emotion, but was very correct in all his undertakings. He was 
sincere rather than smooth Quiet he was, but once in a while, he would let his hair down at the bar, and entertain all of us with some superb 
accordion music, a la Mitty and Butch 



I was most fortunate to be his deputy because he placed his trust in me and that, I learnt, was the linchpin to command respect and get absolute 
loyalty from a subordinate. To this day I have not forgotten that I learnt a great deal from him in all aspects of lighter flying as well as devotion to 
one’s profession and the meaning of excellence. Consequently, my respect for him lias remained intact. Sadruddin was deeply committed to 
aviation and technology, which placed him well apart from the average Squadron Commander. He had, therefore, a scientific approach to Hying. I 
leamt the art ofhigh scoring in all phases of armament by intently listening to his brieis and de-brieis andwatching his camera films. Hie value of 
camera debriels assarted an important role in try success as a fighter leader and commander. My personal scores soared after I started to watch 
try camera films seriously. I passed ny knowledge to the squadron pilots. I would not program a pilot for an armament or an air combat mission 
until 1 had assessed with him, his performance as seen through the gun camera. In a short period, we were all getting to be better shots in 
comparison to our compatriots in other squadrons. 

A few realities which came early to me in life about professionalism and excellence were to be ny beacon in the life ahead. First and foremost, at 
any level of leadership and command, you had to show younger pilots how to do it - and not merely tell them to do it. Secondly, you had to lead 
yoa men in the air, not from the ground with your rank. Thirdly, everyone you led had to be damned sa'e that you would willingly put yoa life at 
stake for the cause; only then would they follow you to the end, even if it meant sure death. I lived by these principals and practiced them with 
conviction 

With all its triumphs, this was also the year of a tragedy which was felt throughout the PAF. A top level visit by some dignitaries was expected on 
24thofJaie, 1958. Sqn Ldr Klialid Khan, an exceptional pilot and an officer ofgrcat potential, besides being the younger brother of Air Mshl 
Asghar Khan, was given the task to put up a fire power demonstration He borrowed me fromny Squadron and we practiced for a couple of 
days. On this iatefolday, Khalid Khan called me and asked me to come to his Squadron at pack-up time as he would have the aircraft ready for a 
final rehearsal. I protested and said, “Sir, please it is sizzling hot, even the birds are in their nests, we don’t really need any more practice, it’s a 
piece of cake”. He commanded me to be on time. 

We were in the second attack for a strafing run, with Fit Lt Sliahzada as No 2 and me in No 3 position No 4 had aborted earlier. As the leader 
pulled out of the dive, he called smoke in the cockpit. I had called in, but as I noticed smoke billowing out of his aircraft 1 called olf the attack and 
told him he may be on fire. He immediately called, “Fire warning light on, am ejecting.” He was absolutely calm and in total control as 1 heard him 
and saw Iris canopy flying ofij followed instantly by the egress system ejecting the seat upwards. I called No 2 and asked him to keep the leader in 
sight and that I would direct an ambulance towards Iris landing site. 1 changed the channel to ATC and called for an ambulance infonning the 
controller of bail out by the leader. I advised the ATC about the shortest route to the scene. Having done that. I switched back to the range 
frequency hoping to see Khalid Khan waving from the ground. I didn’t see him in the area where 1 last left him. I asked No 2, “Where is the 
leader?”, as 1 didn’t see any parachute in the air or aidemeath No 2 replied in a panicky voice, “No 3, leader lias Men down, seems Iris chute 
lias collapsed.” “Oh ny God, what are you talking about,” I yelled back, “I saw his chute deploy.” Then I went towards Klialid Khan’s location as 
pointed out by No 2. His body seemed tiny from2,000 ft as I dove towards him In a few seconds I flew over a very still, spread-eagled body 
lying away from the parachute. 

The rescue party arrived and collected his body. We were soon attending his untimely funeral, shattered to have lost one of the best fighter pilots 
and a future leader of tire time. There were several theories expounded by the investigators as to how his parachute collapsed after having been 
deployed. It was suspected that the reason could have been the jet blast from Sliahzada’s aircraft as he circled aroaid the descending chute. In the 
final analysis, however, the reason for the accident was assigned to Khalid Khan having opened the parachute release clasps (which hold the chute 
to tire body of the pilot) much too early. This caused him to free M over 1 00 ft resulting in his death Asghar Khan had earlier lost another brother 
Asif who crashed a decade earlier near Gilgit, in a Flarvard aircraft. 

PAF Draws First Blood 

In March 1959, a locally organized armament camp was held at Peshawar for competition between all the fighter squadrons. One of the phases 
was air-toair cine mission, since there was no live air-to-air firing range of the required standard in the North We had been fully prepared for the 
challenge. Hie squadron lared very weft My personal scores set some records. Eveiy pilot was to % 1 0 armament sorties covering aft phases of 
annaments as well as cine missions. My strafing average for ten missions was 61%, but in skip bombing was only 50%. My highest score in 
strafing was 85%, the highest in the PAF till that time, followed by one of junior most pilots Fig OflfAfiudinfroniNo 19 Squadron, who later 
bagged the highly coveted Sher Afgan (lion-slayer) Trophy. 

In September 1 959, Sqn Ldr HH Karim (‘Hood Hood’) asked Sqn Ldr Sadruddin, with the pennission of the Station Commander, Gp Capt 
GhulamHaider, to lend my services to his Squadron (No 15) to bring it up to steam My history with Karim hadn't been aft that iantastic, but 
Sadruddin assaed me that it was a compliment by the Squadron Commander of No 1 5 Squadron, who thought I would induce some 
professionalism into his pilots. It was during these foa months or so that on Eid-ifi-Fitr day, an Indian Canberra ventured into Pakistan’s airspace, 
with a view to photographing our vital installations. The Indian leadership thought that on this sacred day, at the end of the holy month of Ramadan, 
tlie PAF would be either rejoicing, sleeping or in the mosque, praying. But they had a surprise coming to them When the Duty Operations Officer 
contacted me at around 0800 Hrs and told me that there was a ‘hot scramble’, I ran for ny flying coverai Amiving at tlie Squadron ten minutes 
later, I discovered that Fit Lt MN Butt and a yoaig pilot Fig Off Yunis were in hot pursuit of the Indian intruder flying at 47,000 ft. I contacted tlie 
air defence unit handling tlie interception, but was told to wait, since the interception was in progress. No more than ten minutes later I got a call 
from Pit OffRab Nawaz that tlie intruding Indian Canberra had been shot down over Rawalpindi 

Twenty minutes later, two figures emerged from tlie two F-86s that had intercepted the Indian bandit. Funnily, Sqn Ldr Butt seemed to have his 
chin hitting his knees while Fig OffYaiis had his thirty two teeth gleaming from his ebony complexion. Butt had gone ‘Winchester’ (which meant 
that he had fired all of 1,800 roaids) and missed the bomber, but his wingmanhad shot him down. Hiis was first blood for tlie PAF. 

The credit for shooting down tlie Indian Canberra indeed went to Fig Off Yunis, but the most remarkable feat in this episode was that tlie entire 



interception was conducted by a young Air Defence Controller, Pit OffRab Nawaz (later Gp Capt). He did this through dead reckoning, working 
from a rudimentary Perspex sheet with a imp underneath it, lying on a table in the control room He was receiving raw data from an old radar 
located twenty miles away. Rab Nawaz effected a perfect interception even though he was not watching the intruder on a screea Such was the 
excellence of our radar controllers who, I feel, were amongst the best in the world, yet they were unsung heroes in PAF’s history. Rab Nawaz was 
to get another distinction when he controlled the interception years later during the 1 97 1 war when the first Indian Mig-2 1 was shot down by a 
very young Fig Off Maqsood Amir on his second operational mission Kudos to this intrepid air defence maverick and indeed, to Fig Off 
Maqsood. 

Another feet that may seem amazing today was the initiative of the Pilot Officer of the PAF who ordered the interceptor fbnnation to shoot down 
the enemy bomber without wasting time to contact one of the senior staff officers at AHQ. hi his opinion, the decision would have been delayed by 
the typical dithering of staff officers from the Operations Directorate. 

Five years later, in a similar violation by yet another Indian Canberra, it was allowed to conduct the photo intelligence mission unchallenged. This 
was made possible because unluckily this time around, President Ayub Khan’s pennission had been sought by the PAF C-in-C to bring the 
intruder down Permission was emphatically denied by Ayub Khan for fear of an Indian reaction This is the most accurate version of this episode 
that I have been able to obtain from the persons actually involved in this feat. 

First Armament Competition 

By November 1959, 1 was back in No 16 Squadron and felt at home. Soon I got into the groove and was told by Sadruddinto perk up the 
Squadron as he had noticed the armament results were slumping. This was quite evident from the armament charts in the Flight Commander’s 
office depicting pilots’ scores. I made sure that over the next month I flew with every single pilot, section leader as well as senior pilots, to infuse 
urgency and pride in their mission performance. That was when we heard that a massive armament competition was in the oiling soon at PAF 
Mauripur and that all squadrons would move south. 

The first PAF Inter- Squadron Armament Competition date was announced and we were ordered to move to Mauripur on 18th January 1960. 

The move to Mauripur was smooth and we settled down quickly to begin practice missions over the next two weeks. This was a challenging and 
intense Hying camp . Every squadron was betting on their victory. By the last week, it seemed clear that N o 1 6 Squadron could be the winner, 
judging from the results of practice missions at Sonmiani Firing Range. I was extremely tense, and like a mother hen, kept my flock together during 
and after the day’s flight. It was almost taboo to talk about anything except armaments. We breathed, discussed and slept guns and bombs. 

At the end of the Hying day, I would be anxiously awaiting the arrival of camera films of all the participants fromNo 16 Squadron in order to 
assess how each pilot was doing in the mission flown that day. Frame by flume, I would go over each attack, strafing, rocketry, skip bombing and 
most important, air-to-air firing. Alter each air-to-air mission, we would be biting our nails, till the target banner was dropped by the tow aircraft 
besides the runway, and brought in a truck to the flight lines area. Then, like keen eagles, we would swoop down onto the banner to check our 
hits, which were registered in different colours, representing each aircraft loadedwith bullet-heads painted in a particular colour. Hie colours of 
bullet scrape marks on the banner would thus indicate the score of the pilot who was flying that aircraft. But I considered all of the day’ s actual 
results onfy symptomatic. Only after I had gone through each film could I relate the actual results and have peace of mind. 

This training built up to a crescendo by the 2nd of February, 1 960. Tlie actual competition began on 3rd February and lasted four days. Hie flying 
programme was meticulously planned and executed with absolute precision, whereby each fonnation of four aircraft had to adhere strictly to the 
take-off and on- range timing. It was like clockwork and a profound reflection of the quality of planning maintenance and armament management. 
By the Grace of God, the entire campaign was executed without accident. The parade rehearsal for the award of trophies had started by the 4th of 
February. By this time, the huge scoreboard on high poles gave a pretty good idea as to the winning squadron. Happily, No 16 Squadron was 
placed in the front as the most likely winner during the parade rehearsals. On the 6th of February, I flew mylast two missions with three other 
pilots, and scored 100% in skip bombing and brought back an average emor of 4.5 ft for four rockets fired, which was the best score in the entire 
competition. So, we were sitting pretty to take the Overall Best Trophy and also the individual Sher A (gin award, because our Squadron 
Commander, Sqn Ldr Sadruddin had achieved tremendously high scores and there was little chance of anyone beating him 

The last mission of the competition was to be flown by No 14 Squadron, which had only the skip bombing exercise left to be completed. We bad 
calculated that even if the four pilots of No 14 Squadron placed seven bonis out of the total eight dropped through the target, we would still win 
The only, but nearly iiupossible, danger was that they night come back with 1 00% skip bombing results, which would give them a very thin margin 
over No 16 Squadron But that seemed inprobable. As their flight landed back, the entire lot ofpilots was waiting to get a signal oftheir 
performance. I vividly remember that the first pilot to switch-offhis aircraft was Zabeer Massey (affectionately known as Jumbo). He stood ip in 
his cockpit and yelled, “All eight bombs in, we got 100% hits”; they had done the inpossible! I could have slaughtered Jumbo with my bare bands 
that day, for taking away our victory. The silver lining was that our Squadron Commander was declared the highest individual scorer. Proudly for 
the unit, Sqn Ldr Sadruddin had captured the coveted award of Sher Afgan (the ‘Top Gun’). 

Launch from an Aircraft Carrier 

A couple of weeks later, I was detailed as a Liaison Officer on HMS Albion, a Royal Navy (RN) aircraft earner, involved in a Naval- Air exercise, 
‘Mid- Link’, between the Royal Navy, US Navy, Pak Navy and the PAF. I spent two exhilarating weeks on board the carrier. Hie next fifteen 
days were quite an experience as we lived in a closet- like cabin but with a huge bar on the quarter deck. One day at lunchtime, we all stood at the 
bar and I ordered a round for everyone in the group I was standing with, which included Lt Cdr Baines. I jokingly reminded Baines about the 
sortie on the Sea Venom fighter he bad promised when we first met. He looked at his navigator and said“Mike, why don’t you buy Fit Lt Haider a 
drink, because he will be taking your seat in the early morning dawn strike.” Mike looked at me and said “You’re looking for real trouble, even 
though I will be thrilled to spend this evening drinking at the bar without wonying about the morning. I don’t know why you want to take this risk, 



especially with Lt Cdr Baines; he lias no love for life, Iris or others”. I told him that I was going to take my chances with Iris Commanding Officer, 
come hell or high water. I broke off pretty early as I was to be woken up at 0300 Hi's. 


On the dot of 0300 Hrs, I was woken up and asked to report to the operations room I jumped out of my bunk, hitting my head agffinst the cabin 
wall just two feet away before I steadied myself and stood for a whole minute, getting my bearings right. Tliere, in the Ops Room, Lt Cdr Baines 
and six other crew members were already sipping coffee as I stumbled in. The briefing was for a low level strike against the United States Navy 
(USN) Essex, an American aircraft carrier with twin-engine Tracker aircraft and helicopter assets, which formed part of the US Red Force tactical 
task group. Commander Baines (he later came to Pakistan as the Naval and Defence Attache), briefed me separately in the end about the 
procedures and my personal safety, especially during takeoff and landing. ‘The catapult launch is a different take-off experience, watch out for a 
grey-out owing to a lot o ( abrupt ‘Gs’, so keep your head firm against the headrest”. He especially advised that on landing the hook engagement 
and deceleration would be phenomenal for a first experience; therefore, to tighten my straps as tight as strength allowed me. Jokingly he said, “If 
your straps have the slightest slack, you will have the gun sight inprint on your lace and a broken nose”. He wasn’t joking as it turned out during 
this incredible experience. 

It was truly a different experience in flying than anything I had done so iar. It was a night take-off and I sat tense though my harness was realty 
tight. Baines gave me a glance and I gave him a thumbs-up. The radio came alive and lie asked how I read him “Loud and clear,” I replied. He 
then gave a start up signal, from where on, in less than a minute, we were hooked to the catapult. Hie take-offwas noisy and sudden, but I didn’t 
get even close to grey out even though the ‘Gs’ were tremendous. The rest of the formation was already joining up with promptness. Lt Cdr 
Baines was yelling at his wing man to stay low. I thought we were going to hit the waves any minute, which is how close we were from the surface. 

I had flown pretty low in my life but this was something else, droplets from the sea were streaming our canopy, fiirther reducing the already low 
visibility. Hie leg was not too long, about 20 minutes flying time to the target - USN Essex. The leader called contact with target and No 3 called 3 
helos (helicopters) hovering over the US carrier. As Baines pulled up in a high ‘G’ left turn diving towards the target, I spotted a Tracker just 
getting off I told Baines on our intercom and he said he had contact. In the attack we flew between two helos very close and he couldn’t have 
been more than a few feet over the mast as we buzzed past the carrier. Hie return to the base was uneventful and soon we were lined up with the 
carrier. 

Baines came in at surface level for a tactical pitch-out. He told me to check my harnesses and ensure they were tight. I was trying my best to 
concentrate on the technique of landing on a deck. Then, totally unexpected, we had caught the hook and I thought I was going through the front of 
Hie cockpit. Hie deceleration was way beyond what I had imagined. It was like hitting a wall Hien I saw the proficiency of the deck crew in 
recovery mode. It was an outstanding performance in co-ordination and precision, right until we were parked at the edge of the deck. I couldn’t 
see die deck any more, just the ocean waves. After we alighted, I told Baines that from that moment on, I would have great respect for naval 
aviators. Hius ended one of the most exciting missions I ever flew in peacetime. Also, it was yet another feather in my flying hat; I was die first and 
only PAF pilot to have flown off an aircraft carrier. 

There was a sad epitaph to my twoweeks long ocean sataii Mike, the navigator whose seat I had taken that morning, had to eject after take-off 
near Aden a few days after I got back to my squadron He didn’t make it because the ejection was too low and his chute didn’t deploy. Hiey lost 
this jolty and wonderful young navigator. Such was life in this profession before technology made it possible to survive even if ejection was on die 
ground or on deck. 

Floored ... but Still Topping! 

I had met my first wife Iffat in Peshawar when she had been introduced to me by her uncle, whom I had met through a fiiend at the Peshawar 
Club. One day he had brought his iamity from Nowshera where they lived. At that young age it was not difficult to be smitten by a pretty girl but I 
tried not to think too much about her because she was engaged to be married. Two years or so later I met her by chance and discovered that she 
had been divorced. Empathy about the story of her break-up and the memory of our earlier encounter had me floored. We were married a few 
months later. 

In die last week of November 1 960, 1 was detailed for the local Fighter Leader’s Course at Mauripur since the RAF had stopped taking 
Commonwealth pilots. I was happy to go to die Fighter Leaders’ School (FLS), which had developed into a mature institution of good reputation, 
with veiy high standards of flying as well as associated subjects. I was determined to top the course. Hie next three months were frill of 
knowledge, avionics, navigation planning, and hard "no holds barred’ type of flying. Hiis was just down my alley and I loved and cherished it die 
most. I topped the course with ease, which ended in the first week of March 1961. 1 was posted to No 5 Fighter Squadron as Flight Commander 
at Sargodha Station, with Sqn Ldr Qayyum (of Conversion School incident). Fortunately, this posting was short lived, as in early May 1 96 1 1 was 
told that I had been selected to attend the Test Pilot’s course at the world lamous Empire Test Pilot’s School in England. 

Unfortunately, the Financial Advisor Defence did not approve the foreign exchange and I ended up with my fiiend and course mate Fit Lt Arshad 
and another pilot, Fit Lt Sharbat Ali Cbangazi (later Air Mshl), at PAF Korangi Creek’s College of Aeronautical Engineering, to attend a locally 
designed course to prepare us for test flying F-86s. Sqn Ldr Jang who had been the Engineering Officer for No 14 Squadron during try posting to 
Hie Furies in 1953, was to be in charge of this course. So, it wasn’t going to be all aerodynamics, aero-engines and hydraulics, but some serious 
elbow bending at lunchtime. Hie problem with me was that I had just gotten married that month and I had to travel between Mauripur and Korangi 
every day. Bless the (late) Arshad’ s soul who had a car and would give me a ride to and from the widely distant bases. 

At the end of the course in June 1961, 1 was selected to be the Flight Commander at the prestigious FLS. I was euphoric at die turn ofiate which 
delivered me my cherished hope of instructing at the FLS. It was also an acknowledgement of my earlier selection for the course in England, and 
die tact that topping the FLS course at Mauripur put me on top of the list for diis appointment. It was a unique experience to teach fighter pilots die 
advanced art of“all-aspect combat flying” 



Destiny was smiling as I received my third A-9 (Exceptional Fighter Pilot) assessed by Wg Cdr ‘Bill’ Latifr Officer Commanding Flying Wing and 
endorsed by the legendary Air Cdre FS Flussaia The official recognition came in the ibnn of a Golden Eagle pinned on the flap of my breast 
pocket. This was amongst some of the first Golden Eagles awarded to fighter pilots alter Independence, to the best of my knowledge. I was 
completely euphoric, when I walked around in unifonn on and off the base. Within a few days I also received my third Green Endorsement (for 
flight safety) from Air Mshl Asghar Khan. So professionally, I couldn’t ask for more at this early stage in my career and I was gratelul to God for 
his benevolence. 

Close Call with Death 

On 1 9th September 1 96 1 , Sqn Ldr Sikandar (‘ Siki Boy’), was on a highlow-high strike mission with three students including Fit Lt Azim 
Daudpota (later Air Mshl), against a simulated target beyond Sukkur north of Mauripur, in the province of Sindh. Along with Fig OffDar, I was to 
act as a bouncer/interceptor to intercept the formation during their run- up to the Initial Point (IP) with a view to creating contusion amongst the 
striking aircraft. This would allow the instructor pilot to check the response of the student leader in handling the situation. We were over the mighty 
Indus River and I had the formation of four in sight about four miles at 12 o’clock, just about to start their descent to the IP. I noted with surprise 
that I had never flown an F-86 with such a beautifully silent engine. I looked to re-check the tail number of the aircraft embossed in the front of the 
cockpit with the intent to fly it again. It was as though Fate had heard me and laughed at what was awaiting me in the next few seconds. 

Suddenly all hell broke loose in my aircraft cockpit. It shook so violently that 1 couldn’t read any instrument on the panel in front. I suddenly felt the 
throttle kicked fully back on its own and got stuck solid at the back of the quadrant. To add to the bewilderment, I noticed blurring red lights, both 
of them indicating fire in the forward and rear sections of the aircraft. I knew I had to eject immediately. My attempt to transmit a May Day 
emergency call to my wingman Med, as there was complete electrical Mure. I looked over my left shoulder to spot my No 2, Fig OffDar, and 
saw him dangerously close on my right wing furiously pointing towards my real - and using Iris fingers in a blowing action, a standard sigpal for 
ejection in case of no communication All this happened in less than one minute. My immediate problem was to get my wingman to break away to 
let ire blow away my canopy prior to my ejection I checked my rear view nmol's which were vibrating, sure as hell there was a long flame blazing 
out of the exhaust enveloped in thick dark smoke. Then there was the River Indus at its broadest width underneath, which was even more 
frightening. Flow would I swim if landed in the river? I could barely do 20 yards at the time. I made a quick decision I banked 90 degrees and 
turned right into my wingman Dar, who broke bard right and up, as I shoved my stick down to lose height. Mercifully, the controls responded, 
though sluggishly. 

I wanted to clear the river so I turned left towards Shikarpur city in the distance. The controls became rigid as I bent my head frilly down in my lap 
to jettison the canopy, a drill necessaiy if you wanted your head still attached to your neck before ejection That done, die air rushed in a massive 
gush into the cockpit. I pulled the emergency oxygen green apple, checked my chute-hook disconnected, sat liilly erect, anus tucked- in to ensure I 
still had them attached to my body after the ejection Then I squeezed the trigger and woof There was a pause as though nothing had been 
triggered, then suddenly the seat fired-off at a tremendous velocity and I blacked out. The body during ejection is exposed to 14 ‘Gs’ or so for a 
fraction till the seat reaches 144 ft clear of the aircraft. Then as soon as I felt the blood lushing back I regained my senses and my sight. Hie seat 
was tumbling down and as I was about to stand up in the seat, I got separated by sheer linear forces and gravity. I kept tumbling down from 
around 25,000 ft where I had left the seat, waiting for the chute to open automatically at 14,000 ft, through a mercury actuated mechanism in the 
chute system which initiates the chute opening by extracting the pin which holds the chute together. 

I was also ready to do this manually with my right band gripping the ripcord. Then, with a jolt, the chute opened and the bi-colour orange and 
white canopy above me was an incredibly beautiful sight. It was too good for words to know I was alive and heading for Mother Earth I was 
floating down without any thought about the sequence I had just been through and was just looking at the landscape east of the Indus.Ihank 
Heavens, I was clear of the river, which was my real fright. Once I looked down, I saw a shepherd boy herding some animals in the fields. I yelled 
in sheer joy and said something innocuous but he took olf leaving his herd and from where I was I could sense he was petrified. As I descended, 
the shepherd started getting farther and finally I lost him just before I prepared to touch down. 

The landing was smoother than I expected. Once I bad unclipped my chute in a huny, I found I was lying in a slushy paddy field. That explained 
the soft landing In minutes I was surrounded by the locals, all Sindhi villagers. I spoke good Sindhi at that time, having leamt it during our winter 
vacations in Jacobabad where my Mier had a clinic. Much to their surprise, when I asked them if they knew where my seat was tying they 
seemed oveijoyed with my spoken Sindhi Along with a crowd, I got to the seat tying at a distance. I asked to ensure that the ejection seat was not 
messed around with and was kept securely. That taken care of they led me to the nearest road on my request. 

An hour later, follofblack slush from the paddy field, 1 was put on a bus heading for the town of Shikarpur. Dining the shaky journey several 
passengers started to inundate me with questions. Simple people, they had some realty frmny questions to ask. One comment I have not forgotten 
is about the shepherd boy who ran for his life as I shouted down in ecstasy for being alive. The boy, I was told, thought I was an angel coming 
from heaven to take Iris life! Everyone on the bus had a good laugh. One of the passengers sitting directly behind said that there was blood on my 
left elbow. Quickly I checked by bending try elbow and sure enough there was blood. I pulled up the sleeve of try coveralls and saw an ugty 
wound running from the elbow down to about six inches, where all the flesh was missing and blood oozing out. I had hit my left arm with the 
aircraft railing the cockpit being very narrow and 1 probably had not tucked my ami in frilly. 

I asked the driver to take me to the main police station of Sukkur. He was clever enough to suggest that it being late, the Superintendentof Police 
(SP) would have left his office, but that his house was directly on the road when entering Sukkur. I agreed to be taken there and found an anxious 
SP already awaiting my arrival since he bad been infonned by Mauripur Station about the accident in Iris precinct. A doctor had arrived to 
administer first aid to my bleeding elbow. He assured me that there was no fracture but it had been a close call as the flesh from the bone above 
and below the elbow had been ripped off I told the doctor that being alive felt frmtastic, and the damage had been minimal 


I was rescued within hours by our rescue crew led by Fit Lt Alsar Jadoon, the officer- in-ebarge of the rescue operations who bad landed at the 



Sukkur landing strip. The SP drove ire to the strip in Iris jeep where I was given a wann reception by the rescue crew who were happy to see me 
alive. Back at Mauripur, I was met by a happy bunch of my compatriots who suggested I get my orientation and senses together and told me that 
we were invited to a party at the Drigji Road Officers’ Mess that evening. Such was my life a near death experience and a party all in one day. 
Surely, there was no other profession intlie world where you got up with the excitement of a young boy to lace daunting challenges each day, 
where life and death were a hair-breath apart, and in the end you got paid lor doing what you loved doing best in the world: being a lighter pilot. 

A lighter pilot plays with life every flying moment. He is solely in charge of his mission once he straps inside a cockpit. His daily routine entails 
risks, but calculated and well- rehearsed before he undertakes a mission. Armament filing is a precise science but at that time in our lives the 
precision was essentially a product of ability to estimate because there were no guided munitions or allsolution attack systems available to pilots in 
developing countries such as Pakistan and India. In air combat, again it was the audacity and calculated manoeuvring that made the difference 
between the predator and the hunted. A pilot had more than 1 5 or 20 instruments and switches to manipulate and keep in his field of vision for 
completing a successful mission, adversities and emergencies notwithstanding. 

Another Close-Call! 

It was in this milieu that on 9th December 1 96 1 , just alter 1 4 sorties, I again laced death squarely in the lace. It was a Monday, which was 
traditionally a maintenance day when all aircraft were put through rigorous inspection alter a week’s intense flying. Tlie only exception to the rule 
was air tests. Fit Lt Arshad (later Air Vice Mshl) was the Quality Control Officer who had taken over from me. I had finished my lecture 
assignment at die FLS, and had a dull day ahead, or so I thought alter finishing the lecture to the students. I called Arshad and asked him if he 
needed help in an air test. He said yes and requested me to go to the maintenance liangar to test % 380 (this was the tail number of the F-86 
which was to be tested). He told me that he was going for an air test also. Half an tour later, I rolled out of the tarmac and commenced making 
notes on my knee pad. Pre-take-off checks were normal and I took-olf on Runway 09. Hiere was a required pattern for air tests and the 
performance was noted at each step. I had climbed to 30,000 It and was checking aircraft performance when I felt a slight flutter on the control 
columa 

All instruments showed normal and I slowed the aircraft to check its stall characteristics. Again I felt the same jerk while in straight and level flight. I 
couldn’t find any indications in the cockpit to cue me to the problem I called out to check if Arshad was airborne and in the flying training area. 
Luckily, he responded immediately and I asked him to rendezvous with me ata particular ground feature in the training area near SonmianL He 
joined up on me and I started to put the aircraft through different speeds and manoeuvres. He said there was nothing visibly wrong and I also 
didn’t experience die flutter again. I told him that I was breaking-olf as all seemed alright. As I broke left in a bard turn, the control column moved 
right back without me having moved the controls. Hie aircraft went into a high speed stall as maximum ‘G’ forces were experienced owing to the 
control column stuck solid in foil back position I called out to Arshad and said I was in an uncontrolled spin From then on, I concentrated on how 
to control the aircraft spinning violentlydownwards. 

In a typical spin profile the F-86 would lurch steeply down first followed by an upward movement towards the horizon, and then violently dip again 
almost vertically down My aircraft had spun at around 1 5,000 ft and I was losing altitude rapidly as is the case in a spin The most vital action to 
get out of a spin is to move the control stick folly forward and apply rudder opposite to the direction of the spin, but the elevator controls were 
totally frozen I quickly jettisoned the external drop tanks and pulled the emergency flight control lever, hoping to get some response. Nothing 
happened as I entered the third spin and I could see the hills below getting frighteningly larger. I knew well that I tod to make a split-second 
decision to eject. Everything was happening at lightning speed. I bent folly forward and jettisoned the canopy, as the aircraft perilously went into a 
vertical dive. Then as per procedure, I sat fully back and pressed the ejection lever. For the second time in only weeks 1 blacked out as the ‘G’ 
forces acted against my body. Fortunately, this state lasts only for two or three seconds and as the seat ejection firing sequence completes, the 
senses start to recover. 

All I remember was that I was trying to pull away from the seat, which happened suddenly. As I was detached from the seat I remembered that 
try parachute hook was not attached for instant chute deployment (it tod not been attached as yet, due to high altitude flight). Without waiting, I 
pulled Hie ripchord across my chest and, in what seemed like eternity, I felt the jerk of the chute. My head jerked back and up and I saw that 
immensely assuring sight of a white and orange canopy fully blossomed. All this happened in seconds, and I heard an explosion right below me as 
Hie aircraft crashed onto Hie side of a hillock. This was a very close call because if tod I stayed just a few seconds more in die aircraft I would 
have been in pieces. Hie time lapse between ejection seat firing-olf and aircraft hitting the ground was no more than a few seconds. Alhamd-o- 
Lillah - God saved my life once again The one person to whom I feel I owe deep gratitude was the ainnan who tod packedny parachute so 
professionally. Had the chute not deployed, no one would have known what really happened to Sajad Haider. 

I made contact with the ground on the lee- side of the hill, felling through the bushes and came to stop at a very thorny tree. I lay still and stunned 
from Hie events of Hie last minute, for what seemed like eternity, not sure if I was in one piece. Parts of my body started to sting and the pain in my 
left rib cage was acute. I took all this in, staring at Hie sky and recollecting the last 60 seconds. I was alive all right because I heard Arstod’s 
aircraft roaring in Hie vicinity. 1 unhooked Hie chute and tried pulling at the stanchions but piercing pain prevented my attempt. I staggered up and, 
hooding my forehead with my right band, spotted Arshad coming low at me. I waved out and he signalled back thumbs pointing at the sky, 
meaning Allah tod been mercifoL He went out of sight as he climbed up. Hie second pass by him was verylow and slow. His canopy was open 
this time and 1 saw a rolled paper fluttering down With pain searing through ny chest I walked down a hundred yards to pick up the balled ip 
paper. It was a message saying “'fliank God for saving you, the rescue helicopter will be here in 45 minutes, stay where you are and see you at 
Hie bar.” 

I saw a few locals walking up the hillock as soon as Arstod’s aircraft tod disappeared. Hiey approached me cautiously. These guys looked 
ferocious and aggressive. I called out first and said something innocuous and the elder man in his thirties or so answered in Brahvi (a Dravidian relic 
of Hie ancient civilization). One of them was wearing a blanket on his shoulder and he offered to wrap it around me as I was very cold. 1 tried 
speaking Pushto and then Sindhi with them but was relieved to get response from a young lad in Urdn I explained that I tod to jump out from the 



aircraft because of a technical problem but soon the rescue helicopter would be there to take me back. They made a sort of a pillow and lay me 
down as I kept wincing in pain. 1 mist have laid down for over half an hour', while the bunch sat around me like a camp fire. Then we heard the 
‘putter putter’ of the helo blades. They were about a mile off my position and appeared to be searching for me. I got up and asked the locals to 
pick up my chute and spread it out. The copter crew mist have picked up the movement as the copter took a steep turn and headed in my 
direction. 

I was picked up by a happy crew who embraced me, much to my chagrin, as the pain in the chest was getting worse. The doctor onboard 
unzipped my coveralls and checked the damage. My arms and neck were lacerated by the thorns in the bushes. He guessed that my rib cage may 
well have been compressed during the ejection, causing the pain I was made to swallow some pills and made comfortable for the rest of the 
journey. 

We landed at Mauripur at about 1300 Hrs. The doctor took me to the Medical Inspection Room to look me over, checked my blood pressure 
and did the usual go around of my body. Hie application of spirit and tincture iodine stung like hell After an x-ray of my chest I was released to 
my family. Instead, I made a bee-line for the bar to meet Arsbad and the others waiting to give me a beer and some cheer. My wife was happy 
enough to see me back and didn’t hassle me as I gulped down tankards of chilled beer, on Arsbad’s account. 

The ensuing enquiries in all these type of accidents are a pain in the butt and all kinds of nursery- type questions are asked, hi this case the 
occurrence was most unusual but given my experience and calibre it was declared an undetennined accident after a long inquiry. But for one 
professional investigator that was not acceptable. Wg Cdr Pat Callaghan, the head of the PAF Accident Investigation Team kept working at it with 
the rare dedication he was known for. After nearly six months, oneday Pat called me in the Quality Control Office and broke the news that he had 
successfully replicated the control failure which bad caused me to eject. Jokingly he said, “Bloody man, you are getting in the habit of taking- off in 
a good and expensive bard-to-come-by fighter and not bringing the precious machine back.” 

F-86K That Was Not to Be 

In 1 963, although American aid was in foil swing, the PAF happened upon an additional deal which seemed well worth paying for. Hie West 
German Government was intending to dispose off 75 used F-86 ‘Ks’ from the Luftwaffe’s inventory and was offering them at a total cost of 7 
million US dollars, including some spares and ground support equipment. There was a lot of commonality between the PAF’s ‘F’ model and the 
‘Ks’ being offered, and such an opportunity was not to be missed. Air Headquarter'S proposed to raise two new Squadrons of 12 aircraft each 
and cocoon the remaining F-86 ‘Ks’ as a healthy reserve. The project seemed to be well on its way, with induction and ferry arrangements in the 
advanced stages, when the subject suddenly dropped out of all files and documents, leaving no trace as to why the project never came to fruition 

In fact, it is very surprising for me that the PAF has no record of what actually happened. It became well known that the Americans got wind of the 
deal and were furious with the German Government for not seeking US Defence Department clearance before even discussing such a deal with the 
Pakistani Air Force. As a consequence, the General of Luftwaffe who had made the deal became the casualty of American ire. This was confirmed 
to me by General Steinhoffi the long time Chief of the Luftwaffe, many years later in San Diego when I met him at the home of Admiral Fred 
Bardsbar of the US Navy, a very close mutual friend. 

6 

COMMAND OF A FIGHTER SQUADRON 

My command of a fighter squadron on the 1 st of October, 1 963 was perhaps the most exciting day ofmy life. The euphoria was indescribable. All 
the remorse hanging over from various disappointments dissipated like ether. This was the moment destiny had been driving me towards. For the 
next couple of days I was walking in a semi- trance, receiving congratulations from family and friends inside and outside the air force. As I walked 
into the office of the Squadron Commander No 19 Squadron, wearing my bolstered ego on my sleeve and the Golden Eagle on my chest, I felt 
strange and somewhat awkward, even though I Hid visited this veiy office many times before. Fit Lt Mo Akbar, one of the smarter young officers 
and a good fighter pilot entered right behind me and said, “Welcome to No 19 Squadron Sir, the squadron is really excited to have you as our 
Commander.” I said, “Thanks old pal, we are going to make it the No 1 Fighter Squadron together.” He asked, “Would you like to see 
tomorrow's flying schedule; that would give you an idea of our programme and if you would like to make any changes’? The words were like 
music to my ears. I was now destined to mould this unit according to my plans and ideas. Boy, what a feeling! 

Before getting command ofNo 19 Squadron as well as getting promoted to the rank of Sqn Ldr, I was blessed with a son we named Adnan In 
fact, the name was suggested by Capt Attila Celebi, a Turkish Air Force Captain on exchange posting with the PAF, a mutual exchange 
programme with our Turkish brothers. Attila and his other colleague Nacedet Teckdemir liadbecome really close friends and spent many evenings 
at our home. We had a lot of fun, especially cooking Turkish food together. 

Some major and unpopular changes took place a few months after I got my command. Tlie popular commander Air Cdre FS Hussain was posted 
as Air Secretary at AHQ, Peshawar, and Gp Capt Khaqan Abbasi took over the base. Wg Cdr MG Tawab was posted as OC Flying Wing to 
replace the popular Wg Cdr ‘Bill’ Latif who bad been posted as Commander Bomber Wing (No 31 Wing) to replace Wg Cdr Khaqan Abbasi. 

It was known that the bomber command was changed especially by Air MsM Asgbar Khan, who had pointed out during his earlier inspection of 
Mauripur Base, that serious command weaknesses were reflected in the poor training and unacceptable armament scores of bomber pilots. Some 
of these postings turned out to be ominous as events would unfold. Air MsM Nur Khan had long been sent to the PLA in 1958. Consequently, new 
blood had replaced the older generation. MG Tawab and I hit it off well in the beginning. Whatever task he gave me was perfonned with 
eagerness and to the best of my ability. Unfortunately, I soon began to experience more and more interference from the OC Flying Wing in my 



squadron’s affairs which danpened my ability to mould my Unit as I thought best. I took his niggling quietly though as I did not want to rock the 
boat. By this time Fit Lts Saad Flatmi and Masud Flatmi (brothers) had been posted to No 19 Squadron So I had a good lot in try herd. 

I went into reshaping the squadron training program after a couple of weeks. Too much flight safety can be as dangerous as too little of it. It is like 
a reluctant driver on the road who is afraid of an accident, drives too slow and hesitates at every turn and is thus dangerous. I decided to change 
tilings a step at a time. 

Large commands have a problem, especially if the boss is an overenthusiastic stickler for authority and protocol. With FS Hussain and ‘Bill’ Latifr 
we did not have the problem of the boss trying to prove his prowess. Both were legends in their own right but they did not interfere in squadron 
command at all This had changed with the new set-up. All those Squadron Commanders who had a penchant lor independence were irked at 
being told how to run their Units and especially hated their pilots being assigned other duties outside the operational domain by the Officer 
Commanding Flying Wing Somehow, we learnt to deal with it, with clenched teeth of course. But overall it was wonderful at work as well as off- 
duty. During Asghar Khan’s command, the air force was organised and integrated on the modem concepts of air power. 

He worked patiently, with resolve and vision and demanded the highest standards of discipline, professionalism and moral integrity. He may have 
seemed rigid 1 to his detractors and critics but that was a cynical interpretation just because he was uncompromising on principles and discipline. 
Before taking any decision, he would keep an open mind to suggestions and inputs from his Air Staff Once he had made up his mind he would 
pursue Iris decision without vacillating. This rare human attribute has been a unique strength in his life. He was the best thing that happened to the 
PAF in its nascent and embryonic stage. Had the choice been any other officer senior to him, the history of PAF would have been somewhat like 
the leadership of the other two services during that period. In eight years of conscientious and relentless crafting Asghar Khan created a 
fbmidable, highly integrated, motivated and professional PAF. 

1 AM Asghar Khan was a typical air force commander; he was liberal in that he did not have intelligence hounds snooping around officers to report on their personal 
lives. His sole criterion for selection of a unit commander was that he should be well respected by compatriots and subordinates and be a good leader in the air. Of 
course, good conduct was always expected of an officer. 


Interestingly, he was a very liberal person who was not judgmental about the preferences of the men under his command. Bars and dancing on 
Mess Nights was a RAF inheritance and also an institutional rallying point for all the officers, their families and friends. The AHQ policy made 
Mess regulations stringent and effective enough so that no one could violate thetimings of the bar closing or exceed the top limit of Rs 150/, which 
in the fifties was adequate enough The jargon ‘10 hours between the bottle and the throttle’ became a sine qua nonofbar discipline. Both Asghar 
Khan and Nur Khan didn’t consume alcohol but they were tolerant enough to allow these activities as long as they remained within the confines of 
good behaviour and discipline. They participated with their spouses in most Mess functions if they were able to do so. During their presence there 
were never any tensions or ‘attentions’ of the kind one saw else where in the sister services. 

By July 1 965 Asgjiar Khan had been able to launch the PAF into the galaxy of the best air forces in the world. The PAF was ready to take on any 
challenge with its newly acquired professional status. The challenge loomed a mere five weeks after Asghar Khan handed over the air force to Air 
Mshl Nur Khan, who undoubtedly inherited a highly structured and operationally focused air force. 

I have to admit that my own threshold for mediocrity amongst the pilots assigned to my squadron was low. This was a mind- set I had inherited 
from my peers. The worst characteristic which I disdained was carelessness and indifference to excellence. I learnt and applied the lesson that if 
you have die anatomy and compulsion for being a good fighter pilot then nothing could stop you from achieving the highest standards, and if it did 
not come naturally then one should go % Boeings or what ever. That is because a lighter pilot flies with his wits, knowledge, resolve and courage, 
alone in a cooped up cockpit, not remotely controlled from the ground. So, there lies the difference and that is why an outstanding fighter pilot was, 
and shall remain, an exception 

Squadron Move 

Life was going on when one day we heard from the Base Commander (I think by this time, the word ‘Station’ had been replaced by ‘Base’ in 
order to adapt to the American system) that AHQ had decided to move one of the fighter squadrons to Peshawar. No one wanted to be displaced 
from our settled life to move to Peshawar, which was crowded with senior officers at AHQ, and also dreary, as compared to the buzzing life of 
Karachi There was some sense of reprieve when the Base Commander added that he would try to send a squadron commanded by a bachelor 
rather than a manied officer. So, I felt it could not be my squadron that would be the one moving. A week after the casual news of a squadron 
move, I was rattled to see a signal order in my mail folder which was an order for the move of No 1 9 Squadron to Peshawar. 

Mo Akbar entered my office with an anxious look on his perpetually smiley face. “Sir, why us, what are we going to do in that dull ‘Khoche’ 
town?” I replied, “Let me see the Base Commander and ask him why, because I don’t understand it myself” The PA to the Base Commander 
asked me to see him at Iris residence after games, at 6 PM. I arrived and was ushered into the sprawling lawn of the Base Commander’s 
residence. I saw him sitting in the niddle of the lawn getting a Iran-cut. The barber stopped to let himraise his head. “Oh! Hello Shah Jee (a way of 
showing familiarity and affection). Sit downand tell me what the problem is?” I cleared my throat and started with an opener that even surprised 
me. “Sir, I bad the impression you liked me, then why are you dislodging me when there are bachelor Squadron Commanders who would like to 
go to Peshawar?” 1 1 is reply was very strange. ‘T didn’t want to send you but it seems that ACAS (Ops) Air Cdre Rahim has asked for No 19 
Squadron by name.” I was rendered speechless. He told me to relax and go ahead because ACAS (Ops) is not a man any one can argue with As 
I left, I had a suspicion that die Base Commander had a band in my squadron’s move. 

The same evening, around 7 pm, Butch called me and said we were invited by Mr and Mrs Choudhry (in-laws of FS Hussain, our former and 
much admired Squadron Commander), because FS was in town I picked up Butch and Sophie (nee Carol) and we headed for Karachi Mrs 
Choudhry was always a great hostess and Choudhry Sahib a bit gmff FS with his disanning smile met us and asked me when I was moving to 


Peshawar. I grumbled and complained about being tbe target of Air Cdre Rahim Khan’s special attention To this, FS said it was not true. “I had 
sent the signal for the move of one F-86 squadron to Peshawar and vividly recall tot we left the choice of the squadron to the Base Commander.” 

1 was shocked and told him what the Base Commander had said to me. Fie replied “Nonsense! Your Base Commander made the choice and 
suggested your squadron.” He ton laughed and said “He obviously wants to get ridofyou, but don’t worry we will take care ofyou. Beware 
tough, tot a lot of old but not so bold seniors will be descending on you to make up then' annual flying hour's to qualify for flying pay.” 

Accepting it as a fait accompli , I got down to business and flew off to Peshawar after all to anangements had been completed for to move, to 
report to to new Base Commander. The new boss was a very senior officer;Gp Capt AR Khan (popularly called Auzi Khan). I had known him 
before and considered him a very good person and not a stickler for silly little tilings. We finally moved to Peshawar in March 1 964. We had left 
all to families behind while accommodation was being earmarked for us. We settled down very well within a short period - thanks to to 
outstanding support from to Base Commander, Gp Capt Auzi Khan He was a very unpretentious officer with no chip on his shoulder, a very 
straight and sincere man, but no one could take liberties with him 

We truly blossomed as a fighter squadron, owing to the freedom of conduct of all flying activity. This proved conducive to our standards of flying, 
safety and importantly, in training for the squadron’s war role. The intention with which we were sent to Peshawar viz, senior officers from AHQ 
breathing down our necks proved to the contrary. From the C-in-C down, every senior officer was able to see to perfonnance of the squadron 
Until July 1965, before Air Msbl Nur Khan took over from Air MsM Asgliar Khan, Air Cdre Rahim Khan was the senior-most officer, who came 
and flew with the squadron once in a while. But as Air Mslil Nur Khan took over, he flew practically everyday with No 19 Squadron. So we had 
a welcome exposure to the top echelon 

This kind of independent identity was a dream of a Squadron C ommander who had coHd train Ms Unit as he tbougH best. Such an opportunity 
was available to us in the West and to No 14 Squadron in East Pakistan Posterity was to prove that this element of independent command was to 
be the real test of performance in war. Meanwhile, it dawned on me that with this newly acquired freedom to plan and train the unit, came a grave 
responsibility^) create a razor edge balance between operational excellence and flight safety. I had to ensure that avoidable accidents were 
declared to be a virtual crime and (light safety a cardinal mission for the supervisors. Having said that. I also made sure tot every member of the 
Squadron folly understood tot operational standards woMd take precedence over safety when the situation so demanded. It was time to start 
introducing realism into the tactical concepts we hadpracticed so far. Excellence had to become a habit. 

Eveiy move I made bad to do with the ultimate aim ie, ‘ The Mission’ . This was about the ability to lead men in to air towards the assigned target 
with impeccable formation integrity and aggressive spirit; arrive at the target precisely through accurate navigation; or place the formation in the 
curve of pursuit against an enemy (sinxilated or real) in the air or enter into a perfect strafing, rocket or bombing attack. The destruction of the 
tai'gct had to be done swiftly without wavering and there had to be a safe recovery plan as well as a contingency plan to handle emerging situations 
not planned. If intercepted, one had to manoeuvre the elements to tactical advantage toough best and swift ‘ Situational Awareness ’ and try to 
recover with mininum losses. That was the task I set for myself 

This was a demanding task, but as time was to prove it was capable of being acMeved if sensibly planned and audaciously acMeved. The focus 
was on intense training, prioritisation of tasks and their pursuit with resolve and dedication These were to factors that were indispensable to 
motivating every member of the unit to be capable of assuming to lead role at any time and perform it with confidence, courage and precision The 
key to all this was the Mgji morale of the team I was ready, equipped and resolute about carving a fighter unit of distinction tot woMd be a matter 
of envy for others, but pride of the PAF. We set the Mghways in the sky ablaze with jet flame over the coming months. 

An Ominous Foreshadow 

Mo Akbar always walked with ire to my office after the morning briefing in wMch I had added a new feature unrelated to flying it was reading 
passages from the newspaper by pilots whose articulation was poor. It had been passed onto us by our peers, that (lying was not the be-all and 
end-all of a good fighter pilot; wholesomeness was equally important towards to making of an officer and a foture commander. 

As we put our heads down to serious training Mo Akbar woMd give me a rundown on the films assessed the day before and point out the levels 
of progress of pilots in armaments and air combat. One day he came into try office looking a bit worried. When I asked why he was shaking his 
head so vigorously, he said. “Sir, this newcomer Fig OffMati-ur-ReMnan (who was involved in a botched attempt to hijack a T-33 trainer shortly 
before the 1971 War) is very dangerous on take-offs. He nearly collides in every take- off in his over enthusiasm to maintain close formation” I 
told Mo to detail him with ire the next morning During the briefing I told the young man that on take- off to distance is to be 20 ft, not 19 or 21. 
“If you are too close orout, it means you have no control of the aircraft.” I cautioned Mm that he had tliree more take-offs to show me tot he was 
capable ofmaking a fighter pilot. I hoped he got the message. We took-off some time later, and I kept Mm in try field ofvision He lagged behind 
a bit and then was tucked-in closer than desired. But take-off is too critical a manoeuvre to be conected during the nm So, we proceeded 
towards the local flying area. 

During the mission I found tot Mati was over anxious to perform well When I placed Mm 1 ,000 ft in line astern 2 to begin the tail chase I found 
him closing in too last during reversal turns. So, I woMd ease-off to let Mm get the hang of maintaining proper distance. After we landed, I 
debriefed him and told him that his enthusiasm to do the right tiling was good but he had to get there one step at a time or he may not get there at 
all for reasons of fligffi safety. I flew two more missions with Mati till he got to anxiety out of Iris endeavours. 

2 In line astern: one aircraft directly behind the other. 

Years later while flying a practice air combat mission in an F- 6 (Mig- 19) aircraft, Mati’s wingman hit to ground because Mati had taken the fight 
below the miniinuni height. This was still minor compared to what he did in to 1 97 1 War. In retrospect, I wonder if I shoMd have taken a sterner 
view of his performance in the squadron. 


Life in the Squadron 


As spring in Peshawar blossomed, the pace of life picked up. I would get the squadron pilots in small batches to come and have dinner at my 
home or we would have a shindig at the Mess ladies’ room (a tradition from the RAF whereby ladies were not allowed in the Mess hall or the bar, 
to give the bachelor officers the freedom to blow off steam, hence the existence of a ladies’ room where families could be entertained). Life was 
not so expensive in those days and chapli kebabs were a great supplement to the home or Mess cooked food. At best, one could order a leg of 
lamb and a few dishes from the Mess and we would all have a great time. My little son Adnan whom I loved intensely would be the centre of 
attraction Abbas (Abby) Kliattak, Dilawar (Dili) and Akram( Aiki) were always there at these weekend bashes. Adnan was still a toddler and 
would be rolling around in the middle of the drawing room like a football, with Abby Kbattak and Aiki spooning beer in his infant mouth, until I got 
on their case and forbade them such frolic. It was like a family get together and all the tensions of the work week were drowned in bonhomie. 

Upon reflection, I feel that these hours were as important if not more to create bonding between team members. Fighter pilots are special because 
there is no profession in the world, not even being an astronaut, if I dare say so, where persons share a calculated danger every day of their life. 
Some of the closest bonding in life happens between strangers when they share moments where their collective lives are endangered. Those few 
hours of lacing danger together can create the best friendships in life. Since we shared the risks of fighter flying every day of our lives, we were 
bonded by an incredible compassion which did not need vocal nor physical expression - it just permeated our hearts and minds. This feeling was 
accentuated each time we had to be at the funeral of a comrade. Thank God, it only happened once during my command of No 19 Squadron 
when Fig Off Ifiikhar bad a fetal accident as bis engine flamed out immediately after take-off 

The end result of this deep-rooted camaraderie was that to me, each one of my squadron pilots represented a very precious entity. I wanted them 
to be the best, at the same time I bad to do my utmost for them to live to be old and bold pilots through the challenges ahead of them This balance 
bad been so fine tuned in my mind that I could read their expressions when something was not light with them, personal or professional I 
considered it my cardinal duty to ensure that my pilots stepped into the cockpit with a clear mind, focused on the mission detail without any mental 
disturbances. This was a difficult task, but not entirely impossible. I developed a propensity to stand by my men when they were troubled or in 
trouble. It was utterly important to have their full confidence in all undertaking. They had to feel secure and protected to be able to give their best, 
even at the peril of their lives. 

The PAF policy makers, essentially under the leadership of Air MsM Asgbar Khan, bad moulded the PAF into a highly efficient fighting machine. 
Air Defence Alert (ADA) was one such capability which had been perfected like clock work. Every base was required to keep a certain number 
ofeircraft on ADA duties. These aircraft were anned with 6 machine guns and later some could cany two GAR-8 air-to-air heat seeking missiles. 
At the first indication of our air space being violated, the ADA fighters would get airborne in 2 minutes after the radar centre ordered a scramble. It 
was such efficiency which enabled the PAF to draw its first blood in 1 958 by shooting down an Indian spying recce bomber, and again forced 
down an IAF Ouragon in the spring of 1 965 . 

Teaching them a Lesson 

It was on a beautiful February afternoon in 1965, when I was interrupted at the PAF golf course at Peshawar. I played golf every day, and that 
day I was paired with FS Hussain for a tournament. We were on the third hole which was towards the direction of the club house. We noticed a 
front boy from the club come running He stopped near me as I was about to take a shot. After I had hit the ball he said to me that there was an 
urgent call from Fig Off Dilawar. I knew he was on ADA duties. I wondered if all was well as I excused myself telling FS about the call from 
ADA. When I took the call Dili told me that he had received an ‘XX’ from AHQ Ops and asked if they should get their guns armed or not. An 
‘XX’ call was made when for our Frontier Corps (FC) deployed along the Durand line on the Pak-Alghan border, asked for air support if they 
were under attack by Afghan mercenaries. Hie nature of air support was determined by the Corps HQ, either by way of show of air power, or in 
a dire situation, to attack the Afghan bandits. The Senior Duty Controller in consultation with the Director of Operations would decide how to 
respond to the request by the FC HQ. 

The decision to use weapons against the intruding vagabonds was taken once the fighters amived in the area in case of a ‘HOT’ call which was 
indicated by the number of Xs. Our FC troops would display a huge T in white with round cloth pieces to indicate the direction of the enemy 
intruders and the colour of the round balls would indicate whether they wanted just a show of force or attack with live munitions. Hie number of 
balls gave the distance of the enemy, each ball denoting 1 ,000 yards. Red meant they were in a serious situation and wanted the enemy taken out. 

I told Dili to hold his horses, and wait for me at the aircraft. I dashed off to the squadron in my spifly Volkswagen Arriving at the squadron I 
pulled up my (lying coveralls and ran to the ADA aircraft. Dili had a set of maps ready for me and briefed me about the area where trouble was 
reported. We started up and I asked the armament ainnan to charge one of my six guns. I did that from a sense of intuition I felt some thing must 
be wrong to get an ‘XX’ call at that late hour. Once airborne, Dili moved into a perfect conbat wingman formation Hiis was the kind of swift and 
instinctive conduct that made a fighter pilot different from a wingman that just flew the fighter - the pride of maintaining position in all conbat 
manoeuvres from take-off to landing. Also, for a leader this was the litmus test to adjudge a pilot with zeal and pride for his upward movement. A 
good wingman made it to where he aspired, while a mediocre one who needed goading and shouting to fell in place usually petered out in the 
profession of lighter (lying. The performance of wingmen in a formation gets more demanding as his position number increases; No 6, 7 and 8 in a 
large fonnation have to be on their toes and anticipate and react swiftly to the slightest change. 

We were flying at 20,000 ft heading towards the northern border. As we got closer to the briefed position we got down to 10,000 ft for better 
visibility to pick up the T display. I called Dili to keep a good look out for the T. After about two minutes I initiated a turn to the right and it 
seemed we both picked up the T at the same time. Hiere it was at 1 1 o’ clock about four miles away, just a white speck from that height, close 
to a precipice, and mountains all around. 1 dove vertically down for the T; it was not white for sure. As we ran along the long bar of the T, I 
saw two round red balls of cloth. Our troops werein serious trouble and the red balls meant that the enemy was around 2,000 yards ahead. We 
pulled up steeply to stay out of the range of fire by the intruders till we had spotted them hi that treacherous terrain it was their call since it was 



easy for them to hide on hearing the jet- noise. Dili picked up two ofthem sheltering behind a huge rock. The crafty Afghans knew the fighter 
profile well and thus they had selected a spot which would make it difficult to accurately attack them and safely pull out avoiding the mountain 
peak. 1 called in ‘LIVE’ with one gun. Dili was frustrated not having his guns charged, and he said so. I had to attack from an acute angle to be 
able to pull-up on the lee side of the mountain So I had to fire during a turn, requiring high accuracy and good judgment of when to open fire. 

01-course in those days the fighters had no laser and other equipment, so it was all estimation. I was turning along the hill side and had a maximum 
of 1 Vi seconds of firing time. I bad to hit the two white clad figures with the first salvo of bullets. I got in range and kept the hill in my field of vision 
I dropped the aiming piper from above to place it on the target, simultaneously reaching a 1 ,500 foot slant range. It was not easy. I fired a burst of 
one second and heaved up to avoid the hill-side. It was close but what was the result? Dili, who had been asked to circle on top at 3,000 ft AGL 
called out, “Leader, two red bundles rolling down the mountain” I had lit them smack on As I was pulling up I wondered where was the lashkar 
(the band of intruders as they came in groups). They were visible nowhere. 

I spotted a nud house as I turned left while surveying the area. I was watching the mud hut casually, (lying close to it at a 1 ,000 ft AGL when I 
made contact. I bad spotted three men moving inside the small court- yard. I called Dili, by then Hying loose astern and asked him if he also 
badconlact with three figures. Without waiting for affinnation, I told him to keep an eye on them as I was getting obstructed by the shade extending 
from the veranda. Dili called visual contact and then calmly said, ‘They are holding some kind of weapons and are probably firing at you. “Roger, 
copied message, I will blast the house from the south, don’t lose sight ofthem as they egress the hut”. I was posihoned north-west at the time. I 
pulled up steeply to around 5,000 ft and could see Dili way behind in the eastern quadrant. I dove in without seeing any one below and carried out 
a high angle strafing attack to stay out of their small arms range. It was a good three second burst and I pulled offi well away from any bullets that 
may have been coming at me. It was at the bottom of the pull-up that I saw one of them running out of the hut. It was too late to get him, but I kept 
him in sight as he ran along a nullah (ravine) below the hut heading east. 

The visibility was reducing especially towards the east as thesun neared the western horizon. Dili called and said it was all quiet in the hut but 
reported the escaping marauder. I said I had him in my gun sight and was going for him Hie scene of the setting sun, rugged mountains and my first 
blood had an eerie something about it. What happened in the next few seconds remains wedged in memory. I had entered the attack and my gun 
sight was, maybe 500 ft away, lining up with the direchon of the running man The fellow must have slipped or tripped on the rocks, as he tried to 
get Iris balance and then he fell and lay absolutely prostrate, spread-eagled with Iris weapon on the side, my sight inching up to him All I needed to 
do was to run my sight through him with my gun blazing away. What did I do? I held my finger on the trigger very lightly. It’s amazing how our 
training comes instinctively to mind, ‘Thou shaft not shoot at thy enemy hanging by the silk cord,” was not meant only for an adversary banging at 
the end of a parachute after you had shot Iris aircraft down, but any enemy who was helpless, like the man below. I flew very low over him and 
pulled up steeply, to let him get the blast from the j et wash Surely, this man was going home to Kabul or where ever he hid come from; he 
wouldn’t venture into Pakistan again, I thought. 

Just then I heard FS Hussein’s voice on the radio. He had followed me and was in the area, monitoring my radio talk with Dili as I attacked the 
hut. “Did you spot any ofthem?” FS asked. “I think I splashed three, sir,” I replied. “Come on, I am3 o’clock about 4,000 ft, let’s join up and get 
back, you bloodthirsty chips.” I called contact with him after a few seconds and we joined up in fluid three formation and returned to base without 
further ado. That evening there was a reception at the golf club and I went there along with FS. I was telling some friends what happened that 
afternoon when someone from behind me put a hand on my shoulder and said, “That was an excellent air support sortie, Haider.” I turned to find 
the highly regarded Gen Bahadur Sher addressing me. He said our squadron had been mentioned in dispatches. 

Whatever that meant, the Director of Ops was most displeased with my initiative. In feet, after landing, I was surprised to see the Director of Ops 
at the Operational Readiness Platfonn (ORP). I figured he had come to ask about the mission and give me a pat for a job well done. He ignored 
me at first and asked FS about the mission FS said he had reached too late and added that Haider had cut a few down already. Hie Director of 
Ops then walked right up to me and asked curtly why I had (charged) my gun hot. ‘To teach the bloody chaps a lesson, sir,” I quipped. “They are 
killing our Frontier Corps soldiers inside Pakistan” From Iris expression I could tell he hadn't liked my demeanour and made that amply clear to 
me, even though I had done the right thing. 

7 

RANN OF KUTCH SKIRMISH 

Life was getting interesting with all this excitement, mercifully with an excellent safety record thus fer. I was determined to annex the Flight Safety 
Trophy that year. Often, after tlyang bad finished for the day, Mo Akbar and I would sit together to discuss ways to raise the tactical and 
operational proficiency threshold without compromising the safety fector. This brainstorming was a manifestation of my own training and firm belief 
that in the final analysis, the mission results in a war- like situation would reflect the quality and realism of our training. Tlie problem was how to 
achieve very high standards in weapons delivery, air combat and high precision in low-level navigation flying, the lynebpin of a successful 
operational mission in war. The limiting fector in achieving excellence was the consideration of the flight safety perimeters imposed. Rules limited us 
to 250 ft AGL in low level flying which made navigation quite easy, owing to feir visibility. But in a real war we would be sitting ducks for the Ack- 
Ack at that height and would have to lower our height to no more than 50 ft AGL. 

Similarly, the steep dive angle and minimum pull out heights stipulated by the US Air Force standards made it veiy difficult to achieve realistically 
effective results. We were severely hampered in that regard because violation of parameters meant severe retribution in case of an avoidable 
accident. Resultantly, we had a very narrow and almost razor edge envelope to operate within to get what I felt was operationally realistic while 
respecting the safety policy. So we started working on composite mission profiles where we would put the operational pilots through the absolute 
edge of aircraft perfonnance limits and safety envelopes. Meanwhile, we were also putting together the plan to upgrade the squadron offices, 



especially the crew room for better briefing environment and comfort. 


As we were in the midst of the upgrade, my phone rang and if memory holds well it was the great Butch Ahmed on the line. “Hey, Nosy, we are 
at war boy, did you know?” “How and where?” I asked excitedly. He shot back, “We just flew a recon mission in the Kutch area. Hie Indian 
Army came into Pakistan but is getting a thrashing from our infantiy and may be tanks too.” What about us, were we going to be sent south? “No 
boy, we will take care of it fromhere, this is for mature fighters, and you kids can suck your thumbs for now.” Funny it was, but it got nr riled up 
because we were so for away from real action 

A Deft Move by PAF C-in-C 

In the coming days we learnt more about the army action in the Kutch region For us in the northern half there was no real action except for a 
heightened state of air defence alert. As history tells us, Air MsM Asghar Khan had decided that the PAF would stay out of the skirmish owing to 
die obvious tactical disadvantage of being too for away from the battle zone. Tlie Indians, operating from nearby Bhuj air base would have played 
havoc in our land operation But for us fighter jockeys hungry for real action all we had in mind was to take on the eneny without understanding 
the bigger picture. 

Hie skirmish in the Ram of Kutch was being fought by our army units to take back what was ours and had been annexed by the Indians for the 
reason not commonly known, that there were good prospects for oil in the area. Another reason was that after the humiliating defeat inflicted by 
the Chinese on the Indians in 1962 the Indians had gone all out to re-equip their armed forces. By 1965 they were itching to show their muscle 
whenever the opportunity arose. Rami was their target for an adventure. First, the Indians, who were well fortified in a defensive posture, attacked 
a police post at Chad Bet in April of 1 965 . Our forces responded with speed, using tanks and armoured vehicles. However, this meant that our 
land forces were in the open, exposed and on the move; a succulent target for the Indian Air Force. Hie area of conflict was in easy operational 
reach of the IAF bases in the vicinity, particularly Bhuj air base with several fighter squadrons less than 5-6 minutes from the area of conflict. 
Jaisalmir was about 20 minutes at 480 Kts speed. 

Had tlie Indians committed their air force in support of their army, our troops would have been attacked from the air and destroyed with impunity, 
bringing our land operation to a halt. Hie PAF would have been relatively ineflective as the battle area was too for fromMauripur, the only PAF 
base in tlie south. Our fighters would require about 30-35 minutes getting to the battle area, the organisational delay notwithstanding. Besides, 
these fighters would be on marginal fuel owing to tlie long distance, and therefore susceptible in the event of being bounced by tlie IAF 
interceptors. Another issue which factored into tlie decision by our Air Chief to not engage the air force was that the Indian invaders were well 
dug- in, in fortified defences, and extremely difficult to identify from the air by last fighters. 

Hie histoiy of the Ram skinnish would have been written differently had Air MsM Asghar Khan not taken the unique strategic initiative to keep tlie 
air forces out of the battle. Indeed, his unilateral decision to establish a dialogue with his counterpart was somewhat utopian under tlie 
circumstances, yet a worthwhile option to exercise. Hie wisdom of a commander is to win a war with minimum loss to his own forces. Because 
such a result was acliieved by our land forces, it was the sagacity of Air MsM Asghar Khan to have taken the initiative and provided this indirect 
support by keeping tlie eneny air force from interfering with the land operations. What Air MsM Asghar Khan said to Ms counterpart was loaded 
with a guarded warning and it worked like a channwith Air CMefMsM Aijun Singh. Hiis is how it happened. 

Air MsM Asghar Khan called Air CMefMsM Aijun Singh - a former colleague from WW-II - on the old boy’s network. Hie PAF cMef suggested 
that they shoMd try to influence their political leaders to hold back the air forces to avoid escalation, adding that if the IAF was committed into 
action tlie PAF may opt to hit targets anywhere it chose, not restricted to the Rami swamps. Aijun Singh was non-committal and said he woMd 
have to refer tlie idea to his political leadership and made no promises. 

Indian historians have described tlie reaction on their side. It is stated by Samir Chopra and .lagan Mohan in their book about the 1965 War, that 
when Defence Minister Cliavan asked Aijun Singh to throw his air force into action to stop the Pakistan Army’s blitzkrieg Aijun Singh had 
relented. Luckily for the Pakistan Amy, tlie IAF did not go into action, this allowing our troops freedom of action without air opposition Strange 
as it may sound (even though lucky for our troops), Aijun Singh had showed hesitation for the precise reason he shoMd have, in feet, committed 
his air force. His coMeMion was that tlie PAF had the advaMage of radar cover and its bases were closer to the battle area (owing to tlie stupidity 
of intelligence agencies. Aijun Singh had wrongly assessed Nawabsliah, Hyderabad and one other mystery airfield as active PAF bases) and that 
tlie IAF was too fer. 

Hie reality was, in feet, just tlie opposite! General Musa and the amy Merarchy shoMd have been grateful to Air MsM Asghar Khan’s deftness in 
having saved the precious lives of our fighting men But that might have been too much to expect from Gen Musa and the self styled field marshal 
to have tlie penchant to grasp the complexities of air operations; particularly the capabilities the limitation of tactical aircraft, hi line with his supreme 
commander, Gen Musa had little respect for the PAF and much less for its C-in-C, whom he envied for his superior qualities and the way tlie PAF 
had gained national and international stature. Hiis phenomenon gained world wide attention as the glamour and spectacular image of tlie air forces 
took tlie lime light away from tlie sister services. Iromcally, in the case of Pakistan, it generated woefril envy in the amy Merarchy rattier than 
mutual respect and enhanced confidence. In a cynical attempt Gen Musa tried insinuating Air MsM Asghar Khan hi Ms book My Version , Gen 
Musa alleges that during the Ram of Kutch episode Asghar Kharis reluctance to commit the PAF, and his contact with the Indian Air CMef to 
suggest keeping the two air forces out of the skirmish was an act of cowardice. (Similar inanity lias been parroted by Gauhar Ayub in his receM 
diatribe). So much for tlie Amy CMefs ignorance and even a basic comprehension of the limitations of PAF combat aircraft and, most 
importantly, the proximity of Bhuj airfield. 

That the IAF was kept away from the battle should have been Gen Musa’s moment of thanksgiving and not criticism of a highly reputed colleague. 
Our amy Merarchy had not bothered to consider the air force with any seriousness, leave alone a desire to evolve any concept of joiM operations. 
This inordinate attitude had been inherited by the indigenous leadership since the days of Gen Gracey, the British C-in-C of Pakistan Amy. Like 



his Pakistani successors, he considered the air force as an extension of the artillery. Reportedly, the RPAF C-in-C, AVM Atcherly, a lighter pilot 
of repute, had snubbed Amy C-in-C, Gen Gracey during a dinner partyabout his poor perception of the employment of air power in the shifting 
paradigms of future wars. 1 

Had Ayub Khan and later Gen Musa paid heed to Asghar Khan’s plea to evolve a concept of joint operations, they might have been wiser about 
the P AF ’ s air strategy and its real capabilities and limitations . But such realism in conceptualizing and planning was unthinkable for them. More on 
this aspect will be discussed in the coming chapters. 

A Reality Check 

For the sake of posterity and to present history in an accurate perspective, the decision by the Air Chief to persuade his opposite number, the 
Indian C-in-C to keep his air force out of the skirmish needs a professional and objective reality check. For readers to determine who was the real 
‘chicken’ during his soldiering career it would be instructive to read a part of the classified report by the US Air Attache raised on 1 5th May 1 965 
and addressed to the US Department of State, Secretary of State and copied to their embassies in New Delhi and London. The report is about the 
intrusion of an IAF Canberra over the Lahore sector for several minutes soon after the Ram of Kutch cease-fire. 

The Indian Prime Minister Sbastri and his Defence Minister Cbavan had threatened to avenge the Kutch defeat at a time and place of their 
choosing. A prelude to this was the IAF’s attempt to photograph the land features of the Pakistan Amy’s main battle area. As soon as the 
intrusion was identified as ‘hostile’ by our air defence system, the PAF C-in-C was informed and permission requested to force the bomber dowa 
While the Air Chief gave the go ahead for the interception, he decided to inform President Ayub Khan on the newly installed direct line between 
him and the President. The President had a fit and ordered the intruder to be left alone owing to the fear that it may provoke the Indians and 
escalate tensions or impede the Ram of Kutch ceasefire brokered by the British Part of this US Embassy report is placed at Appendix ‘A’. 

* The Story of the Pakistan Air Force, 1988. 

We in tlie PAF had been aware that an Indian Canberra had been over flying south East of Lahore over our troops and strategic lines of defence 
for several minutes. PAF interceptors had been scrambled and had made contact with the Indian Canberra but were awaiting orders to shoot it 
down and replay the earlier shooting down of the IAF Canberra in 1959. Unhappily, the interceptors were ordered to return minutes prior to the 
interception by a disappointed Air Chief This time Asgjiar Khan had chosen discretion over initiative and called the President and was denied a 
golden opportunity to send a harsh message to the Indians to lay-off The prime reason for Asghar Khan clearing this with the President was 
possibly owing to the earlier Ram of Kutch bickering by Musa and Ayub Khan about PAF C-in-C having negotiated with the IAF on his own. 

Field Marshal Ayub Khan had the jitters and thus refused permission for Asghar Khan to intercept and force the intruder to land in Pakistan 
According to the US embassy report, the Indian Canberra was allowed to conplete its mission at 33,000 feet, over- flying for several minutes, 
capturing the landscape of the Pakistan Amy’s main battle area. We in the PAF were livid at the defeatist attitude of the government. This 
defeatist mind-set did not end here. Air Msbl Asghar Khan had, later that day, contacted Aziz Ahmed, the Foreign Secretary, and told him that the 
PAF was issuing a strongly worded press statement about the violation by the IAF, with a warning that there would be no letting go next time. Aziz 
Ahmed readily agreed to the idea and suggested including deference to Ayub Khan for intervening to block the interception in the interest of peace. 
Asgjiar Khan was also advised by the foreign secretaiy to clear the press statement with the information ministry and to send a copy of the text to 
AltafGauliar, who was in charge of Ayub Klian’s propaganda. 

Aftaf Gauliar reacted strongly to the initiative on the grounds that the news of the decision by the President to let tire Indian intruder goscot-free 
would send a wrong signal to the public and adversely affect national morale. Ominously, according to the most reliable historical record by Gen 
Jogindar Singh, that was the exact time when the Indian Chief of Amy Staff (COAS), Gen Choudary had ordered his General Staff to prepare 
operational plans for battles to be fought in the plains of the Punjab, centred on the area which had just been photographed by the Indian 
Canberra. The operation was code named ‘Op Ablaze’ and was put into effect on 6th September, 1965. 

With the above episodes of March- April 1965 in mind, it would seem prudent to note here that the lacts about the land battles in Kashmir and 
across the international boundary have been similarly distorted and misrepresented by the leadership of the time. Today, with Ayub and Musa 
gone, the crusade to embellish their blunders and present them in ‘Diaries’ and ‘Memoirs’ and ‘Glimpses into tire Corridors ofPower’ goes on 
unabated. Is it not time to ferret out the facts of the wars and establish the truth holistically? Ibis should help dissipate the shame of having to 
galvanize fabrications and manufactured fairytales about consummate leadership and the justification for going to war; much worse, the celebration 
ofthel965Warasa victory which it was not. Actually it was an episode of indomitable courage displayed by the fighting men who saved 
Pakistan from the brink of colossal disaster, perpetrated by the very leaders in whose defence eulogies are being mirthlessly written 

War Clouds 

In the last week of June, 1 965 , on a hot and sultry day something unexpected happened. I recall the exact date; it was 2 8 th June, 1965 when I 
was told by the Station Commander that I would be accompanying him to attend a brief at the AHQ tire next morning. I asked if I needed to be 
prepared with any information about the squadron, to which he simply said “No.” At the squadron there was much speculation about what this was 
all about but we did not resolve the mystery until that afternoon when we saw Butch, Rafiqia, and other Squadron and Station Commanders and 
the Sargodba Wing Leader arrive at Peshawar for the same conference. We then figured that some big action was in tire offing. 

We all arrived at the AHQ and were ushered into the C-in-C ’s conference room. There was deathly silence as we saw the brass enter and take 
the front seats. The C-in-C, Air Mshl Asgjiar Khan along with tire ACAS (Ops) Air Cdre Rahim Khan trailing right behind, entered the room 
when all were seated. This was the first time that most of us junior commanders had sat so close to the high command, especially the Air Chief 
The next hour had us young commanders stunned as we heard our Commander-in-Chief speak. He told us that the war clouds were building 


furiously, and the PAF had to be ready to face the enemy. The entire PAF operational plan was laid bare in the ensuing hour or so as our 
heartbeats got taster from the excitement of what was being shared with us junior commanders. 

The C-in-C stressed that the enemy was preponderant in numbers; as a consequence, two factors were cardinal in detenmining the PAF strategy. 
One, the adversary’s operational assets mist be attacked at its baseto reduce its numerical superiority and create a more equitable balance of air 
power. Second, the enemy cannot be allowed the luxury of a surprise attack because that could render the PAF ineffective and the skies would be 
in the enemy's control, leaving the land and naval forces totally vulnerable to air attacks. Consequently, the PAF needed to have a tactically 
offensive posture. Pre-emption was, therefore, to be an imperative for the PAF, not a mere contingency. All the enemy forward airfields and 
radars would be struck 1 5 minutes before dusk, to deny the IAF opportunity to retaliate effectively in day- light conditions. 

This is a sketchy interpretation of what the C-in-C had said as a prelude to the target detailing. Thereafter, targets were allocated to Sargodha, 
Mauripur and Peshawar and evenRisalpur. I recall with pride that I was to lead the largest single attack with 16 F-86 aircraft for a strike against 
Ambala airfield. Hie first eight were to be fromNo 19 Squadron, while the second lot of eight aircraft were to be led by Sqn Ldr Wiqar Azim 
fromNo 17 Squadron, ex-Mauripur. Hie were to be led by SqnLdr Wiqar AzimfromNo 17 Squadron, ex-Mauripur. Hie ship formation I 
heard all of this in gleelul amazement. Elaborating further, we were told that all 1 6 aircraft would assemble at Lahore airfield well before the 
launching, and plan to execute the attack 1 5 minutes before dusk against the IAF base at Ambala; our mission was to destroy aircraft on the 
ground with ‘Guns Only’.(F-86 had 6 guns, with a total of 1,800 rounds of.5”calibre.) 

The C-in-C ordered that both Squadrons taking part would practice landings on an airfield with a 6,000 feet runway during the day as well as at 
night, to ensure every one was frilly operational on the Lahore runway. He emphasised that staying out of Indian radar cover during assembly, 
would be the key to safe launching. Director of Operations & Plans, Gp Capt Zalar Choudhry was assigned the task to monitor the progress at 
both bases and report when the squadrons were frilly ready to operate from Lahore. The entire plan was to be given the highest security level, we 
were strictly warned. All the other formation leaders were allocated their tasks operating from Sargodha and Mauripur. The targets were all the 
forward Indian airfields and the radars covering them With the exception of No 1 9 Squadron, all strikes were to be repeated at dawn tire 
following morning. (In the event, No 19 was the only Squadron in the West which was ordered to repeat attack against Pathankot airfield late the 
next day and Srinagar thrice, in the following days) 2 

The bombers were to follow as soon as the strike aircraft had recovered after dusk and carry on through the night, keeping the enemy under 
severe pressure. Much later, during tire war we learnt that a plan to drop commandos at three forward bases was also part of tire pre-emptive 
plan. This is the only part which I have not quite digested owing to its outlandish concept. In the extensive war game carried out at the direction of 
tire C-in-C, which resulted in tire ‘preemptive strike’ as a Hobson’s choice, the enemy reaction was hypothesized with amazing accuracy. Hre 
enemy was expected to retaliate with its Canberra bombers relentlessly the same night, targeting essentially Sargodha and the radar at Sakesar. 

The Sargodha fighter wings would have the whole nig) it to recuperate and be ready with a score of F-86s armed with GAR-8 missiles, along with 
tire F- 104s, to inflict heavy attritioa 

2 John Flicker, Battle for Pakistan. 

No 14 Squadron in East Pakistan was assigned Kalaikunda and Bagdogra airfields for strikes the next day, on 7th September. This was owing to 
the reason that dusk in Dhaka would be one hour ahead of West Pakistan; therefore, by attacking a day earlier as we had, tire surprise factor of 
the pre-emptive strike in tire West would have been compromised. However, the East Pakistan task was not discussed in our presence. Many 
more details were discussed but I was too excited to focus on what followed; in any case, I had heard with rapt attention the task allocated to No 
19 Squadron 

It was a defining moment to witness tire Chief give a broad attack strategy of the PAF to field commanders, sending a message that the PAF had 
been asked to prepare well ahead for this eventuality and was expected to perform the task with professional excellence. Alter the Air Chief left 
the conference room with Air Cdre Rahim Khan on his heels, the rest of us gathered around the huge map on tire wall to identify our targets. Hie 
high command had agreed to a plan of action and later we contemplated for a long time over the road map to finetune the unit. Then our training 
exercises began, warning up to the war. My aim was to create paradigms of excellence as a habit - not an exception This was an immense 
challenge, but I thought it was within the realm of the possible. 

The PAF’s pre-emptive plan was an intrepid strategy, focused on achieving local air superiority, includingover the battle areas, extendable to areas 
inside enemy territory where ever our land forces were in action If successful, as had been carefully planned, it would have given the PAF a 
tremendous start. The PAF tactical command was folly capable, equipped and trained to achieve this opening blitz Even by conservative estimates 
it could have destroyed 50 to 60 IAF aircraft on the ground in the first assault. A bold follow though, as the plan envisaged, with a repeat pre- 
dawn strike, after the B-57s had pulverized these bases till just before dawn, would have delivered a second powerful blow to the adversary’s 
offensive capability. The inevitable reprisal attacks against Sargodha and Sakesar by the IAF attackers tire next morning were expected to suffer 
heavy attrition from the PAF interceptors, many armed with air to air missiles and flown by the top guns of the PAF. 

The relentless attacks by B- 5 7s were expected to have delayed the IAF lighter operations against our bases (as it actually happened on the 6 th 
/7th September night). This would have made possible tire second assault at dawn by the PAF lighters. The question is whether the PAF executed 
tire June plan and achieved what it was trained and equipped to accomplish? 

8 


AYUB KHAN BLUNDERS - KASHMIR LOST 


According to the history of the 1965 War, the Pakistan Army planned its guerrilla action in Kashmir in April- May 1965, soon after the Ram of 
Kutch episode. The first meeting was held at the C-in-C’s HQs atKharian. It was attended by all the Principal Staff O lliccrs (PSOs). It is 
believed that this meeting took place as a consequence of an earlier presentation to President Ayub Khan by the C-in-C Amy to explain the 
disposition of Indian troops as well as our own. Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto, the then Foreign Minister, was also present and agreed that Kashmir was ripe 
and ready to grasp. The clearance for operations in Kashmir had been given in principle by the Kashmir Committee under the auspices of Aziz 
Ahmed but with a contrite slogan by the Foreign Office, ‘do not provoke; do not escalate. ’ 

Vacillation in GHQ 

According to Gen Gul Hassan 1 this paradoxical strategy caused a defensive mind- set within the high command in the GHQ, in all the operation 
orders issued to the formations from then on. How strange that the Amy C-in-C took such advice as a guideline, without asking as to how far the 
amy could remain totally defensive and why the enemy would not be provoked alter 8,000 Mujahids had infiltrated to take the valley and capture 
Srinagar? Could it be that Gen Musa, allegedly having advised the President against the adventure in Kashmir, lacked the courage of conviction to 
lace up to him and found in this paradoxical instruction by the Foreign Office bosses Iris own exit strategy from the disaster he could see happening 
and let the onus of blame be put on the Foreign Minister and his secretary? That is exactly how Gen Musa justifies the botched operations in his 
book. My Version . 

1 General Gul Hassan was the Director of Military Operations (DMO) during the 1965 War. In his memoirs he mentions the advice from the Foreign Office about no 
provocation. 


Amazing as it may sound, during a follow-up meeting between the Amy Cin-C and his PSOs, it was decided to resume the peace time posture to 
conform to the non-provocation philosophy on the international boundary. It was so pathetic that the Commanders of 1 0 and 1 5 Divisions were 
told to remove all land mines and undo other defensive measures to conform to the virtual orders from the Foreigp Office. 

Although Gen Musa claims that he had advised the President against adventurism in Kashmir, in the very next briefing his up-beat posturing on 
Kashmir was contradictory. According to a renowned general officer and strategist present at the briefing there was a contrived over- confidence 
permeating amongst the brass present. He recalled that Gen Musa had sounded unexpectedly hawkish as he alluded to reports received from the 
units at the LOC that their recce patrols were daily reporting that the Indian Amy had no fight left in it, was on the defensive, and not challenging 
ouramy patrols. Hiese reports became the basis of Gen Musa’s U-turn and new found belief that it was time to act in Kashmir. This account 
belies Gen Musa’s repeated claims in My Version that he had warned his Supreme Commander (sic) Ayub Khan that action in the vale will 
conflagrate to an all out war 2 . Why this paradox? Hiere could have been many reasons; one was the vacillating President who according to Gen 
Musa’s lament in his book, had agreed with the general staff assessment sent to the President in writing that the Pak Amy was not capable of 
defending Pakistan against an all-out Indian attack until two more 1 nlantiy Divisions were raised. Yet a few days later, the President ordered the 
C-in-C to prepare to launch an operation in Kashmir. Gen Musa was shell- shocked for a few days since he knew the dire consequences of such 
an illconceived adventure but did not even raise a voice in protest. 

Such was the contused scheme of things amongst the top leadership of the country, as Pakistan was dragged into a pathetic situation using precious 
commandos and regulars from the Azad Kashmir Regiment and fromAzad Kashmir’s civil population (2-3 weeks training to raw, young 
volunteers) to form six Mujahid force elements for a protracted guerrilla war and insurgency in the Kashmir vale. This manic plan load been 
executed without any known covert networking with Kashmiri dissidents and potential leaders who could have given some substance to the plan 
which is an indispensable lynchpin for the success of any insurgency. Truly speaking Operation ‘Gibraltar’ was a classic in immature military and 
bureaucratic planning which was tantamount to a cruel joke on the Pakistani nation The irony of ironies is that the extension of this operation. 
Operation ‘Grand Slam’ was deliberately manipulated to M when the capture of Akhnur was imminent even by the enemy's explicit admission 3 . 
This was all because of a President with an unflattering soldiering history, and his meek Amy C-in-C. 

2 In My Version Gen Musa claims that he did not support the idea of Ops Gibraltar or Grand Slam until he received the Presidential Directive to act militarily in 
Kashmir. How strange that the President’s higher war direction to defreeze Kashmir was received on 30 t * 1 August, three weeks after the launching of Ops Gibraltar. 

They shared a common perception about military operations (‘battalion level mil-ops’, according to Gen Sber Ali) sans strategic depth. Gen Sher 
Ali Pataudi’s remarks were validated by top level US and British diplomats as early as 1958. Sir Gilbert Laithwaite wrote about General Ayub, ‘1 
would not put him in die highest intellectual class by any means. He was, according to our records, a failure as a commanding officer (Lt Col) on 
active service and had to be relieved. . . His military knowledge is limited. . . He made Lt Gen Sir Ross McKay his personal advisor after his 
appointment as the first Pakistani C-in-C, with a realisation of his own inexperience and leant on him heavily.” The cardinal question which emerges 
from the above quote is why was General Ayub Khan made the C-in-C of a highly professional amy despite his incompetence? 

PAF Gets Ready 

The PAF C-in-C did not fit in this cabal, nor was he trusted to be part of tiiis assembly of micro-minds. Ayub had gradually become wary of 
Asgbar Khan’s boldness and high moral ground and purposefully did not share the nebulous Concept of Operation ‘Gibraltar’ with the PAF. He 
feared that Asgbar Khan would either disagree with the idea or, in case he agreed to support the operation, he would provide forceful content to 
the plan with full PAF involvement. Musa, being his master’s voice, had made sure the PAF was kept isolated. Asgbar Klian’s insightful 
appreciation of military developments in die region and suggestions to Ayub Khan fell on deaf ears, but Asghar Khan did not give up as far as the 
PAF was concerned. After the Ram of Kutch skimish Asgbar Khan sensed the storm building on the eastern horizon, and kept the PAF on a 
heightened state of alert. 

On the 23rd of July, 1965, Asghar Khan handed command of the PAF to Nur Khan Air Cdre RahimKban (later C-in-C) bad returned quite 
perturbed from his meeting with Brig Gul Hassan, the DMO at GHQ. During his briefing to the outgoing and the new chiefs he informed them that 


the army was planning a major operation in the occupied Kashmir valley. Nur Khan looked at Asgbar Khan for some clue as to what Rahim Khan 
had said. Asghar Khan was himself amazed at the revelation and said to his successor that he had no knowledge of any such plan. As Asghar 
Khan boarded a C- 1 30 for Karachi to take overPIA, Nur Khan hopped onto aPAF aircraft and went immediately to see Gen Musa. He 
confronted him with the information relayed by the PAF Operations Chief Musa acted nonchalant and was reluctant to say too much except that 
it was a local affair being handled by Maj Gen Akhtar Malik, C ommander 1 2 Division, and opined that PAF involvement was not deemed 
necessary. When Nur Khan suggested to the Army C-in-C in earnest to create some tangible co-ordination medium between the Army and the 
PAF at the level of the service chiefs, the General reiterated (what he had said to Asghar Khan long before) that in the very unlikely event of a war, 
he would be in the field commanding and directing the war and not sitting and coordinating it from an office. 

Behind the Scene , a book by Maj Gen Jogindar Singh, who was the Chief of Staff of the invading Indian Corps. 

How unfortunate that, for an otherwise highly effective fighting service, it was led by such a weak commander with a sepoy’s gun barrel view of 
militaiy strategy. Ayub Khan had himself said in his recently published Diaries “Especially, Musa was incompetent and ineffective’' 4 . What the 
former and the incumbent Air Chicl had not been told was that the guerrilla war in Kashmir had been conjured up as early as May of 1965. 

Gen Musa’s diatribe in My Version about Nur Khan changing the PAF strategy lias no truth. Musa’s debilitating Mure to place the formations on 
war footing when even he understood that war would conflagrate, caused a great setback for the PAF’s pre-emptive. Excessive air effort had to 
be diverted to save Lahore and Sialkot because the army had been foolishly held back from war time deployment by Gen Musa, and the PAF had 
to extensively support the sparse defensive force on the borders to halt the invasion. Yet, he has incomectly claimed in several places in his book 
that tlie army had been ready for any eventuality since May 1 965 . Elis claim was belied by the excessive casualties at Jassar, Burki, Wagha, Attari, 
Chawinda and Khem Karan, to name just a few 5 . 

Inexplicably, Air Msbl Nur Khan conceded to the excessive army demands to divert air effort towards non-productive close-support missions, 
first in tlie ChhambAkhnur sector and later in the Lahore, Sialkot and Kasur sectors. Between 14 to 16 Close Air Support missions a day were 
flown from Sargodha alone, in the wasteful exercise of chasing enemy B- vehicles and losing a fighter in the process. This was done because Gen 
Musa had not placed the formations on war footing until after India’s XI Corps had attacked Pakistan on three fronts in tlie north. That was yet 
another contributing factor for the PAF’s pre-emptive strike botch-up. Had it not been for Gen Musa’s dithering and trepidation of provoking the 
Indian Army by not deploying the Pakistan Amy in its war role, the PAF would have demolished a large part of the adversary’s fighter force in tlie 
first attack. 

^ Diaries of Ayub Khan , Page 291. 

5 My Version by Gen Mohammad Musa is a unique document in which a C-in-C has indicted himself by misrepresenting facts. He appears to have written the book to 
counter the adverse commentary about his performance in 1965 by colleagues and historians alike. His suggested lessons ofthe 1965 War, 15 years after the event 
speak volumes about his professional integrity. My Version is worth a read only to know how poorly the army was led and how Ayub Khan set it onto a path of 
degradation by superseding outstanding generals and choosing Gen Musa for his servility. 


As for Gen Musa’s irrational remarks that had Asghar Khan been the chieij the four Vampires shot over Chharrb would not have been possible, it 
is an insult to the PAF which was a highly integrated and well trained institution created by the first Pakistani C-in-C. Gen Musa’s limited 
knowledge of tactical air operations and his perception that the ‘PAF had no role inthe Kashmir operation” (declaring that was the reason for 
keeping it secret from tlie PAF leadership), deserves severe condemnation when one looks back at the 1965 War and the perfonnance of this 
plucky air force. 

After the discouraging demeanour of his a my counterpart, Nur Khan returned to AHQ, though not for long. He flew off in a helicopter to Murree 
to meet Maj Gen Akhtar Malik, Commander 12 Division When Nur Khan asked Akhtar Malik as to how the forces about to be launched, would 
sustain their near impossible task without logistic support, the answer was that they would use the army helicopters and mules to keep the Mujahid 
force supplied. This sounded like a joke to the Air Marshal who wondered how the higher echelons of tlie arrry planned to support such an 
audacious incursion with unarmed and low performance helicopters and mules as the sole logistic source. Nur Khan then told the Div Commander 
that tlie PAF would be able to drop supplies in the valley, to give the guerrillas a chance to survive the vagaries of the terrain and the daunting task. 

Akhtar Malik was also half enthusiastic about the PAF getting involved, in consonance with the thinking of the arrry leadership. The Air Chief 
returned to AHQ folly convinced that there were all the ingredients and indicators of a conflagration in the making whether tlie President and Gen 
Musa perceived it that way or not. Elis thought was expressed into action. His predator instinct told him to get ready for war, and that is what he 
ordered his a ft force to do. The PAF was motioned to Phase-I on 1 8th August. Ibis was completed in 24 hours, placing the PAF on a very high 
state of alert. This meant round tlie clock armed air defence alert, along with units being prepared in their respective war roles, folly rehearsed and 
ready. Alas, the a my leadership was still vacillating with utter indifference to the heightened, imminent and impending dangers written in the sky. 

It would be interesting to narrate a mission I was asked to fly in mid- August 1965, which entailed providing anned escort to a C- 130 on a supply 
drop mission near the Kashmir border. This was to dump supplies to support the operations in tlie valley. All the drop missions at Gilgit and 
Skardu went unescorted and were being flown mostly in the daytime. On this particular occasion the situation demanded a supply drop very close 
to the LOC. It was a daytime drop which necessitated an armed fighter escort. No 19 Squadron was asked to provide tlie escort. I picked up 
Khalid Latifto % as ny wingman and we affected a rendezvous with tlie C- 130 near Kalabagh- N athiagali at 20,000 ft AGL, with tlie help of 
Sakesar radar. We soon established radio and visual contact with the C- 130 captain 

It was a beautifol clear day and the scenic landscape was awesome. We weaved above and on either side ofthe C- 130 as we got closer to the 
high mountains - some clouds in the distance did not seem threatening at that moment. Twenty minutes or so later, while descending along with tlie 
C- 130, we started approaching uncomfortably close to the clouds which were increasing in intensity. I told tlie Captain that we would have to 
come in close fonnation with him if we were to keep him in sight during IFR (Instrument Flying Regulations). He said “Roger Zambo Leader” as 


we started closing in. All along we had been watching the magnificent N an^ Parbat standing high and mighty above, nearly 1 5 miles at 1 1 o ’clock 
position It was an awesome sight to see the mountain touching the sky with wisps of clouds around its peak and heavier cumulous clouds beneath. 


That is when the C- 1 30 entered the first layer of clouds. We needed to get closer to him to maintain visual contact. It was one hell of a job to keep 
formation at 1 80 Kts and I have nothing but praise for my wingman for coping up on my wing. That was the stuff Khalid Latif was made off 'Ibis 
near stall Hying went on for what seemed like eternity. Hie comical part of it all was that we had ceased to be effective escorts in that dangling state 
and extremely vulnerable if intercepted after breaking clouds on the way back. The drop zone was accurately reached but the bad news was 
forther reduction of speed for the supply drop as the rear ramp had to be opened. I told the captain that we had to over shoot him on the right and 
unless his navigator or co-pilot kept us in sight and guided usthrough a u-tum we would lose him for the return journey. Hie next fifteen minutes will 
remain a pulsating memory as we went through that guided pivot turn and joined up behind the C- 1 30. Before we re-entered the clouds the view 
of the valley was stunning. 

While watching the majestic scene, I do recall the heartbeats going up, what with a lumbering C- 130 nearby and Nanga Parbat threateningly close. 
The cloud cover soon became so thick, I almost felt like announcing my last will Checking the C- 1 30’s altitude, I requested the captain to hold the 
present altitude for one minute as I had started a blind clinb hoping we had plenty of lateral as well as vertical separation He obliged and I called 
98% power, holding 180 Kts. 'Ibis was one hell of a risky situation which had developed unexpectedly. I said a deep prayer and sought Allah’ s 
help to get me safety out of the situation We kept comparing heights with the C- 1 30 which was by then, 4,000 ft below us when we were at 
1 9,000 feet in clouds. We finally broke clouds at 22,000 feet and came out on top of a clear and stunning sheet of snow white cloud under us. I 
told my wingman to go into battle formation instantly and throttle ip to 99% to get tactical speed as we topped the cloud. Both Khalid and I saw 
the magnificent Nanga Parbat simultaneously: beautiful from alar - but far from beautiful up close. 

I called the C-130 pilot and told him we were in the clear. He was still lumbering through 16,000 ft though not too lar behind as I bad deliberately 
kept my speed at 1 80 Kts till we cleared the cloud. Sakesar came on the air and a welcome voice told us he had radar contact with us after he 
gave us a 90-degree turn In the next 6-8 minutes and after a couple of crossovers while heading east, we were given an intercept course on the 
C-130. Khalid reported him crossing below us about 4-6 miles north We made visual and radio contact and got in position to escort it back to 
Chaklala. 

That was quite an experience for both of us and it demonstrated just how perilous the C- 1 3 0 ’ s role in the war would be, operating in enemy 
territory. Missions flown by the C-130 crews were dangerous and demanding dining the war. Gp Capt Zahid Butt, ny course mate and buddy 
Masood Khan and their crews perfonned miracles, assuming the role of heavy bombers and dropping numerous 1 ,000 pound bombs on enemy 
concentrations, assembled for a major offensive near Samba east of'Sialkot. Both were awarded Sitara-e- Jurats along with other gallant crews. 
These fellows perfonned superbly, setting new traditions in transport (lying. 

Operation ‘Gibraltar’ 

The rationale for de- freezing the Kashmir issue and opting for a military solution was propounded by the Pakistani Foreign Office with Zulfiqar 
Bhutto at the helm and Aziz Ahmed, the wily bureaucrat as head of the Kashmir Cell Their analysis of the Kashmir situation bad been based on 
India’s massive military build-up after her humiliating defeat at the hands of the Chinese in 1962. Hie USA had never considered Pakistan as a 
cornerstone of their foreign policy or a real bulwark against Soviet and Chinese Communism The US government bad arrogantly disregarded their 
undertaking with Pakistan that any aid to India would be in consultation with the Government of Pakistan Even the earlier economic aid to India 
was indirectly helping India’s military build up. It was suggested by Bhutto that by 1 966 Pakistan would be left too lar behind to opt for a military 
solution for Kashmir, and that in two years, Pakistan’s tactical advantage owing to US military aid would be lost. Hie UN had virtually capitulated 
to India’s firm stand that Kashmir was an integral part of India and not negotiable any more. 

Nehru’s earlier exhortations about the inalienable rights of the Kashmiris to a plebiscite had been cleverly reneged on the premise that after joining 
the Baghdad Pact (later CENTO) and SEATO Pakistan had lost its independent national status. I would tend to agree with Nehru’s assertion 
about joining an American- sponsored pact even though using it as a trump car'd on the Kashmir issue was inexcusable. The Ministry of Foreign 
Affairs opined that Pakistan bad no other choice but to resort to covert military action to bring India to the negotiation table. Right or wrong, there 
was a measure of truth to the evaluation by the Foreign Office, but that did not justify starting a shooting war' without thorough preparation This 
called for a solid network inside the Kashmir Vale comprising dissidents committed to freedom from India’s despotic rule, and well planed training 
in guerrilla warfare for the Mujahid force. Given six months and a well conceived plan to create a network through infiltrated insurgents before 
starting covert operations might have resulted in history being written differently. 

As stated earlier, Gen Musa has claimed in his memoirs that the President had been given in writing that the amy could not face an all out war with 
India and required at least two additional Divisions and a second Corps HQ before any military action could be undertaken in Kashmir. Gen 
Musa 6 also claimed that the President bad agreed with the GHQ’s point of view by endorsing it in Iris own hand writing (this is a serious allegation 
against the self proclaimed Field Marshal and must be available in the GHQ archives). Hris was one rare claim by Gen Musa which lias been 
borne out by Gen Gul Hassan, the DMO, who bad authored the report against the Kashmir operation This fact demolishes Gaubar Ayub’s claim 7 
that Iris father was never told that the Kashmir venture was not pragmatic and achievable, and that Ayub Khan would never have allowed the 
infiltrations bad he been told so by GHQ. In fact, Ayub Khan had demonstrated greater confidence in the Foreign Office recommendations and 
bad scant faith in Iris Amy C-in-C and the GHQ to cany out the task. 

At one point in the planning stage of the operations in Kashmir', Ayub Khan had gone to the extent of bypassing Gen Musa, because he was sure 
about Iris subservience but not about his military competence. The President had told Gen Akhtar Malik to deal only with the Chief of General 
Staff Maj Gen Sher Bahadur or Ayub Khan himself leaving Gen Musa out of the loop 8 . Gen Musa had neither taken a firm stand to uphold the 
recommendation of the General Staff against military adventure in Kashmir, nor was there any attempt at using the honourable option of resignation 



rather than letting the brave soldiers die for a war without a real aim and a cause, which was doomed from its inception Presumably, the success in 
the Ram skirmish and the Chinese-India episode was used by Gen Musa to prop up his own belief that maybe the President had been right in his 
decision after alL This was nothing but self deception because Gen Musa knew very well that he had neither the conviction, nor a well- prepared 
trained force to have assured the success of the insurgency. 

6 Mv Version by General Musa, Page 6. 

7 Glimpses into the Corridors of Power by Gauhar Ayub Khan. 

8 In a letter written by Lt Gen Akhtar Hussain Malik to his brother Lt Gen Abdul Ali Malik in 1967 from Ankara, Akhtar Malik confirms bypassing the C-in-Cas well as 
the plans by Ayub Khan, Gen Musa and Yahya to halt the capture of Akhnur (copy placed at Appendix ‘H’). 


As for the President, he had taken the plunge with his eyes shut, delying common sense as well as the recommendations of GHQ. He had absurdly 
hoped that it would blow over after Iris valiant forces had seized the vale and oflered it as his biggest war trophy. Despite all the tomfoolery of the 
men at the helm, an intrepid general was making historic gains in the battlefield. Ironically, the defining moment had arrived on the 3 1 st of August, 
1965, for Gen Akhtar Malik to deliver his ‘Grand Slam’ and rattle the rafters of the abandoned Indian bunkers at Akhnur. This would have had a 
positive effect in the valley in support of the Mujahid forces. Hie shaky Field Marshal then oversaw the biggest betrayal of Pakistan’s history. The 
GOC of the Indian Corps responsible for Kashmir, Lt Gen Harbaklish Singh, commented in his war dispatches about the operation; “Aptly named 
Grand Slam, for had it succeeded, a trail of dazzling results would have followed in its wake, and the infiltration campaign would have had a fresh 
lease on life.” 

We lost Kashmir on that day but more tragically, Ayub Khan and Musa abandoned the trapped Mujahid force without a whisper of remorse. It 
was nothing but incompetence and lack of courage shown by the top Army commander and the President. As part of the Gibraltar Force the 
brave commandos and Mujahideen (6,000-8,000) had infiltrated into the valley on the absurd assumption by Gen Akhtar Malik that such a large 
infiltration would remain secret and a surprise. This premise was utopian to start with How could 8,000 infiltrators remain incognito, especially 
given the arduous tasks of major attacks against bridges and installations that had been assigped to them? Ayub Khan’s immature decision was 
based on several false premises. One of the ridiculous arguments put up by some was that owing to the incident of the loss of Islamic relics from 
the Hazratbal Mosque (which had happened a long time ago and the matter had been resolved to the satisfaction of the Kashmiri Muslims) the 
Kashmiri people were angry, secondly that due to the oppression after the latest legislation on Kashmir status by New Delft, the Kashmiris were 
seething with discontent and were ripe for a revolution to liberate Kashmir. A1 of this was contrived by the foreign policy pundits of the time. 

Quite the contrary, the first information of the infiltration was reported by two Kashmiri Muslins, Mohammad Din and Wazi Mohammad 9 
because the populace was not willing to take up arms and risk thei future for whatever ft was worth. Tlie last elements of die Mujahid force had 
entered the valey and had asked these two Muslin shepherds some searching questions about installations and other targets assigned to them and 
paid diem Rs 400 as a reward. As soon as the Muj aliids were out of sight, one of die Kashmiris ran to the nearest police station and the other 
chose to head for the nearest Indian army post and infonned them of the incident, thereby alerting the Indian security forces. On the same day, two 
officers from the AJK Force were apprehended by the Indian Amy and shown on television confessing tiiei plan That was the end of the surprise 
Gen Akhtar Malik had so passionately guarded. The hunt for die Mujahid force began and thei tragic end was inevitable. 

9 Lt Gen Harbakhsh Singh comments about the ineffective Indian intelligence in the vale of Kashmir by saying, “We may not always be lucky in having Mohammad 
Din or a Wazir Mohammad to give us advance warning of a similar adventure!” 


Our brave men blew-up bridges, attacked Indian Military HQ, laid arrbushes against convoys, blew up ammunition depots, inflicting heavy 
casualties on die Indian security forces and die occupation army. But then what? Without any proper planning at GHQ to re- supply them, and 
carry their operations on for die capture of Srinagar, these men were leftto fend for themselves against very heavy odds. 

Not surprisingly, the Kashmiris in the valley stayed ambivalent in their response to the infiltrators for fear of reprisals and severe retribution by the 
Indian security forces and the military deployed to capture the intruders. Indian forces had been ordered show offeree against die inhabitants of 
Poonch sector who had sympathies with the Mujahid force and had provided shelter to our fighters. When the Indian forces started using mortars 
to senda strong message (combined with die fact diat nothing worth while was achieved in three weeks after the launch of Op ‘Gibraltar’), even 
diat support waned. However, it was very crucial to continue supplying the forces trapped inside the valley to provide them will an exit 
opportunity. This is where die PAF perfonned some Herculean missions with their C- 1 30, in spite of Gen Musa’s response to Air Msbl Nur 
Khan’s visit to GHQ in which he emphatically denied the Air Chief any role for the PAF. 

The PAF C-in-C tasked Wg Cdr Zahid Butt, the OC of No 35 Transport Wing with supply dropping missions dangerously close to the CFL. 
Zaliid Butt and his able navigator Rizwan had planned a perilous mission deep into the valley of Kashmir for that night. These were going to be 
very hazardous undertakings owing to the terrain involved, bad weather and terrifying turbulence. The first operational mission deep into the enemy 
territory was undertaken on 23rd August at 0200 Hrs will a weather forecast that would have left the most well trained crew of any air force 
shuddering. 

The most sigpificanl fact in this highly dangerous environment was that the C-in-C of the Pakistan Air Force was standing behind the captain on this 
maiden risk- ridden sortie. This is how the PAF was led in the war of 1965, by the C-inC leading from the front. The drop had to be aborted as the 
Drop Zone (DZ) was spotted directly below the aircraft as it came out of the clouds. A drop at that moment would have landed the cargo well out 
of the safe zone. Therefore, Zahid Butt decided to abort the drop. The C-in-C suggested they make another run-in, which involved climbing back 
into the cloud and navigating back on deadreckoning, while trying to avoid the mountain side on the right. It entailed some deft Hying. Zahid Butt 
achieved the near inpossible and on the next run-in dropped the life saving cargo at the DZ with astounding accuracy, later confimned by the 12 
Divto be within 500 meter accuracy. As the news of the mission’s success and especially the fact that the C-in-C was himself on the sortie trickled 
into the PAF stations, a tremendous feeling of pride permeated the entire PAF. The finest example of" leadership had been set by the Air Chief 


injecting an intensity and spirit into the entire body of the PAF. 

Another factor that makes the failure of Operation ‘Gibraltar’ and the follow-up Operation ‘Grand Slam’ a cruel joke was that the Indian Generals 
had acted very unprofessionally by not stemming the infiltration. According to General Jogindar Singh in Behind the Scene , despite clear 
instructions from their COAS Gen Choudhry on 1st Aug 1965, for the capture and closureof all possible points and grips of ingrcssion by the 
infiltrators, the GOC- in-Chief Lt Gen Harbaksh Singh did nothing. Furthermore, the Indian COAS’sclear instructions to move troops to the 
Chharrb-Jaurian sector remained in the General’s freeze box. It is a shocking indictment of the Indian high command that none of the orders of 
their COAS given at the conference at Jalandhar on tire first day of the month were put into action The Coips Commanders were again gathered 
for a review at Jalandhar when the reports about heightened intrusion by infiltrators stalled pouring in by the 8th of August. The COAS pointed out 
that their reaction to the massive infiltration was inept and slow. InMaj Gen Jogindar Singh’s words 10 , “It was obvious that GOC XV Corps’ 
negative attitude was influenced by the local situation which though not sanguinary, gave no reason to lose heart. But he was drifting towards a 
defensive and even a defeatist attitude; he wanted to abandon tire Haji Pir Pass offensive to prevent the weakening of his forces in the valley”. 

Soon tire Pak forces had captured Deva, a small hamlet near Clrlramb. killing the Brigade Commander, Brig BF Master on 1 7th August. The 
Indian COAS, alanned by his Corps Commanders poor conduct called a conference at Jainm He was advised that regular troops of the 
Pakistan Amy were being sent in as part of tire AJK Force. Gen Choudhry (the COAS) was livid. He opined that the Pak Amy would continue 
to support tire Mujahid force directly as well as indirectly and move towards Chharrb- Jaurian onto Akhnur. He ordered the Haji Pir Pass offensive 
to be launched within three days, to capture Pt 13620 in Kargil again, as it had been returned to Pakistan alter the Ram ceasefire. He also wanted 
to commit an infantry brigade to capture tire Mirpur Bridge over K. islranganga. 

These operations were named Ops ‘Faulad’ and ‘Bakslri’. They were launched on 26th August. Finally, the Indian Amy Chief announced, ‘Time 
is fast approaching, when we have to pose a threat to Pakistan between Hussainiwala (near Ferozpur) and Jammu, as this central Punjab area will 
have to be developed into a vital battlefield to threaten Lahore and Sialkot, in accordance with plan Op ‘Ablaze’, planned in May 1965, against 
LahoreSialkot-Kasur”. So there we are. The Indian Amy leadership night have been even worse than ours in some ways, but they were under a 
capable and professional Chief of Amy Staff Gen Choudhry 1 1 . 

Behind the Scene by Maj Gen Jogindar Singh, Chief of Staff Western Command in 1965 War. 

Had the operation in the valley been better linked up and a solid networking developed with the dissident Kashmiris in a well thought-out plan 
which had to be highly integrated, perhaps the episode of Op ‘Gibraltar’ maywell have become a harbinger to the resolution of the Kashmir issue. 
Despite all the blunders of the country’s leadership, the aggressive and courageous regular lighting forces were highly motivated and, fomidable 
enough to achieve the challenging objectives. Maj Gen Akhtar Malik assessed that once he had captured Chharrb in the next 24 hours and 
steamrolled Akhnur, the remaining Mujahid forces would get a new lease of life and revive their operations inside the valley. This, I consider it a 
moot point. 

It was not until 29th Aug that the Haji Pir Pass was captured by the Indians after a hand-to-hand light with our thinly deployed defending force. 

The Indian Amy had finally launched Op ‘Faulad’ whereby they captured many salient features along Kargil and Kishangangp for the control of 
this bulge and all the high ground from where they could control the lines of communications . The loss of these features by the end of August had a 
devastating effect on Op ‘Gibraltar’, bringing it to a virtual halt and blocking all the entry and exit points to deny escape by the Mujahid force. Uiey 
were either caught or butchered by the Indian military. 

Op ‘Grand Slam’ Turns into Grand Sham 

The Presidential directive to General Mohammad Musa, C-in-C Pakistan Amy, read: 

To take such action as will de-freeze Kashmir problem (sic), weaken India ’s resolve and bring her to a conference table without 
provoking a general war (sic). However, the element of escalation is always present in such struggles. So, while confining our action 
to Kashmir area we must not be unmindful that India may in desperation involve us in a general war or violate Pakistan territory 
where we are weak. We must therefore be prepared for such contingency. 

2. To expect quick results in this struggle, when India has much larger resources than us, would be unrealistic. Therefore, our 
action should be such that can be sustained over a long period. ” [Suggesting a war of attrition] 

11 Ibid. Page 105. 

3. As a general rule, Hindu morale would not stand more than a couple of hard blows delivered at the right time and place. Such 
opportunities should therefore be sought and exploited. 

(Annexure G to GHQ Letter No 4050/5/MO-l dated 29th August 1965) 

The inanity of the signal and the unprofessional language used by Ayub Khan aside, the question that comes to mind is: “What was the basis of 
Operation ‘Gibraltar’ if it was not the de- freezing of Kashmir and why the dichotomy?” The signal should have been an anathema for Gen Musa 
and Iris general staff But for them their posts in the amy were more precious than the code of honour of soldiering and they chose not to knock 
any sense into their Supreme Commander’s head. This was particularly fretful because Gen Musa could not repeat enough times in his book My 
Version his claim that he had warned the President about the grave possibility of an all out war. 

However, it is a well established fact and unequivocally confirmed by Maj Gen Akhtar Malik in the earlier referenced letter to his brother that Gen 
Musa’s authority viz Ops ‘Gibraltar’ and ‘Grand Slam’ had been denuded by Ayub Khan’s own devices (Appendix ‘G’). 12 But nowhere does 
Gen Musa mention or even hint in his book about him being side-tracked. Gen Musa had an excellent opportunity to quit in honour then, on the 


premise that he did not believe in the concept behind the Kashmir operations and would not commit his brave men to such an adventure. 

The next phase of the operation in Kashmir ‘Operation Grand Slam’ had been launched with the explicit aim to capture Akhnur, the jugular of 
Kashmir. ‘Grand Slam’ was also conceived at the behest of Ayub Khan long before, but its execution order was dangerously delayed by the 
vacillating president to within hours of its launching. As is evident from the above signal, there was no mention of the change of command from 
Akhtar Malik (12 Div) to Yahya (23 Div, located at Bhai Pheroo, near Lahore) because it was not intended or planned till then. Contrary to Gen 
Musa’ s erroneous claim in My Version that the change of command had been pre-planned, Maj Gen Akhtar Malik started his blitz against 
Chita mb and rolled across the treacherous terrain with Akhnur as his final objective. Tragically, that was a golden opportunity lost, which had 
offered itself like a ripe plum ready to be plucked. 

12 Pakistan 's Drift into Extremism , by Hassan Abbas, Page 49-50. 

Appallingly, this once in a life time chance was thrown away simply for lack of courage shown by tire leadership to lace what they had mindlessly 
started. Before the Chhamb epic, Maj Gen Akhtar Malik had been running between pillar and post imploring the C- in- C to give the given light for 
Op ‘Grand Slam’. Gen Musa kept stalling the General Staff who were also chasing him for a ‘Go Ahead’ for the operation. The baffled Maj Gen 
Akhtar Malik had also been prevented from seeing the President (ostensibly at Ayub’s calling) as crucial hours were allowed to slip away. Finally, 
when the green light came, Akhtar Malik’s 12 Div ran over Deva and captured Chharrb in a blitzkrieg. 12 Div was a hop- step away from 
capturing the neck of Kashmir, Akhnur. That is when Akhtar Malik’s inevitable victory at Akhnur was delivereda fetal blow; not by the enemy, 
which was on the run, but ostensibly from the President and die C-in-C of Pakistan Arm}'! 

Maj Gen Akhtar Malik was unceremoniously removed along with his winning soldiers of 12 Div and Yahya was ordered to take charge of 
Operation ‘Grand Slam’ and not to venture for Akhnur. The pause that tookplace allowed for the removal of Maj Gen Akhtar Malik as part of an 
intrigue to appoint Yahya nid- stream when the capture of Akhnur was declared a foregone conclusion by the Indian General Officer 
Commanding- in- Chief of the Western Command. 

How ironical that two generals from the Indian Army have since described this pause as: “Providence came to our help” which saved Akhnur. I 
personalty heard it from die horse ’ s moudi long alter the war, at a dinner at Rahim Khan’ s (then CEO of Gammons, Pakistan) home in Karachi 
from Maj Gen Akhtar Malik that he had implored Gen Musa not to dislodge him for 48 hours till he had captured Akhnur. During the handing over 
ceremony near Gujrat, Akhtar Malik had virtually begged Maj Gen Yahya to allow him to lead the attack as his subordinate commander and let 
him capture Akhnur and the glory would be for Yahya. Maj Gen Yahya had emphatically rejected his pleading and walked out. Incontestably, 
Yahya had been brought in to replace Maj Gen Akhtar Malik with orders not to take Akhnur! 

Soon after the 12th Div lost die TithwafoPooneh-Kishanganga and Kargil high points as a consequence of the counter-attacks by the Indian Corps 
during Ops ‘Faulad’ and ‘Bakhsbi’, Maj Gen Akhtar Malik figured that the Indian Corps was tied down in the valley and it was the best time to 
get Op ‘Grand Slam’ rolling. He had already launched his forces threatening Chharrb with the plan to circumvent Jaurian rather than to get delayed 
in securing it and go charging for die neck of Kashmir, Akhnur. Ibis would close allapproaches to die valley from die Indian mainland. A UN 
observer had forewarned the Indian XV Corps HQ about the presence of Pakistani tanks, artillery and major assembly of forces in die area on 1 st 
September but no strong response was evident from die Indian side. 

Blunders Galore 

One of die most significant yet least known events preceding the 1 965 mayhem was the early warnings of the impending Indian attack against West 
Pakistan given to die President and allkeyplayers from Ministry of Foreign Affeirs and the three C-inC’s. On 30th August 1965, the ISI had 
initiated a two page signal to die GHQ and all others concerned about the general mobilization of the Indian Army. 13 Unlike any typical intelligence 
report, the contents of the top-secret report were definitive, emphatic and detailed. It provided the details of the movement of India’s 1 Armoured 
Div and its current location near Patiiankot and odier vital information. The urgency of the threat was spelt out by the DG ISI Brig Riaz to the 
President, service chiefe and foreign minister. In reaction to such a serious threat to the integrity of Pakistan, what should have been the response of 
the armed forces leaders present, particularly die army C-in-C, even a college student could have rightly guessed. 

Inordinately, Gen Musa took no action to place the formations on war footing, nor did it appear that the President had intervened with him to order 
the arm\' to red- alert. This was nothing short of criminal neglect with tumultuous consequences for the men of the Pakistan Army in the coming 
days. 

So many lives were lost due to the lack of readiness by the army, and the inexplicable secrecy to keep the PAF leadership totally in the dark, 
despite very credible and timely warnings by agencies like the ISI. It is not common knowledge that our Ambassador in India, Arshad Hussain, 
had also messaged through the Turkish Ambassador in New Delhi about imminent Indian plans to attack Pakistan. The army C-in-C ’s decision to 
have sent a fourth of the army on leave in May 1 965, after tire Rarm of Kutch episode even while the preparations were afoot for Op Gibraltar, 
was totally bizarre. 

Another blunder was put in motion when the 6 Armoured Div began shunting between Sialkot and their concentration area in Gujranwala, owing to 
the dithering by GHQ, which ordered them to move to Sialkot 24 hours after tire Indian invasion had been launched against Lahore. Just as the 
juggernaut of die 6thArmoured Div was near their objective, the Div Commander was ordered to take it back to base without offering any cogent 
reasoning for tire inane intervention. Consequently, they were not deployed on the 6th, as wrongly claimed by the author of Glimpses into the 
Corridors of Power , but arrived on the 7 th night. Interestingly, the 6 Armoured Div had not been given any operations order until 7th 
September, 14 1965. 

13 Air Cdre Aziz, the Deputy DG, was interviewed by the author. He confirmed that the ISI’s infonnation communicated to the leadership was unambiguous - the 


Indian attack was inevitable. This fact also demolishes Gauhar Ayub’s claim in Glimpses into the Cotridors of Powers that no warning ofthe imminent attack was 
given to the President. PAF’s official history (The Story of the Pakistan Air Force) and the latest History of Indo-Pak War-1965 by Lt Gen Mahmud confirms the 
briefing to the President and others mentioned above. 

14 History of Indo-Pak War-1965 by Lt Gen Mahmud Ahmed (Retd). Page 413. 

An impression lias been created by Gen Musa in My Version drat the idea for capturing Akhnur had been casually suggested to Ayub Khan dining 
the briefing on Op ‘Gibraltar’ by Maj Gen Akhtar Malik, at Murree. This was used later as an excuse - that the advance towards Akhnur was 
halted because there was no force available for such a bold operation Gen Musa’s assertion becomes suspect because a tangible force was 
allocated for Op ‘Grand Slam’ at the end of July. The elements of the force were detached by GHQ, under Gen Musa’s instmetions, from the 
newly formed 6th Arnmircd Division comprising 1 1th Cavalry, 13th Lancers, B Company 9 FF, 25th Brigade and Artillery Corps. They were 
sent to Kharian for employment in Op ‘Grand Slam’. Gen Gul Hassan has stated unambiguously in Iris memoirs drat ‘Grand Slam’ was given to 
Akhtar Malik for planning and execution and that Akhtar Malik was in tire GHQ on 23rd August 1 965 to obtain the green light from the President. 
Gul Hassan had even suggested to Maj Gen Akhtar Malik drat he did not need any clearance for ‘Grand Slam’ because the President had done so 
at Kharian some time earlier. 

Akhtar Malik had started his blitzkrieg towards Chhamb as opening shots of Op ‘Grand Slam’, for the eventual capture ofthe strategic town of 
Akhnur, the centre of gravity of the Kashmir Valley. Akhtar Malik’s plan had sensibly envisaged circumventing Jaurian to avoid getting bogged 
down and instead to go for die jugular. Akhnur, directly. This had hit the Indian Western military command with total surprise, like a sledge 
hammer. 

I would like to make it clear that tins is not an attempt to critique tire valiant fighting echelons ofthe army, but their leaders at high command. The 
fighting rnngs of tire army always had thousands of men of valour who fought with resolute courage in the battles of Kutch, Chhamb-Jaurian, Attari, 
Burki, Cbawinda, Kliem Karan, Chor and else where. They beat the daylights out of the adversary despite tire blundering brass which was the 
cause of many avoidable casualties. Success in war or peace is about the quality of leadership which impacts the morale and hence the soldiers’ 
will to fight and their readiness to put their lives on the line. In war lives are inevitably lost, but lives lost in the execution of badly conceived plans, 
or cowardice of the commanders is the sole responsibility of the leaders. They are morally bound to admit dreir incompetence to the children, 
widows, sisters and parents of those martyred. Dead or alive, some day their accountability has to be done. 

PAF Opens Up 

In sharp contrast to the army leadership. Air Mshl Nur Khan ordered the PAF on Phase- II alert on 29th August 1965. This meant drat war was 
imminent and triggered urgent actions by tire operational staff and especially by the operational stations, to prepare for war. Interesting^, Nur 
Khan had taken this initiative from his own assessment ofthe storm gathering on the Kashmir horizon The plucky PAF spun into action Like the 
other stations, Peshawar was abuzz with activity and tire transformation into war mode was swill and efficient. Phase-3, War tinminent-Red Alert 
(to execute the war plan instantly), was staring us in the eye. 

Aware ofthe pace of developments in the land battle, an anxious Air Force C-in-C could not just sit back and rely on Gen Musa’s suggestion of 
war remaining confined to the valley. Nur Khan asked his staff to arrange with the Army Aviation to tiy him to the HQs I Corps, smack into the 
battle zone. Flying over the area, Nur Khan’s consternation turned into alann as he saw the Pak Army assault force gatiiered on the Pakistani side 
of the Tavi River apparently ready for tire crossing. Alter landing he told the Corps Commander, Lt Gen Rana that Iris forces were poised 
dangerously in tire open and if the IAF was pitched into the fray they could play havoc with the perilously exposed troops and especially armoured 
vehicles. 

Lt Gen Rana procrastinated and opined that the Indians would not use their air force in order to avoid escalation Nur Khan’s suggestion for air 
support and sustained supply drops was not received well by Lt Gen Rana either. Air Mshl Nur Khan’s reaction to tire irrational and complacent 
attitude of the Corps Commander was swift and decisive. He contacted Iris own Command Operations Centre at Chaklala and ordered tire PAF 
on Phase- III status, which meant Code Red. He ordered tire Combat Air Patrols (CAPS) to be extended till 1 700 Hrs. Posterity Iras proven that 
Nur Khan’s decision made tire crucial difference to Pakistan’s survival in the days to come. Minutes after Air Mshl Nur Khan had set-course from 
Gujrat airfield in air army L- 1 9 aircraft, the IAF struck Lt Gen Rana’s forces precisely as had been predicted bythe Air Chief 

The Indian Army, which was getting a thrashing from Akhtar Malik’s 12th Div, had asked for urgent air support by 1 1 00 Hrs on 1st September 
1965. For tire IAF to launch off the Indian CO AS had to request the IAF Chief Air Chief Mshl Aijun Singh and then both had to seek pennission 
from Defence Minister Chavanto provide air support. This red-tape took five hours to process and it was not until 16:40 Hrs that tire first 
formation of four IAF Vampire fighters was airborne fromPatbankot. Tire IAF base at Pathankot had launched 12 Vampires in the first wave of 
three sections, five minutes apart. This Close Air Support (CAS) by the IAF was their last hope as Akhtar Malik was mopping up the Chhamb 
operation 

The first and last fonrrations of Vampires ended up attacking their own columns and caused destruction of their own forces according to tire diaries 
of Lt Gen Harbakhsh Singh and Gen Jogindar Singh 15 . The recent book titled 

15 General Jogindar Singh wrote a candid account of the wars of 1965 and 1971 in Behind the Scene . Page 1 17. 

History of India-Pakistan War of 1965 also confirms 16 that collateral damage was inflicted on the Indian Amy’s 3 Mahar Regiment by tire IAF 
attackers. This faux pas is further substantiated by another Indian soldier of repute, General Lachhman Singh. It was a miserable beginning by tire 
Indian Air Force, much to the disillusionment of their land forces. 

My good friend, course mate and PAF’s Top Gun, Sarfaraz Rafiqui, with Fit Lt Imtiaz Blratti as his wingjnan, was vectored on the second 


formation of 4 Vampires by the PAF Sector Operations Centre at Sakesar. In the ensuing minutes Sariaraz made contact with the bandits and with 
deft manoeuvring, two of the Vampires were turned into balls of lire ifomRafiqui’s deadly guns in virtually 2 to 3 minutes. One more bandit fell to 
Irntiaz Bbatti’s sharp- shooting, while the fourth managed to stagger borne (Fit Lt SV Patliak) in his aircraft full of holes ifomBbatti’s shooting. That 
is why four hits were claimed by the two pilots. With the one lost earlier to likely Ack- Ack, the tally for the opening of air operations by the 1AF 
had cost them the loss of four fighters and one crippled. The air-battle had quite dangerously coincided with the movement of the C-in-C, Air Mshl 
Nur Khan, who had been airborne minutes earlier in the battle zone. After landing, he had commandeered a T37 jet trainer which flew him to 
Sargodha where he personalty congratulated Rafiqui and Irntiaz Bhatti for their excellent shooting. 

The Indian historians have made a cynical attempt to make the 1 st Sept showdown a great achievement for the 28 or more sorties launched by the 
IAF, claiming the destruction (12 tanks, 2 guns, 62 ammunition vehicles and troops) of 1 2 Div. But the signal received by the PAF Chief from Brig 
Amjad Chaudhry, Cmdr 4 Corp Artillery, from the front, belies these claims. Several Indian historians have also snubbed the IAF claims as 
outlandish and exaggerated. Messaging from the front, Brig Amjad Chaudhry wrote: “Your very first action in Chhamb left no doubt in our minds 
that we did not have to worry much about the enemy air attack. The pattern was set there and then We will never forget that spectacle - it lifted 
our spirits and give us a flying start.” This kind of a jubilant message could not have come from a commander whose forces had been battered. 

In file same vein, the candid Gen Jogindar Singh COS of Western Command, in his book Behind the Scene , unambiguously says in the context 
of file land situation near Tavi, on 4th September, “Since the Pakistan Air Force ruled the sky, the thrust (Akhtar Malik’s Div) could be in the forni 
of a ‘blitzkrieg’ action and it did start that way.” 

Pakistani Leadership Gets Cold Feet 

Unfortunately, back on die ground, Op ‘Gibraltar’ petered out, resulting in total lailure, while ‘Grand Slam’ came to a screeching halt. Maj Gen 
Yahya Khan, the Commander of 7 Div who had replaced Maj Gen Akhtar Malik did not launch the grand finale against Akhnur, on the flimsy 
pretext that Gen Musa was not happy with the command communications system 17 . His better and more valid excuse could have been that he 
neither had been associated with Akhtar Malik’s planning of the ‘Grand Slam’ nor was he familiar with the terrain 

16 History oflndo-Pak War-1965 . Page 70. 

What followed was not the mere removal from command of a winning general but the late of Kashmir was sealed for ever. Few Pakistanis even 
know about the treachery and intrigue of those final hours which shall remain a dark watershed in the history of the Pakistan Amy high command. 
This reprehensible episode deserves to be exposed so that present day Pakistanis are well aware of it. 

Yahya knew folly well that the C-in-C, Gen Musa, during Iris first and possibly only visit to the Corps HQ, had opined within the hearing of several 
shocked officers “What is the point in capturing Akhnur?” His words had echoed his master’s voice - the supreme commander, President Ayub 
Khan. The President and the Amy Chief were obviously in mortal fear of an all out war (an inevitable reality) if Akhnur was captured. Both must 
have beenterrified later when the enemy struck with two Corps in a three pronged attack on Lahore- Sialkot with a feint in the north-east at Jassar 
and a holding manoeuvre around Kasur in the south 

We would never have learnt of the deceptive machinations had it not been for Brigadier Amjad Ali Khan Chaudhary, who played a crucial role in 
the battle and was present on the occasion dining those late f'ul moments. He revealed the truth of those last debilitating hours when the Amy Chief 
GenMusa, Corps Commander Lt Gen Rana Bakhtiar and Maj Gen Yahya Khan had blocked the capture of Akhnur, ostensibly on Ayub Khan’s 
reckoning. This written account by the intrepid Brig Amjad expresses his shock and disbelief at the behaviour of Gen Musa and wraps up the 
moment of the betrayal 1 8 

In the meanwhile Maj Aleem Afridi, my GSO, informed me on wireless that the C-in-C had come to HQ 25 Bde and wished to see 
me. At about 1 0-30 AM while I was driving towards 25 Bde Headquarters I saw Brig Azjnat Hayat having a conference with his 
battalion commanders. When I asked him the reason for not meeting me at Munawwar cross roads and why the advance had not 
started, he informed me that he had not received the ‘code word Coca Cola’ to start the operation and he had lost wireless contact 
with the Div Commander. I was surprised to hear this because the Div Commander had spoken to me on wireless a little earlier and 
had asked me to meet at Moel. A few minutes later Brig Zafar, Conunander 25 Bde arrived in a helicopter and asked Brig Azmat 
Hayat to accompany him to his HQ to meet the C-in-C. I told Brig Zafar that the C-in-C had sent for me also and I would like to go 
with them in the second helicopter which he had brought with him. Brig Zafar ’s answer was that I was not required and they took 
off in the two helicopters. 

17 My Version by Gen Musa. Page 41. 

18 The sordid episode has been written about in September 65, Before and After by Brig Amjad Chaudary. Pages 54-64. 

Bitterly disappointed and completely at a loss to understand why we were not moving on and what was happening at HQ 25 Bde, I 
decided to drive to it. Maj Aleem Afridi had been telling me repeatedly on wireless that I was wanted there and the C-in-C wished to 
see me urgently. It was a long way to 25 Bde HQ and by the time I reached Moel it was 1:00 PM I found there elements of a Bde HQ 
and asked a staff officer to ring up HQ 25 Bde to send me a helicopter. Brigade Major 25 Bde said on telephone that the C-in-C was 
holding a conference and he will find out if he could send the helicopter. Nothing happened for the next couple of hours. While I 
was waiting, Brig Khurshid, Commander 7 Div Artillery, came there in a jeep and informed me that the command had changed and 
Maj Gen Yahya had taken over. 

Later on, I learnt that the C-in-C had ordered the change because he had been told that the advance could not proceed because 
command and control had broken down and the guns had not moved forward to support the advance. I was surprised when I learnt 


this. While running around in that area I had myself seen the field and medium regiments in action just short of Tavi and I 
regretted that I did not get the opportunity to inform the C-in-C of the real situation. As far as the command and control was 
concerned, it is true that it was rather scanty but by no means ineffective. Maj Gen Akhtar had set up a Tactical HQ in Kharian and 
for the conduct of battle had planned to use the communication and other resources of my HQ. His main HQ had to remain in 
Murree to look after full scale operations which were at that time going on in other important sectors of Kashmir. Maj Gen Yahya 
after taking over command also used my HQ at Kliaur while his nuiin HQ remained outside the operational area. Until 6 September 
when I moved out of this theatre of war, he operated from his jeep with a staff officer. He had of course the advantage of having his 
main HQ within easy reach. 

Far more important than the change in command was the last minute change in the overall concept and scope of operation Grand 
Slam. On 2 September I had moved my HQ to Chhamb in the Tehsil building on the near bank of the Tavi. Maj Gen Yahya 
conducted the battle for Jaurian from there. The day after Jaurian was taken (4 September), a message was received from GHQ that 
the C-in-C was coming to meet Maj Gen Yahya in my HQ. The C-in-C arrived in a helicopter at about midday and hurriedly 
conducted a conference with Maj Gen Yahya. After reviewing the progress of the operation he apparently told the Div Commander 
to abandon the plan to capture Akhnur and take up positions on the high ground astride the road between Jaurian and Akhnur. I 
am not aware of the reasons for this basic change in the operation as I was not present in the conference. But I do know that the 
final phase of operation Grand Slam had been abandoned because when the C-in-C came out of the conference he said to me in his 
usual hustling manner that there was no point in taking Akhnur, which stunned me. The decision did not make sense to me. 

Akhnur was within our grasp and considering the state of morale of both sides and their relative strengths especially in armour and 
artillery, it was a political decision which gave Maj Gen Yahya no choice. If so the Indians succeeded in saving Akhnur through 
diplomacy, when it was not feasible to do it militarily. If the final objective of the operation was abandoned because it was 
considered that it might lead to an all out war with India, then the decision to stop short of Akhnur is all the more regrettable 
because it did not deter India from launching two days later, an all out attack on Pakistan across the international frontier. 

Having known Gen Yahya fairly well for a long time, it was difficult for me to believe that such an unsound decision could be 
forced on him. Capture of Chhamb, Jaurian and Akhnur were three phases of the operation which had been conceived and planned 
as a whole and the scrapping of its final and most important phase made little sense. Had Maj Gen Akhtar Malik been in coimnand 
at this stage in the battle, it would not have been easy to make him accept this decision. 

On the morning of 6th September 1965, Maj Gen Yahya Khan came to our HQ and held a brief conference in which he informed us 
that the Indian Anny had launched a two pronged attack across the international border at Wagha and Harike. GHQ had ordered 
that our Corps artillery after detaching some units was to move to Sialkot. One armoured regiment was also detached for 
employment elsewhere. Before Maj Gen Yahya Khan conducted his conference, a staff officer came with a wireless message from his 
main HQ. GHQ had enquired whether he could take Akhnur if the Corps artillery and the armoured regiment were not taken away 
from him. When Maj Gen Yahya read out this message, we waited anxiously to know his reaction. He deliberated for a moment and 
then turned to the staff officer and said “No”. 

Was it that he considered that defence against the invasion of Pakistan was more important than capture of Akhnur and, was it that 
he realized that the opportunity for capturing Akhnur by one quick knock out blow as originally conceived by Maj Gen Akhtar 
Malik had been lost because of the delay caused by the change of command and the subsequent change in the concept and the 
conduct of the whole operation? Whatever his reasons might have been for this momentous decision, he did not say a word about it 
and there was no discussion Later on when he visited Staff College Quetta as C-in-C of the Pakistan Army I ventured to ask him 
why he did not take Akhnur. His reply was short and crisp. All he said, “You know, I was told not to do so 

Was Change of Command Pre-planned? 

The removal of Akhtar Malik midstream was claimed by Gen Musa to have been pre-planned. 19 If true, then Gen Musa should have been sacked 
for planning to provide succour to the enemy when the deck was stacked against them And if he had not been forthright about the real reason 
behind the change, which was in tact the case, he ought to have been hied for deception Despite Gen Musa’s ineptitude it was still not too late to 
implement the final phase of the operation The Indians were on the run and their morale had been completely shattered. Yahya was made the C- 
in-C by eliminating Gen Akhtar Malik allegedly for the very reason to deny him what he had rightly deserved. Musa got Governorship of East and 
West Pakistan for kissing Ayub’s hand in gratitude. 

This was a serious debacle, which subverted the fete of Pakistan and took Kashmir from within its grasp . All of this had roots in those moments on 
1 st- 2nd September when Gen Musa, on the orders of Ayub Khan, took the gun from Akhtar Malik’s linn grasp (aimed at Akhnur) and gave it to 
Yahya Khan who had been briefed to order him out just in case he got rough and refused to abandon Akhnur. The narrative of those crucial hours 
of history on 2nd Sept by Brig Amj ad reproduced above, especially the contrived signal from GHQ asking Maj Gen Yahya if he would go for 
Akhnur if the armoured regiment and the Corps Artillery were left with him all seem to be a ruse. As recounted by Brig Amj ad, Y ahya had thought 
for a while as the commanders present had waited with bated breath and hoped for a positive nod for them to commence the coup de grace on 
Akhnur. No one could have imagined that Yahya Khan would say “No”. Perhaps Brig Amj ad and the rest present had missed out the intriguing 
purpose of this signal about which Y ahya may have already known If the dots were connected, the arrival of the signal should have been seen as 
the final part of the ruse to make Yahya appear as the fell guy and save the fece of Gen Musa and indeed of the President, by pretending that Gen 
Musa had second thoughts about his earlier remarks to Brig Amj ad: “What is the point in taking Akhnur?”. Hie signal must have been superficially 
initiated to erase that impression Musa had left behind during his visit at the change of command, and to show that now it was up to the Div 
Commander to take the decision about Akhnur. 

19 Mv Version . Gen Musa says, “The change of command in the Chhamb valley was pre-arranged; Yahya took over command on my orders.” On the same page 


there are other contrite and assailable claims about the events from 1 st to 3*^ September 1965. Page 40. 

That might have been a clever manoeuvre then, but it led to a great loss for the country. In the same vein, it seems clear to me now as to why 
Akhtar Malik’s plan was altered and Troti and Jaurian, which were to be circumvented in the original operational plan, were attacked by Yahya 
Khan Presumably, this was done to show off Yahya’s prowess as a soldier and give the Pakistani public some semblance of a victory. Was it not 
another hoax to distract all eyes from Akhnur? What ever one may say about Yahya, he could not be faulted for lack of a soldier’s courage, unlike 
his peers. He had been made a Trojan horse to fool die anny commanders present, by shifting the onus of the decision about Akhnur from Gen 
Musa to Maj Gen Yahya. No one had dared question the all powerful Yahya Khan then as he had thrown his weight behind the Jaurian attack. 

Another incident previously mentioned which firms up the probability of a conspiracy at the highest level, is the conduct of Brig Azmat Hayat and 
Brig Zaiar, on 2nd Sept. Why had they refused to take Brig Amjad to meet the C-inC, who had asked to see him, even when they had two 
helicopters at their disposal? This is the most intriguing part. Brig Azmat Hayat had been commanding the Inlantry Brigade originally as part of 7 
Div, but attached with Maj Gen Malik’s operations group, assigicd the task to capture Akhnur as a part of 12 Div operations under Maj Gen 
Akhtar Malik. How uncanny that Brig Azmat Hayat had secretly received instructions from Maj Gen Yahya much before he had replaced Akhtar 
Malik not to accept any orders from Maj Gen Akhtar Malik, his present Div Commander. Azmat Hayat had immediately severed all 
communications with his Div Commander on receiving an unlawful command! This was sheer insubordination by Brig Azmat Hayat but clearly Brig 
Hayat had to be certain that his future would be brighter under Yahya Khan than the lame duck Akhtar Malik. 

N ow, if we connect these events to Y ahya Khan’ s curt riposte to the very Brig Amj ad when he was the Chief Instructor at the Staff College 
Quetta, several years later and Yahya Khan had become the C-in-C, the mosaic provides a plausible conspiracy having taken place between 3 1 st 
August and 1st September and played out on the 2nd of Sept. Brig Amjad had justifiably asked the visiting C-in-C as to why he had not taken 
Akhnur in 1965. Yahya’s reply, “Because I was ordered not to 20 ”, leaves nothing to the imagination Who could have given such a crucial order to 
Yahya Khan? Certainty not Musa. Logically, these instructions from Ayub Khan night have been communicated from President House or even 
Saidu Sharif because that is where he had allegedly been staying with his daughter's in-laws (the WaliofSwat), when Pakistan’s survival had hung 
in balance. 

20 1 965 War, Before and After by Brig Amjad Ali Khan Chaudhary. Page 63. 

It may sound hotrilic today but the truth was that an important member of the cabinet had to take a top-secret file to Saidu Sharif on 1 st Sept alter 
the PAF had shot down 4 Indian fighters over Chliamb, to seek the President’s approval for a limited PAF strike role in Kashmir. It would be 
prudent to recall what Ayub Khan had said to Air Mshl Asghar Khan in May when the latter had expounded the urgency of a joint strategy, that he 
would be directing the war in case it comes and not be closeted with the service chiefs. Musa, like the loyal follower he was, had also added his 
two cents by saying that he too would be commanding Iris troops from the Corps HQ. So much for these two leaders at the helm and their tall 
claims of manning command posts in the battle areas. 

Ayub’s Background Explains All 

Ayub Khan’ s alleged decision to travel to Saidu Sharif after the ISI warning of an Indian attack and his remaining there during all the crucial battles 
being fought in Kashmir may well have been to stay the farthest away from the dangers of the battle. Such behaviour was an enigma even for Ayub 
Khan’s coterie of generals and his cabinet members but he had made sure there were no courageous and morally upright men around him to advise 
him correctly. But in reality, the fear of tlie battle ground was not new for the Field Marshal; rather it was reminiscent of his widely known removal 
from command of the 1 st Assam Regiment from the Dagger Division by General TW Reese in Bunna for wavering to lead his troops. Lt Col 
Parsons had been ordered to take over from Ayub Khan who had, according to Lt Col Steve Parson, “chickened out” from leading his battalion in 
the famous Battle ofKohima. According to Lt Col Steve Parsons, during his presentation on the ‘Battle ofKobima’ in 1984, which was reported 
by the Press Trust of India and published in the Daily Telegraph from Calcutta as well as reported in the Daily News from Karachi (reproduced 
in Appendix ‘B’). Ayub Khan bad displayed “a lack of courage”. 

In the Battle ofKohima when the 1 9 British- India Dagger Division was dashing for the capture of Mandalay, Ayub Khan was removed from die 
command of the 1 st Assam battalion, for dithering to lead his men in the ensuing battle, where alter he had stayed in a ‘ forty pounder’ (tent) with a 
Risaldar Major M Ashraf'Khan also from Hazara, till he was evacuated and sent to Shagii Fort near Peshawar to Command 15th Punjab 
Battalion group comprising old veterans from WW-I and some medically unfit soldiers fromWW-U 21 . Ayub Khan’s behaviour as ajunior 
commander on die badle front was also conferred in a leder by Lt Col Mohatram who had been an eye witness to diis unfladering dramatic 
episode (also reproduced as part of Appendix ‘C’). 

Ayub Khan was later superseded by Brigidicrs Nazir, Ifiikbar and Nasir, all junior to him Ayub Khan’s being superseded was reportedly by the 
orders of none other tiian the Quaid- Azam himself The reason for die Quaid-e-Azamto have taken such a decision had an explicit basis. Ayub 
Khan had been appointed as the senior officer- in- charge of the Pakistani contingent, a part of the Punjab Boundary Force, ironically under die 
command of the same General Reese of Dagger Division in Burma. Ayub Khan’s mandate was to provide protection to die Muslim refugees 
migrating from Amritsar and nearby areas. The Sikh carnage ofMuslimmen, women and children was a chilling horror and the failure of Ayub 
Khan to protect the victims of Sikh slaughter were allegedly making terrifying headlines in die Nawa-e- Waqt and Pakistan Times . These reports 
had reached the Quaid- e- Azam who had reportedly placed it on record that Ayub Khan was not to be promoted any further. He would have 
retired in that rank bad the Quaid lived alible longer. That was not to be and Ayub Khan gifted himself the rank of a Field Marshal as if to defy the 
Quaid, Gen Reese of Dagger Division and Gen Messervy, the first C-in-C of die Pakistan Army who had also declared him unfit for promotion 22 . 

This background helps one to understand die events of 1 965 in a clearer light and perspective. Why was there no formal synopsis of the mistakes 
made by die leadership? It was simply because none of the services wanted to open the Pandora’s Box, exposing major strategic blunders and 


unjustified loss of life owing to sheer ineptitude. How would Ayub, Musa and Yahya have got the highest gallantry awards each carrying a reward 
of 5 0- 75 acres of prime agricultural land from the poor nation, had they allowed a truth commission to lit! the veil from their military failure? This 
would have been tantamount to war crimes in a hall- way civilized country. It would be a good lesson to discover that a large number of army, air 
force, and navy officers were court- martialled for incompetence and cowardice across the border. 

Ayub Khan had been basically a very insecure man since the denigration he had suffered during the Battle of Koliima in Bunna. He seemed to be 
in constant fear of coups. Consequently, many of his actions were guided by these phantoms which he had created or were manufactured by 
ambitious sycophants who had surrounded him He had to side-line Alditar Malik and this he did, by sending him to Turkey where he died in a car 
crash Even in Turkey, his death was under mysterious circumstances (with alleged Israeli involvement) because he had accepted a Jordanian offer 
to train their army. In 1965, the upshot of Ayub’s decision was to replace the winning Maj Gen Akhtar Malik with Ayub’ s favourite and 
confidante, Maj Gen Yahya Khan, who had written the grand narrative of Ayub Khan’s coup d’etat against Iskander Mirza. Resultanlly, the 
curtain dropped on our land battle successes and a life time opportunity viz Kashmir was lost for ever. 

21 Daily News , 28 1 * 1 April 1984, Vol 23 No 102. Also, Politics of Surrender , by Col Ghaffar Mehdi. Letter by Lt Col Mohatram who confirmed it to me during an 
interview over the phone in September 

2008. 

22 Politics of Surrender, by Ghaffar Mehdi. Pages 72-73. Also with reference to My Story by Gen Sher Ali and Dr Kaleem Siddiqui. 

Indecisiveness and Confusion 

It would be instructive to enter the mind of Air Msbl Niff Khan at this time. He was receiving zero updates from the GHQ in keeping with the 
President’s policy of“PAF to stay away just in case one of its aircraft got shot down across the CFL, which could escalate into a general war”. 
This must have been Nur Khan’s most anxious moment. Meanwhile, the Indian reaction to the Pakistaniinfiltration had been strong and they had 
recaptured Kargil, and defeated our defences at Haji Pir Pass, and all along the ridges, occupying territory along Kishanganga. On 25th August 
1965 the Indian Army had shelled the village of Awan Sharif near Sialkot, which was a stem warning about events to follow. On 1st September 
1 965, with Lt Gen Rana serving as the Commander I Corps, Nur Khan was quick to guess that intervention by the IAF was inevitable and 
imminent. 

Nur Khan’s instinct told him that a major conflict was on the anvil ^respective of how the President perceived the situation and that the PAF would 
be put to test sooner than later. In the event of the war conflagrating the cardinal objective of the IAF would inevitably be to take out or neutralize 
the PAF. Given the situation and the President’s reluctance to use the PAF, the initiative for air war would rest with the numerically larger IAF. 
Their obvious choice of action would be to hit hard in relentless waves against Sargodba, Sakesar and even Peshawar, creating synergy with their 
land forces invading Pakistan This could render the PAF ineffective and the skies under the complete control of the IAF in Punjab, the main battle 
front. The prognosis must have been a disconcerting thought for the PAF leadership. 

These must have been very defining, frustrating and lonely moments in Nur Khan’s life. Tlie briefing by the ISI chief had left very little to the 
imagination Nur Khan had recently inherited a superb fighting machine from Asghar Khan; what if his power house, the PAF, was tied down by 
tlie inert leadership and struck a sledge hammer blow by the IAF, for which they possessed full capability? How would he explain the loss to file 
nation? What should he do to lace-off a determined IAF assault with fell fury? These ominous thoughts must have penneated his mind. He had the 
tough choice to either carry out an independent decision or lace the harsh verdict of history. He acted like the decisive commander he was and 
placed tlie PAF on red-alert, on 1st Sept fromLt GenRana’s Corps HQs, before he took-offfor Sargodha. Posterity would later judge file 
consequences of his action as the “Saving of Pakistan by the PAF”. 

Finally, even though perilously and callously late, the Army C-in-C sent a signal to all formations on 4th September 1 965, in which tlie language 
lacked file punch of a red- alert order. This was criminal neglect which was to cost Pakistan heavily in casualties because file signal language was 
not intended to evoke the operational emergency of an impending attack against the motherland. 

Four decades later, it was a dreadful experience for me to read the language of the so called flash signal sent to formations, as it would be for the 
discerning reader to learn why the army was caught unawares. Hie Lahore front had been cleared of all defences in May 1965 and the GOC’s 
imploring to re- mine the area had been stoutly rejected. Amazingly, 25 percent of the anny remained on annual leave. Hie signal sent on the orders 
by Gen Musa reads verbatim as follows: 

‘Latest intelligence reports indicate Indian concentration both on East and West Pakistan and such flash announcements on All India Radio as 
‘Pakistanis attacking Jammu etc. ’ indicate their aggressive intention, fonnations will take necessary defensive measures. All informed.” The signal 
timing and its timid tone, four days after file President’s emergency meeting for briefing by DG ISI lacked tlie imminence and urgency file situation 
demanded. General Musa’s failure to evoke a sense of national emergency was stark as there was no mention of cancelling all leave and recalling 
all personnel Hiis should have been file first action taken by Musa. Ayub Khan was shaken enough by the ISI warning about the impending Indian 
attack to call the civil and military brass to decide on a course of action the same day, on 3 1 st of Aug 1 965 . As a Field Marshal, Ayub Khan 
should have known that recall from leave was extremely important at this juncture. 

The Air Chief suggested to the President that he should be allowed to put the PAF pre-emptive plan in action immediately through aggressive 
posturing as he could not afford to let file adversary’s air force wrest the initiative which could have disastrous consequences for Pakistan The 
Presidenldid not approve tlie C-in-C’s suggested modus operandi On the other hand the delay and the content of Gen Musa’s cautionaiy signal 
to his formations was the reason that the Commander 1 0 Div responsible for the defence of Lahore had been reportedly hosting a football 
tournament on file 5th of September and was last asleep as the Indian invasion of Pakistan developed 23 . 1 5 Div at Sialkot had taken tlie initiative 
and started moving to their war locations a day earlier. However, inexplicably the Commander of 6 Annoured Division, Maj Gen Abrar Hussain, 
was also kept in the dark until the night of 6th September. 


Battle for Pakistan , by John Flicker. 


23 

According to Maj Gen Abrar Hussain’ s recently published diary of war dispatches of the 1965 War, 24 the orders to move his Armoured Division, 
which was 1 Corp Reserve, had not been received till late on the night of 6th September. No specific task was given to the Division even at this 
stage as Lahore was being virtually invaded, but they were to remain prepared for the various eventualities 25 .The attack came on three fronts; 
Jassar was a feint attack; the main armoured thrust developed for the capture of Chawinda and the other Divisions moved against Kasur and 
Lahore via Wagba on the main GT Road, to secure the bridge on Ichogil canal for the 2 Indian Armoured Brigade to spearhead the capture of 
Lahore. 

There were veiy few Pakistani troops defending the sector. Therefore, the brunt of the attack fell on the 3rd Bahich of Pak Amy, led by the 
courageous Major Shalqat Baloch who with light defences held back the fill thrust of the Indian Divisional attack, spearheaded by the enemy’s 2 
Annoured Brigade and artillery. Hie fearless men of 3rd Bahich impeded the onslaught to the last mam 

According to the tradition set by the PAF’s founding lathers, what would really count ultimately for the success of a war plan would not be so 
much the plan itself but the human response to the actual situation Fortunately, at the PAF Station Peshawar and No 1 9 Squadron in particular, 
we were ready to light with courage and honour, as I imagined was the case at every PAF station The entire PAF had been propelled into high 
gear. Mission awareness penneated all ranks and there was a tremendous confidence exuding in the dedication at work. Kashmir, geographically 
speaking, was 19 Squadron’s territory for Close Air Support and air defence of the sector but we were not given any opportunity through out 
August except for amned reconnaissance of the battle area. We remained without any real action until the fist week of September. 

Air Battle for Pakistan 

On 1 st September, we were all lolling on the mattresses in the make- shift Air Defence Alert (ADA) hut, exhausted from inactivity, and I 
particularly upset about No 1 9 Squadron being ignored by the brass running the show at COC. Then we heard the sirens of Phase-Ill declaration. 
“Hey chaps, that sounds like an attack siren, may be the balloon is up”, I made ny prediction to the pilots in the ADA bunker. When I turned to 
the duty officer to get a hold of Mo Akbar, he was virtually hysterical with the information he had received from the SOC (Sector Operations 
Centre) Sargodha. This was the fentastic news that Sarferaz Rafiqui and Bhatti had shot down 4 Indian fighters. The news worked like a high 
potency shot in the arm. I immediately rang up Sargodha ADA and asked for ‘Bha’ Munir to get the real story because Rafiqui (‘Gooseneck’ to 
us, for his long cylindrical neck) was not around. So we got a second hand account of the speed shooting with Munir’s enhanced stutters. This was 
indeed a smoke signal for the all-out hostilities just emerging on the horizon. 

24 Men of Steel , by Maj Gen Abrar Hussain. 25 LB1D, Page It. 

All air defence missions were filly justified and like the above action, produced stunning results. But wastefil air effort, just to appease the army 
high command had no justification as would become apparent. It eroded the limited resources of the PAF. That was the implicit reason why 
Asghar Khan had warned the army that in the opening phases of a war, the PAF could not provide them support except in dire circumstances. 
Here is a typical example. 

Under the command of Air Commodore MZ (Mitty) Masud, Sargodha launched two close support missions on an urgent Close Air Support 
(CAS) call from the amy in Chhairb sector. Reportedly the army had not provided the precise co-ordinates of the enemy forces and merely 
asked to attack enemy gun positions which meant targets of opportunity. Such an assumption could have been valid had there been an enonnity of 
enemy action on the ground. However, that was not the situation when Sargodha launched several F-86 missions in one stream Hie fist fonnation 
of four Med to locate the guns they had been given as targets and they emptied their ordnance on a grove. It was claimed that some vehicles 
broke-out of the grove and were attacked. The second formation reported contact with a bunch of soft vehicles and they claimed to have 
destroyed 90% of them. Like the IAF on 1 st Sept, the PAF was also getting earned away with huge claims, even though they claimed destruction 
of innocuous vehicles at great risk to our aircraft from ground fire and interceptors fromPathankot. 

After the speed shooting by Sarlaraz Rafiqui and Bhatti, the next encounter was on 3rd Sept between six Gnats 26 intercepted by two F-86s led by 
a good lighter pilot Fit Lt Yusuf(lbndly called Tangcvvallah by his buddies). Even though an F- 104 was sent to theft rescue, Yusufwas shot at by 
the Indian Fit Lt Keelor in a fierce aft battle of virtually one versus six Gnats. During this aft battle, Yusufs elevator was badly shot-up. Hie 
account of the aft battle differs in both the PAF histories, as well as the compilations by Indian historians. With the vantage of hindsight and 
availability of documentary information from both sides, the fects need to be cleared. More importantly, the pilot, Fit Lt Yusuf needs to be paid 
highly deserved tributes for his professional excellence and courage which he displayed during one of the most spectacular aft battles of the 1 965 
war. He was pitted against six enemy fighters (Gnats) in aggressor roles, not counting the four Mysteres which were used as bait. 

In feet, the Gnats were not on a CAS mission to start with as claimed in the PAF’s official history, but had been planned as a baiting mission to lure 
PAF fighters in the aft and destroy them This was explicitly given as the mission aim briefed by Sqn Ldr Greene on the night of 2nd Sept. 

Factually, there were to be 12 aircraft involved in this preconceived “snare and shoot the Sabre” sortie. Hie Gnats attacked Yusuf while his 
wingman lagged behind. The iacts are that Yusufs plane did not disintegrate as was claimed by Fit Lt Keelor but it was damaged; he single- 
handedly put up a tremendous fight even though hugely out nurrbered 1 :6. It is to his credit that he managed to extricate himself and his wingman 
from six pursuing Gnats. Micky Abbas (who was Hying the F-104) played a crucial part in Yusufs escape because the sight of the 1- 1 04 
staggered the Gnats who did not press home their pursuit of two limping Sabres. The IAF over reacted after this incident in branding the Gnat a 
‘Sabre Slayer’, where in feet, the commanders should have chewed theft fighter pilots for letting two Sabres get away against six Gnats. 

26 Two of the originally planned eight Ghats aborted the mission. 

Yusuf on the other hand, showed great modesty by telling the story as it was without any embellishment or exaggeration unlike some other cases 


of air combat which followed after the war started on the 6 th of September and were reconstructed later. What came as a hilarious outcome (read 
embarrassment) of this air battle was that Sqn Ldr Sikand, the Flight Commander of a Gnat Squadron, and a part of the eight ship fomnation, bad 
strayed after he broke- off allegedly owing to electrical failure and low foeL He claimed that he mistook Pasrur airstrip for Pathankot air complex 
and landed there, as a wide eyed Hakirmllah watched him from his F-104, circling above in disappointment for not being able to take a shot at the 
Gnat. Hakim circled the strip till he saw the Pak Army men take the pilot. To say the least, it was amazing that a Flight Commander would mistake 
a scraggy airstrip with no hills around or any infrastructure for a huge complex like Pathankot. 

What stands out is that the six Gnats allowed two PAF Sabres, with an ineffective No 2 (wing man) and with a badly damaged aircraft (leader), to 
get away. This news made such incredible headlines and hullabaloo at the highest level, that the IAF Chief' Arjun Single still smarting from the loss 
of 4 Vampires in one sortie, called the Defence Minister C ha van to give him the good news of Yusuf s presumed destruction. Keelor was 
bestowed a gallantry award for presumably blowing a Sabre to smithereens. Yusuf however, not only survived but did some good shooting, as 
admitted by Indian historians (awarded a kill - one Gnat destroyed on 1 3th Sept as noted in the Indo-Pak War of 1 965 and Bharat Rakshak 
website). It is worth a mention that the Indian story of Fit Lt Pathania’s dog- light with another two Sabres was also a fentasy as there were no 
other Sabres in the area. 

The Indian historians may like to correct their record, that it was one F-86 damaged, and not ‘disintegrated’. Also, there is little justification in 
calling the Gnat a ‘Sabre Slayer’, when six Gnats could not destroy even one F-86. In the same vein, it would be prudent to remark that the failure 
of the Starlightcrs to hunt and destroy the enemy was not entirely the feult of the pilots. They had simply lacked proper combat training 

The next engagement and air action by the PAF on 4th September ended in confusion and loss of our first aircraft, an F-86, flown by FltOffNasir 
Butt. I got the story directly from my buddy Munir Ahmed. Amazing as it may seem, again twelve aircraft, in formations of fours, with 5 minutes 
stagger, were launched from Sargodba agginst targets of opportunity in the Chharnb area. I find this number a^inst ‘may be’ targets quite bizarre 
to put it mildly. Simply analyzed, a fomnation of four is the most efficient and effective fluid formation. Normally in war it would be expected to 
make at least two to three attacks in a fluid battle situation as we from No 19 Squadron did through out the war to good effect. It would take 
about 8-10 minutes to complete two tactical pull-ups and attacks. Presumably, the second lot of 4 fighters would have to go in a holding pattern, 
highly susceptible in astern formation to enemy interceptors from Pathankot. So, for twelve aircraft to operate in a given area would cause chaos 
and confusion 

Predictably, that was exactly what Bha Munir stuttered on the phone to me. Bha said there was confusion within the formations of four, launched 
one after the other - at times wingmen were losing leaders, and all that was found was a bunch of vehicles in a convoy. They shot maybe a dozen 
or so soft skin vehicles but lost an aircraft. Thank heavens that Butt landed on our side of the battle area and was recovered quickly, even though 
he was incapacitated from injuries inflicted during bail out and did not % in the war after the incident. The twelve aircraft attack against mere soft 
vehicles and the story told in great length by PAF historians ( 1 988) seems incredibly overkill in embellishment, hi the absence of a confirmed major 
assault by the enemy against our troops there could be little justification for demanding such massive effort at the risk of losing sparse aircraft. The 
feet that half of them couldn’t find any targets to attack demonstrates that econony of effort was not a consideration 

On 6th Sept there was an encounter between 4 Mysteres of No 1 IAF Squadron from Adanpur. led by Wg Cdr Oni Taneja and from Sargodha, 
2 F 1 04s led by Aftab Alam with Amjad on his wing (who aborted soon after getting airborne). The Mysteres were on a mission to hit the Pak 
Amy formation HQ (another ghost target; how do lighters at 500 Kts identify a Div HQ from a public road repair camp?). The location was given 
as ‘ Wazirabad-Gujranwala sector’ . Not finding any such HQ, the leader spotted a train and attacked it instead, claiming its destruction with great 
pride. This was a passenger train pulling into Gakkhar railway station when the IAF aircraft attacked it. Hie single F- 104 was directed towards the 
area and soon after Aftab Alam made contact with the Mystere fonnatiom In the ensuing chase the 4 Mysteres scooted in panic on spotting the F- 
1 04. In hot pursuit of the exiting raiders, Aftab got in missile range and fired a missile at Sqn Ldr Paddy Earle, just as he (Earle) jettisoned his drop 
tanks (which exploded and were presumed by the Pak Amy observer to be the destruction of the Indian aircraft) hoping to put distance between 
himself and the menacing Mach-2 Starlightcr. Exiting at tree top level, Sqn Ldr Earle escaped the missile as it hit the ground owing to greater heat 
emission from the ground as compared to the aircraft exhaust. Hiere was no kill. The PAF’s official history needs to be corrected. 

Exactly a similar situation confronted me later in the 1 97 1 war while flying a Mirage. My missiles connected with the ground after I had pulled up 
steeply to avoid an over shoot with very high overtaking speed. I saw the cloud of dust and smoke, evidently caused by the jettisoned tanks of the 
Su-7 1 was chasing. 1 happily called it a kill, without checking the wreckage. 

IAF had the capacity to follow a mass- wave attack strategy against Sargodha, Mauripur, Peshawar stations and the radars at Sakesar and Badin. 
Had they carried it out with courage and tenacity, PAF’s capabilitywould have been obliterated. Indian historians to date have not been able to 
ferret out the real reason behind their lacklustre perlbrmancc and especially the IAF’s inexplicable absence on the 6th morning as the Indian amy 
invaded Pakistan. The conjecture that the IAF was kept out of the loop by the amy or perhaps held back by the political cabal does not hold 
much water, when two Indian Corps were launched in a complete surprise attack to invade Pakistan Of course Pakistan’s Anned Forces, 
especially the PAF had presumably lost the surprise advantage after the Indians entered VVaglia. For some mysterious reason their air force was 
frittered away in comical pursuit as will become evident in the story tofollow. 

Indian historians do not mention of any joint operational plan or a hint of a meeting between the operational staflf of the two services. It may well be 
that like our Amy Chief and the President who wanted to keep the PAF out, the Indian side, too, wanted to keep their air force out. Fortunately 
for us, file Indian Air Force chief did not demonstrate the aggressive spirit to focus the amy’s attention on the pivotal role of the IAF in their 
invasion plans. Thank God for the inept IAF leadership dial the initiative was virtually thrown into the lap of the PAF unexpectedly. 


9 



PAF BLUNTS INDIAN INVASION 


The first news of the Indian offensive was conveyed to Ayub Klian through a PAF Mobile Observer Unit and Air Cdre Akhtar; not through army 
intelligence. A shocked President called Gen Musa at 4 AM to ask him, “Where are your field troops?” He ought to have asked “Are our troops 
felly deployed and operational to defend the borders?” The answer by the C-in-C was misleading; he assured the President that Iris troops were 
felly prepared to defend the motherland. This was farthest from tire truth, because all the defences had been removed from Lahore, Sialkot and 
Kasur on the orders of Gen Musa. Imploring by Div Commanders had been boorishly rejected. As a result, the main entry point to Lahore over 
the BRB canal was defended by a handfel of men of the 3rd Baluch. Those on leave were not recalled on the absurd pretext that recalling the men 
and mining the border would provoke the cnciriy! 

On 4th September the fighter pilots of No 19 Squadron under my command were sitting restlessly in the inpro vised underground bunker at the 
Peshawar Station, disappointed that all the missions in the battle area Kid gone to the Sargodha Squadrons. Our prayers mist have been heard as 
I was told by the Senior Air Traffic Control Officer (SATCO) that the C-in-C was about to land at Peshawar. I scrambled to the tamnac area 
where the C- 130 was to park. Air MshlNur Khan arrived with his staff at around 5 PM. Standing in the receiving line disappointment must have 
been writ on my lace. It seemed to have caught the Cin-C’s attention as he alighted and shook my hand. He asked in his typical nonchalant way 
‘How is the morale?” I replied "Rock bottom, sir! 

I saw a big smile appear on Gp Capt FS Hussain’s lace - he was standing right behind Air Mshl Niff Khan. FS was of course a man we all 
idolized because he was the best fighter pilot in the PAF. “What’s the matter?” asked the C-in-C. I answered “Sir! My squadron seems to have 
been put in cold storage while Sargodha is getting all the action My pilots are feeling miserable, we haven’t been sent into action even once. Our 
morale can’t get any lower because we feel as though we are being held in reserve for minor tasks. My pilots need a shot in the arm, sir.” Nur 
Klian looked over his shoulder at FS and said, ‘Yes, I think he is right, we must get them into the action” I believe at that moment, destiny smiled 
at me and at tire late of No 1 9 Squadron The squadron entered the war by sheer dint of the resolve to fight and win It all began unplanned, as the 
juggernaut of the Indian three pronged attack was discovered at Waglia. 

On the morning of 6th September, some of us woke ip having spent the night in the bunker feeling even mire tired from the listless sleep in the 
anticipation and frustration of the past week, not having seen any action Suddenly, a message was communicated on the phone from the station 
and was jotted down by the ADA Duty Ops Pilot. He scribbled the message on his pad and after putting the receiver down he shoved it in front of 
meas though presenting a trophy, yelling “Sir, we are on!” 

The message was for 6 F-86 aircraft to proceed to an area east of Jassar Bridge and attack and destroy enemy artillery guns. Almost immediately, 
I was called to tire phone and heard the mumbling voice of Air Cdre RahimKban, “Sajad (Masroor Hussain and he were the only ones to call me 
bymy first name), well! Have you received tire mission? Now this is the opening shot for your squadron Make sure if s a job well done; I want 
you to make certain that you chaps destroy these bloody guns because they have isolated our troops by destroying a bridge behind them and are 
causing heavy casualties.” 

I don’t want to take up too much detail in describing the spirit of the young pilots as I detailed the fonnation Those who were not part of this 
mission hung their heads, most certainly cursing me. I told the fonnation members that it would be SOP briefing for strafing and rocket firing at 
Jamrud.only the targets would be real “Follow me, if you have any questions ask as we walk,” I said. 

As we approached our aircraft, I was taken aback to see eight 5- inch rockets loaded on our aircraft instead of the High Velocity Aerial Rocket, 
the ‘Mighty Mouse’ rocket pods, which were the standard armament we had always used. We had never fired these 5-inch rockets from the F- 
86s before. Rocket firing is such a precise and demanding exercise that I can best describe it by comparing it with killing a rat at 50 yards with an 
air gun! So the sight of 5-inch rockets certainly impeded the gait of five swashbuckling ‘Zambo’ pilotsfZambo was our Squadron call sign and was 
changed to Sherdil at some later time). 

To hit a target from tire air is a veiy precise operation Intricate calculations are required to detemine the aiming point after factoring in precise 
data on rocket bum- out time, velocity at that precise fraction of a second, the wind fector, the temperature and humidity. All these help you 
determine the gravity drop and thus the trajectory from the launching to the target and finally the aiming point which is in feet the size of the head of 
a pin Hie error margin at impact has to be less than 10 feet, when fired from 3,000 feet. Such accuracy even in peace time, in perfect weather 
with extremely accurate calculations fed into the gun sight, requires an exceptional pilot to achieve a 10-20 ft margin of error. 

So you can imagine the accuracy needed and the challenge of enemy ground defences and aft interceptors, which can be a serious and dangerous 
distraction Under these circumstances, I had to make a quick decision about the ‘Rockets Release Parameters’ while cursing under my breath for 
this last minute lacuna on our very first mission But it had to be done and I had to choose between flight safety and mission success. There was no 
way we could fire these bulky rockets in the same profile as the 2.75 inch rockets we were so consummate with We quickly brain- stomied and it 
was decided that the only sure way to hit the enemy guns would be to lire them from very close range to minimize the gravity drop (like in a strafing 
attack). The pilots would observe the impact of my rockets in the first attack and take a cue from there to establish their aiming point. 

This is a classical example where mission requirements took precedence over flight safety principles and I had no second thoughts about changing 
the firing parameters. This was war and success would only come with audacity. 

We took off at around 0900 Hrs for our target which incidentally was not the “Indian annour across Waglia” as described by most history books, 
but the “enemy artillery guns” near Sialkot. Both targets were at the outer edge of our combat radius, operating from Peshawar. Therefore, I bad 
to decide on a Hi-Lo-Hi profile 1 . As we climbed towards the east, the fighter pilots on my right and left maintained position in an immaculate 
formation as though tied by a string It was a defining moment for all of us and each Falcon on my right and left appeared ready for the prey. 



Air Battle for Lahore 


We started our descent near Gujranwala to deceive the enemy radar, planning to get down to 50 feet above the ground level for the final run-in 
from the Initial Point (IP) for the target near Jassar. But destiny had other plans for the six Zambos emblazing the air at 420 Kts. Suddenly the 
radio crackled, breaking the powerful silence of six cockpits, as we heard the voice of Air Cdre Masroor Hussain, the Senior Air Staff Officer at 
the Air Defence Headquarters. He called ire by name and in a deeply sombre voice ordered ire to change my target plan and head for Atari 
village on tire fringes of Lahore, warning that the Indian tanks had crossed into Pakistan territory, and were about to enter Lahore. 

Air Cdre Masroor may as well have put 5,000 watts through my body. I cannot easily describe the effect it had on our thoughts that the heart of 
Pakistan was coining under attack by tire enemy. The rush of adrenaline was already very high amongst the fonnation members, so immaculately 
positioned around me in battle formation on their first real war mission. This transmission acted like a fuse. 

1 Hi-Lo-Hi denotes proceeding toward the target at a high level to save fuel, even though in the enemy radar range; approach low to the target, and egress low but 
climb high once in own territory. 


There was no time for rage because I had been trained well enough to know that in a real challenge, anger surely impaired judgment. As die leader, 

1 had much to do, Hying at such low-level that I was skimming the trees. At about 0940 Hrs, we intercepted the Amritsar- Lahore road after 
shaking up the citizens of Lahore by Hying at very fow- level over die outskirts of the city. 

We weaved on eidier side of the road to spot the enemy' but it proved elusive. I night add here diat three F-86s (one having aborted before take- 
off) from Sargodba had already been to the area and had returned unsuccessfully, without firing a shot 2 . Suddenly, I noticed the sky was littered 
with anti-aircraft shells. I immediately figured we were too close to the Amritsar radar site which had been reported as die most heavily defended 
vulnerable point. Hie Ack-Ack was an awesome sight, last seen by me in the movie Battle of Britain . I turned my formation hard, 1 80 degrees 
around and got into a broader weaving pattern, with die second and third sections criss-crossing to provide cross- cover against IAF interceptors 
who, I was sure, would arrive shortly. We were staying at deck level, skimming over tree-tops. 

Crossing over die Wagba border, I noticed the famous omnibus at the barrier and many people standing there and looking up at us. Hien I saw 
what looked to be faint tank tracks about 3-4 miles north of the Grand Trunk (GT) road. I followed the tell tale tracks to die south, praying hard to 
make contact with die monsters leaving those broad tracks. Just a few moments later, I spotted several tanks and armoured vehicles trying to climb 
from die banks onto the main road. Icalled out and said, “Boys, our Armoured Corps seem to be finally out, let’s give thema salute.” As I pulled 
up slightly and turned my aircrafion its back flying over the first batch of tanks, I saw to my horror the unmistakable Indian saffron roundels; I 
immediately yelled as I pulled up sharp left, ‘These are Indian tanks, SOB! LET’S GET ‘EM! Select switches to hot, fire rockets in pairs.” 

It was a historic moment for all of us and we had worked hard to train for every contingency. I nearly screamed, “Zambo leader is in for target at 9 
o’clock. Watch my inpact!” Incredibly, the moment of truth had arrived as I closed onto my target, holding my breath I knew that my inpact was 
most crucial to my reputation and for serting the pace for the five Falcons tearing down behind me. The bottom diamond on my gun sight had 
inched rp and I released the first pair of rockets so close I scared myself! I pulled away steeply, not knowing where my ‘five inchers’ had landed. 
Instantly, the No 3 in the formation, called out, “Direct Hit (DH) leader! Tlie tank is airborne.” These tanks were lull of diesel and ammunition 
which had not been fully used as yet. Every ‘DH’ by my fonnation members resulted in a ball of fire of melting steel 

2 Battle for Pakistan by John Flicker. Page 90. 

This is a dangerous situation because flying so low, we would have to fly through the debris of targets being hit and exploding, which is virtually like 
flying through anti-aircraft barrage. As I looked over my shoulder while pulling up, I saw rockets fromNo 3 score a direct hit, a sight to remember. 
By the time I was on down wind it occurred to me that we were extremely vulnerable like the 4 Vampires shot by Sarfaraz Rafiqui’s pair, so I 
caked No 5 and 6 and instructed them to climb to 7,000 feet and look out for enemy aircraft. During the second attack I heard Sqn Ldr Mervyn 
Middlecoat arrive at the scene in an F- 104. Hiat was good augury and I caked back No 5 and 6 to fit in the pattern and shoot away, since the F- 
1 04 would provide us the much needed cover. As I was puking up I saw a earner vehicle with an artklery piece on it. Hiat was my next target and 
as I caked “IN” again, I noticed another one of the tracked vehicles smouldering. I was out of rockets in my fourth attack. No 6 caked drops dry 
(external fuel finished) and internal fuel low. I caked back and said, “Never mind the fuel let’s get every one in sight, we wik recover at Sargodha.” 

In the next pass I spotted what I thought was a tank and I hit it with a long burst from my six. 5” cakbre guns as I manoeuvred to attack itfromthe 
rear. I thought of the time with my buddy Ornar Khan Afridi at the No wshera School of Armoured Coips and the firing range; I remembered the 
engine grills of the tank are its weakest area and a good target for strafing. That is what I did, and caked out to my fonnation and saw the results 
after No 2 confirmed tank on fire. Hie last attack I recak chasing a jeep with a flag flutteringoff to the side of the road. As it saw me coming it hied 
to get away. But my bukets had already landed on the target. I wondered who that could have beem 

Normally in a Close Air Support mission, no more than one or, at a maximum, two attacks are carried out to avoid losing aircraft to enemy’s air 
defence weapons. But after I bad set up the pattern and saw my pkots swoop down like falcons in devastating attacks, I chose to stay in the area 
for 1 6- 1 7 minutes. The performance of my Squadron swells me with pride even today, 40 years after our first encounter of war. The PAF 
historians have commented that staying on the target for 17 minutes was “imprudent.” However, that was my decision as the leader and I think that 
is what leadership is ak about; to make difficult decisions. I had dekberately stayed on tik there were columns of fire ak around, meking steel and 
enemy within I caked-off after nearly ak our ammo was depleted and fuel perilously low. 

The diaiy of Pakistan Amy’s 10th Division, responsible for the defence of Lahore has recorded this attack in most salutaiy words and in fact a 
smak memento exists even today in one of the army graveyards amongst the graves of the martyrs at the village Atari. I visited the site in 2003 on 
the invitation of my friend Gen Mohammad Safdar, the former Governor of the Punjab. It was a strange feekng recounting the decisive and 


devastating performance of No 19 Squadron pilots, yet a telling reminder of the grim battle that was fought by Aziz Bhatti, Shafqat Baluch and the 
other gallant men who drank from the the cup of martyrdom in saving Lahore. 

The proof of the devastation caused by us on 6th Sept morning is best judged by the Indian historians as reproduced below. The account of this 
mission is also covered in the PAF Histoiy , as well as Air Battle for Pakistan by John Flicker and several Indian publications 3 The Indian 
account in the IndoPak Air War of 1965 reads: 

Even as the PAF planned its strategic move to hit IAF bases, one of its Squadrons flew missions supporting the Pak Army against 
Indian formations, which were advancing along the Lahore-GT Road axis. No 1 9 Squadron from Peshawar, led by Squadron Ldr 
SS Nosey Haider, flew a six aircraft strike mission at 0930 Hrs against the leading elements of the Indian Army’s thrust towards 
Lahore. The leading battalion of the division, 3 Jat, led by Lt Col Desmond Hayde had its columns strafed and rocketed by PAF 
Sabres. The unit lost all its RCL guns in the attack. A group of Sherman tanks sent to support Hayde’s battalion was attacked from 
the air and incapacitated The withdrawal of 3 Jat was a serious set back. 

In the book, Missed Opportunities , written by the Indian Maj Gen Lachhman Singh, the following description of the events of 6th September is 
recorded: 

Hayde assembled his ‘O ’ group near Milestone 14 to issue his orders for the advance. His ‘F’ echelon vehicles carrying ammunition, 
RCL guns mounted on jeeps, carriers with battalion mortars and reorganization stores including tools had halted on the road 
Before they could disperse to camouflage and conceal themselves, 6 F-86 PAF aircraft appeared over them and started strafing the 
vehicles parked near the ‘O ’ group. It was about 9. 30 AM and the enemy aircraft shot up every vehicle on the road for about fifteen 
minutes, undeterred by any fire from our troops. 11 Corps had not been allotted any Air Defence (AD) guns and no friendly aircraft 
was in the area to challenge the enenty. 3 Jat lost 5 out of 6 RCL guns, 3 mortars with their carriers and a number of men. An 
artillery OP officer of the light battery with 3 Jat was killed 3 Jat was without any artillery OP officer except one FO with C 
Squadron who had no wireless communications with 3 Jat. Similarly 38 Brigade on the GT Road behind 54 Brigade lost vehicles 
and men to the PAF strike. 4 Hayde was an Irishman or Scotsman settled in India... I also read that after this drubbing at the hands 
of the PAF, there was a rout in the leading echelons of the Indian strike force. . . Genera! Sukhwant Singh in his book, ‘Defence of 
Western Borders ’, writes that the CO of the battalion ran back with just one sock and one shoe deserting the battalion. His 2nd in 
command followed suit and ran back on a bicycle and took refuge in Amritsar Fort. Both were Court Martialed and dismissed 

3 Fizaya by Pushpindar Singh and Ravi Rykie. Page 33. The lndo-Pak Air War of 1965 by Jagan Mohan and Samir Chopra, 2005. Page 102. 

4 Missed Opportunities by Maj Gen Lachhman Singh. Page 206. 

In the official history of the lndo-Pak War 1965 the rout onGT Road is discussed as follows: 

"At 0700 hrs, Pak aircraft carried out intensive rocketing and bombing on 3 Jat and 15 Dogra positions. Later, Pakistani Sabres 
attacked several places on Grand Trunk Road, including Gharenda, where the Div Commander had his command post and the 
Divisional Reserves. The air attacks were pressed home with determination, and they took a heavy toll of vehicles. With the skies all 
to themselves, the PAF had no difficulty in picking out any vehicle which moved Several ammunition trucks were hit, and the 
ammunition kept exploding for hours, obstructing the road, which in turn made it necessary to make detours through slushy rice 
fields. Almost the entire 'F' echelon vehicles of 54 Brigade were destroyed 3 Jat lost its 2nd-in-Command, besides 5 of 6 RCL guns 
and 3 mortars with their carriers. " 

The reason for including these versions ofthe attack is to ensure the credibility of the claims by No 19 Squadron pilots and to ascertain the veracity 
of actual perfonnance versus perceived claims by the operators. By all accounts this may well have been die most important mission of die 1 965 
air war. 

The Indian army did not move an inch from where we had left them till the end ofthe war. I know this because I led the final mission on die last 
day of die war, on 22nd September, exactly where we had started. 

By the time I called off the attack on 6th September it was time to start a climb for optimum range while die fuel was depleting swiftly. We landed 
at Sargodha and I met die Station Commander after alighting, as he had come to ask how we had fored. He couldn’t believe die success diat my 
squadron had achieved, especially since his own fonnation, earlier on, had returned unsuccessful I requested him to re- load us and re- fuel us so 
that we could repeat the mission since we knew where the attackers were left burning. He said “You will get only internal foe], and after that get 
back to your base.” So, we left somewhat unceremoniously but after I had exchanged some tight hugs with ‘Bha’ Munir and ‘Butch’ Ahmed, while 
we were being re-fuelled. They told us that the President of Pakistan had declared on the radio just a little while ago tiiat Pakistan was at war. 

Gen Jogindar Singh’s book, with reference to their invasion plan sans the IAF was most critical of die Indian High Command. First of all there 
appeared to be very little, if at all co-ordination within the IAF, leave alone inter- services co-operation Gen Jogindar Singh adds that when he 
visited die Brigade HQ to check about the availability of air support to cover die invasion of Lahore, he found the Brigade Commander in his 
dressing gown, going round and round in the Ops Room He had to be physically removed from his command. 

For die rest of die day, die Sargodha pilots flew 1 1 sorties in the Wagha Sector and damaged more of die invading army in the area. What was 
most surprising was diat there was no sign of the IAF throughout the rest of the day on the Lahore front. In PAF’s initial assessment, the Indians 
had taken the initiative and PAF had lost the surprise element. This apprehension proved to be wrong. By the time we were attacking die invading 
amy at Wagjia, our fears had vanished, for the IAF foiled to attack our bases and radars. Much later we found out what the IAF was up to. 


The IAF was busy attacking the passenger train at Gakkhar railway station and then 4 Mysteres attacked a tonga after finding nothing at Kasur 
Railway station! In addition to this were Cbse Air Support missions in the Akhnur Sector - all astounding indicators of an air force not well 
trained, badly led and wasteful^ employed. This was happening while their invading army was being destroyed by the PAF fighters right under 
their noses. How could they miss such massive action at Ichogil Canal? Such was the dismal performance of our adversary and strangely, there is 
no criticism by the Indian historians or the official Indian history. Their Mure became part of the reason of our success. 

As an epilogue to the critical moment in our history, when the Indian army would have entered Lahore and played havoc with our countiy, I must 
narrate how destiny got my team there and how the enemy was sighted. The Indian plan was a very professional one in which the confidence of the 
Indian planners and commanders was based on assured success. Ibis confidence was overflowing on 5th September in New Delhi where late at 
night a huge press conference was called by the Indian Amy Chief At tins conference, a printed invitation was given to foreign correspondents 
and selected Indian journalists, inviting them to the Lahore Gymkhana for a peg of whisky to celebrate the capture of Lahore. Such was the 
audacity of our enemy. 

Their intelligence infonnation had obviously told them that our defending Division at Lahore was hosting football matches on the 6th morning. Not 
surprisingly that our army high command was thus shaken-up with the news that the Indians were at the gates of Lahore. What the Indian generals 
planning this major invasion did not factor into their plan was the ‘intangible factor’; the readiness for martyrdom of the Pakistani officers and mem 
The three- pronged attack planned in May was to assault Lahore and Kasur simultaneously. The attack was to mature across Wagha at the very 
early hours of the morning, well before dawn But for the courage and blood of a handful of Pakistani ollicers and soldiers holding weak defensive 
positions, especially every single one martyred from 3rd Baluch, Lahore would have been entered within a couple of hours. 

The attack was resisted and the advance delayed well into daylight and that is how the 6 F-86s of No 19 Squadron arrived and wreaked havoc on 
the advancing columns. Hie enemy attack was brought to a halt with an inferno of fire. 

Upon landing at our home base there was celebration at Peshawar given the success of our mission at Wagha. I was called by the Station 
Commander and told that the C-in-C wanted to talk to me. Air Mshl Nur Khan asked me the details of the mission and I gave him a detailed 
account of the attack. He kept punctuating my commentary with “Excellent,” and “Very well done” and finally asked me if the 2.75 rockets were 
effective against the tanks. I replied, “No sir, these are neither accurate nor good at penetrating. May I suggest that napalm would be most 
effective against the armour’ 7 He said some encouraging words for the pilots who had perfonned to his expectations and said that he would speak 
to me a^in. 

Little did I or my pilots know how close Lahore had been to being over run by the Indians. Many years later, I read in a book written by the 
famous historians Pushpinder Singh and Ravi Rikhye, “What few know is that the PAF also had a major role in stalling the Indians. But for the 
PAF (No 19 Squadron), die weak Pakistani defence would have been overwhelmed and the Indian army would have poured across die BRB 
canal and into Lahore.” I * * * 5 

During diose crucial moments when Pakistan’s territorial integrity was injeopardy, the President of Pakistan, shocked and overtaken by the speed 
of events, must have asked himself how he had been misled by his confidants and the Foreign Office. He had been duped into believing that the 
Indians would restrain from responding frdously to Operations Gibraltar and Grand Slam, especially to release pressure from Akhnur. Hiere were 
no brave men around die President to advise him that the capture of Akhnur was the only option available to have averted the Indian Nos 1 and XI 
Corps from attacking. The Indians would divert the effort to retake Akhnur, as they would never have accepted the severance of Kashmir from the 
mainland. But that was not to be. 

Before mid-day the President decided to address the nation; the bold tone of his voice did not come from a strong heart. His speech was full of 
jargon to invoke religious frenzy and patriotic emotions. The nation was at war, which the President had not been ready to lace. Few knew that the 
tough sounding President had already started seeking interventions by powerful friends to influence a ceasefire without any preconditions. The 
nation and fighting men were being emotionally blackmailed. Ibis paradox was discovered by Air Mshl Asghar Khan during his solo military aid- 
seeking trip to China, Indonesia, Iran and Turkey. Premier Zhou- en- Lai had confronted him with the question as to why President Ayub Khan had 
started seeking a ceasefire already. What was the point in starting a war if Ayub Khan had not wanted to see it through to some conclusion? Hie 
baffled Air Marshal had no answer; for he was not aware that President Ayub Klian had been sending panic signals for a ceasefire. 

5 Fiza ’ya, Psyche of the Pakistan Air Force by Pushpinder Singh and Ravi Rikhye, Page 33. 

PAF’s Pre-emptive Strikes 

On 6th September at 1100 Hrs the C-in-C Air Mshl Nur Khan called the ACAS (Ops), Air Cdrc Rahim Klian, who had lived with the PAF’s 
‘Strike Plan’ since early June, and ordered that the plan should be enacted immediately. A flash message was initiated at 1200 Hrs to all 
concerned. Air Mshl Asghar Klian in his book The First Round recounts: 

I knew that the earliest we could mount a full-scale attack was at dusk that day 6th September. Our plans required about eight 

hours' clear notice being given to all operational units. On receipt of these a number of moves were to take place culminating in a 
full scale attack on all Indian air bases opposite East and West Pakistan. It was vital for the smooth launching of this strike that the 

decision be taken by about ten o’clock that morning. During the discussion a few other officers joined in and at least one suggested 

that we should wait and fight defensively; that is not to launch an offensive but wait to be attacked. I had been discussing these 
plans for the last eight years and was familiar with this timid view which I had firndy rejected in the past. I expressed my views 

again but this time without the authority of the office. I suggested a course of action that I knew was the only one we could safely 
adopt. Air Cdre Akhtar and Air Cdre Rahim Khan were both enthusiastic about it, and Nur Khan agreed that this was the right 
thing to do. I then hurried off to see the President to apprise him of the action the Pakistan Air Force proposed to take and, on its 
behalf, to seek his approval. 


Further down. Air Msbl Asgbar Khan makes some other statementsrelevant to the crucial moments. Ayub Khan gave the go ahead for the pre- 
emptive strike but warned him that no air action by the PAF in East Pakistan should be taken against Indian airfields. This reasserted the defensive 
mind- set of our President who had a limited knowledge of air strategy. F or him the prime role of an air force was to maintain a favourable air 
situation over the battle areas. IfNur Khan had not taken the initiative our lone Squadron at Dhaka could have been written off by the 10 odd LAF 
Squadrons on the 7th morning (thecomplete ineptitude of the IAF planners saved the lone Squadron). Nonetheless, in view of the critical 
developments, the Air Mshl chose to avoid discussion about restraint in East Pakistan, and assured the President that the PAF would live up to the 
nation’s expectations. 

Air Mshl Asgbar Khan laments that upon his return to the C ommand Operations Centre (COC) he found staff o Ulcers still discussing the plan, 
embroiling Air Mshl Nur Khan with the merits and de-merits of a pre-emptive strike, and further adding to the confusion Air Mshl Asgbar Khan 
recounts in his book 6: 

I found a discussion in progress again about the merits of taking the offensive. That is why planning for war is best done in peace 
time. All possible contingencies should be thought of and plans to meet each one of these worked out in the minutest detail. This is 
what we had endeavoured to do in the previous few years. Nur Khan had been away from the Air Force for six years and was 
naturally anxious to examine all aspects of the problem before taking a decision. The implications of this decision could be grave 
and his hesitation annoying, but it was nevertheless understandable. As he listened to the divergent views of his staff my anxiety at 
the consequences of the delay began to grow. I was convinced that if we did not put in the first attack the consequences would be 
serious. As it was, the possibility of the Indians launching an air attack at dusk could not be ruled out. This, however, I had thought 
unlikely since by launching an attack at dusk they would give us a night to recover. If they had intended to attack us first their best 
time was the early hours in the morning of the 6th. Since they > had launched a pre-arranged attack the omission of the air force was 
deliberate. However, situation and ideas change, and an air attack by them could not be ruled out. Ten o ’ clock in the morning, 
which I had set as the deadline for the decision, was well past and the discussion continued. These must have been the most 
frustrating moments of my life . 

This dithering of the staff did not change the mind of Nur Khan, but induced a crucial delay of one hour in the green light from him to launch. Air 
Mshl Asgbar Khan felt that the decision should have been taken by 1 000 Firs whereas it was taken at 1 1 00 Firs. This was not too late as it still 
allowed more than ample time to all the stations, already ordered to Phase- III a week ago, to implement their well rehearsed strike plans. Provided 
that the operational stall' had acted with alacrity and a sense of intense urgency, the message to the stations should have reached nuch earlier than 
1300 Firs as stated in the PAF’s official history. As per the rules governing such crucial signals, the flash signal should have been received by the 
commander at each station by 1 1 30 Firs at the latest. That this did not happen constituted a serious la i lure. 

6 The First Round , Page 19. 

The PAF had been in a state of readiness in Phase-Ill which meant ‘Red Alert’ for a week and relentless operations against enemy ground forces 
and air forces had already been going on for 6 days. From this state of readiness, the operational bases should not have required more than 2-3 
hours notice at the maximum to meet their pre-designated and highly rehearsed war role. 

The point being made here is that the warning time on 6th September had been adequate for the bases to launch strikes which had been played out 
for months since June 1965. The only exception had been No 1 9 Squadron because we were given a completely different target than what had 
been rehearsed. So if any one should have bad a grouse about insufficient time to plan a totally different target afresh, it should have been PAF 
Station Peshawar. The bottom line is that if one of the Squadrons was able to pull off the assigned task given under similar circumstances, then 
there could have been be no valid excuse for Sargodba and Mauripur not to perform even better. 

THE 6TH SEPTEMBER STRIKE PLAN 7 
STATION Force Composition & TARGET 

Sargodha Sargodba Sargodha Sargodba Peshawar Mauripur Mauripur Mauripur 

Ordinance 

8 F-86s - Guns only 
8 F-86s - Guns only 
8 F-86s - Guns only 
4 T-33s - Guns only 
8 F-86s - Guns only 
8 F-86s - Guns only 

4 T-33 - Guns only Adampur (Aircraft on ground) I lalwara (Aircraft on ground) Amritsar Radar 
Ferozpur Radar 

Pathankot (Aircraft on ground) Jamnagar (Aircraft on ground) Porbunder Radar 
12 B-57s (4 each) Bombs Jamnagar. Adampur, 1 lalwara 

Dhaka 4 F-86s - Guns only (Runways & Aircraft) 

Kalaikunda & Bagbdogra (Aircraft on the airfields) 

This attack plan was a reflection of the 6th June plan with minor variations. Dining an earlier interview, Air Mshl Nur Khan told me that he had felt 
the plan was sound and there was no need to alter its prime ingredients which were: 1 ) demolishing lAF’s fighter bombers on the ground at its 
forward bases; 2) taking out the radars in the south and north; 3) making the runways untenable through bombing by B- 57s through out the night. 


What was missing from the original plan were repeat attacks against forward airfields at dawn again The commando force against these airfields 
was to be launched at midnight. This modification to the ‘June Plan’ had been done owing to the circumstances, deployment of forces and the 
important iactor of ‘the threat perception at that moment’. 

7 John Flicker laid out the attack plan as provided to himby AHQ, in his book Battle for Pakistan , Page 91. It is a mirror image of the official PAF historical record. 

Clearly, the pre-emptive initiative which was the core of the ‘June Plan’ had been lost as the Indian invasion came as a total surprise. However, the 
inexplicable conduct of the missing IAF compensated and provided an opportunity for the PAF to conduct an all out attack on the IAF bases and 
radars. If the PAF did not grasp the opportunity and launch the attack, the initiative would have been handed over to the adversary and that could 
have been the coup de grace for the PAF and a serious threat to the security of Pakistan Therefore, a preventive pre-emptive was the Hobson’s 
choice, not without hazards of its own from the possibility of high attrition which was within the capability of the enemy. All these threat 
perceptions, however, had been thoroughly hypothesized and every possible contingency lactored into the war planning process by Air Mshl 
Asghar Khan and his Chief of Operations, Air Cdre Rahim Khan, after the Rarm of Kutch skirmish. The irony was that Asgbar Khan was not in 
command in 1965 and everyounce of responsibility fell on Nur Khan’s shoulders and time was working against him on that morning of'6th Sept. 

As it happened, the PAF was the first to inform the President about the Indian attack at Wagha. History tells us that an airman from the Mobile 
Observer Unit (MOU) deployed at the forward most position on the Lahore border was the first to see the Indian soldiers on Pakistani soil in the 
wee hours of 6th September morning. He immediately withdrew and reported about the Indian incursion to the Station Commander Lahore. The 
Station Commander sent the airman back to his post, but sensibly called Air Cdre Akhtar (the senior officer in the COC who was in charge of the 
Air Operations when the Air Chief was away or resting) and narrated the incident. Akhtar called the President at about 0430 Firs, woke him up 
and told him that Pakistan was under attack on the Lahore front. Ayub Khan was totally rattled by the news. 

Right after informing the President, Air Cdre Akhtar infonred his own Cin-C Nur Khan, and told him about the Indian attack. The traumatised 
President woke up a sleepy Gen Musa and inquired if he had received die infomnation about the invasion by the Indian Amy. His response to the 
President was couched in the crass hope that die handfol of men deployed on the Wagha- Burki sector would defend the frontiers with their lives, 
which is exactly what happened. In his book, Gen Musa has not said anything significant about his action after the President’s call, except die 
rhetoric diat “die treacherous enemy had invaded our sacred land in a deceptive move, but our brave army was folly prepared to take on the 
enemy.” The tragedy is diat Gen Musa was rewarded with not only a Hilal-e- Jurat but the Governorship of East and then West Pakistan 

The entire PAF was waiting with bated breath for the word ‘GO’. At Peshawar, we received the message at mid- day dirough Wg Cdr M S Khan, 
a Signals Officer acting as a courier. As we got airborne I was certain diat the fomidable Falcons would soon be rising from Sargodha, since the 
flight time to their target was much less tiian ours. That was around 1 620 Hrs on the afternoon of 6th September. An impression exists that the 
aircraft had to be amned with rockets and hence pylons had to be lifted, which needed more time. That is totally incorrect because all the attackers 
were to use ‘Guns only’ and diat was specified in the operation order. 

At Peshawar, I had no apprehensions or fear of time constraint. We had more than adequate time to accomplish the assigned task despite die 
diversified target. All our pilots had flown earlier during the day and for me, the last sortie of die day was the fourth mission, but diis was of Me 
relevance to our stamina. Any insinuation of fatigue would have been sniggered at by the combat pilots at the three stations. 

It would be instructive to understand in simple words the anatomy of offensive counter air operations, their significance, the relative complexity and 
the danger involved in the execution of each type of mission The most complex and demanding operational mission that put the professional calibre 
of fighter and bomber pilots to test was to conduct offensive counter air operations. In simple tenns it means attacking enemy airfields, radars and 
other valuable assets, which are heavily defended by die air defence elements comprising radar and communication networks, fighter interceptors, 
SAMs and Ack-Ack guns (radar controlled as well as manual). During the execution of such a mission, if die attackers are intercepted by the 
opponent’s fighters, it constitutes the most dangerous moments in a pilot’s mission. 

So how does a fighter/bomber pilot feel as he sits in his cockpit to start off for a counter-air operation/airfield strike mission? One of the world’s 
most renowned aces of the US Air Force and also the first man to go into space in a rocket propelled aircraft, Brig Gen Chuck Yeager (also 
known as die fastest man alive), described his feelings as he was about to lead his Squadron of Mustangs to attack the heavily defended enemy 
airfield ofRechlin in Germany during WW-II. I met Yeager in 1971 during one ofhis visits to No 33 Wing at Sargodha and I asked him what his 
worst fear was during WW-II operations. He narrated this story to me and promised to send me a copy ofhis book. For enthusiasts of air war I 
have ventured to reproduce his narrative oftiiat strike. He writes: 

I was elated flying home, but shaky, too. That flak was damned close, and I always figured that if I busted my ass, it would be down 
on the deck rather than up in the sky, dog fighting where there were thousands of feet of sky in every direction to out-manoeuvre an 
enemy aiiplane determined to destroy you. There wasn ’t much room for ducking on the deck, where one lucky shot could blow the 
radiator in your belly and bring you down. With only sporadic fighter resistance against our bombers, we had full ammo to strafe 
targets of opportunity on the way home. But the strafing mission we most dreaded was ‘hitting airfields’. Then, you had to hit fast, 
come at them from different directions and varying altitudes, and take them by surprise. God help your ass if you are a tail-end 
Charlie in the last wave. By then the Ack-Ack are ready. 

After I shot down that plane, I was assigned to lead the entire group on a strafing mission against Rechlin; the most heavily 
defended air base in Germany. Located in the suburbs of Berlin, it was the German Wright Field, where all of their latest aircraft 
were tested and maintained. Bombing operations had been ineffective; I was ordered to lead our three Squadrons onto the deck to 
destroy their service hangers and any airplanes caught on the ground. The place was swarming with antiaircraft batteries, and we 
were relying on the element of surprise plus predicted low visibility to make it through. I wasn ’t a warrior after months of flying 
combat, I was fatalistic. Hell, ifltook-off with a rough engine, so what? It would probably smooth out, but if not, I would cope 


somehow. But the Rechlin assignment scared me to death. 


I remember sitting in my airplane, warming up for take-off, feeling clammy with real premonition that I was taking my last ride. The 
weather was terrible at both ends, rain squalls and turbulent winds; and I had to figure a way to get to the target and get out in one 
piece. I knew I was leading a lot of guys to their death, and there wasn ’t a damn thing I could do about it. Andy was scheduled to 
lead the final wave of Mustangs in the attack, probably taking the worse pounding of all. I was usually confident and gung-ho, but I 
found myself praying for a mission abort. Man, I had the shakes: I did not want to fly into the sky that day. And that morning. . . we 
got an abort just as I began to taxi out to the runway. Zero visibility at the target. I never wore a bigger grin, and when I saw Andy, 

I hugged that son of a — and we began to laugh like two crazy men. 

Yeager’s thoughts and emotions are a graphic representation of what goes on in a pilot’s mind when he is launching into a counter air operation 
mission. 

Sarfaraz Rafiqui’s attack on Hahvara, the abortive strike against Adampur and several attacks against Indian airfields in the Eastern sector by No 
14 Squadron, attacks on Patbankot, Srinagar and Jammu radars by No 19 Squadron and Amritsar radar by No 32 and 33 fighter wings were 
some of the examples of offensive counter air operations in the 1 965 war with India. Tlie unfortunate shooting down of professionally outstanding 
pilots like Sarfaraz Rafiqui and Yunus by comparatively inexperienced Indian pilots illustrates two factors; first, how perilous an airfield strike could 
be even for ace pilots; second, how relatively easy it could be for even inexperienced pilots to bring down an attacking aircraft on their own turf 

19 Squadron Strikes Again 

At about 1200 Elrs, I was banded a signal by our Station Commander. I opened it and read the incredible message: “No 19 Squadron is tasked to 
cany out strike against Patbankot Airfield with eight F- 86 aircraft, with Guns only x 1 800 Rounds, single attack against aircraft on ground. 
Moderate Ack-Ack defences expected. TOT 1705 Hrs”. The target allocation came as a big surprise for me. Patbankot bad not been assigned as 
a target in June or later. Consequently, we had Me information about its lay out, the dispersal areas and aircraft shelter complex or even the 
runways direction which was an absolute pre-requisite for an airfield attack. This information was indispensable for the success of the attack, 
especially because we would be operating at the outer most fringes of our operational radius of action and would haveMe firel for loitering around 
to familiarize ourselves with the lay-out down below. 

I tried to convince myself that an airfield strike should not be too different from vvliat we had nearly perfected. That’s how I felt momentarily but 
soon the complexity of attacking an unfamiliar target at maximum range and penetrating through the IAF Air Defence Ground Environment 
(AIXjE), with good chances of being intercepted, dampened the excitement. One thing I knew for sire was that I had my dream team ready, and 
they would perform well in the changed situation as long as I could lead them to the target. We had been waiting to respond to any task at a 
moment’s notice, and now that defining moment had arrived and we had to get a move on. My comment to the Station Commander about the 
change of target did not get any response except his lamous shrug 

We bad been operating wholly from the Air Defence Alert bunker all along. This being a special moment and the tact that eveiy one I bad intended 
to take along bad already flown one or two missions, I thought it would be a good idea to have some rest in a cool environment, not sure who 
would not return from the mission I bad asked try buddy Sqn Ldr Iqbal (Bala), commanding tine special EUNT U-2 unit (of Gaiy Powers lame), 
to let my pilots and I have the use of his centrally air-conditioned crew room (called the ‘Droopy hangar’). It was equipped with superb leather 
chairs which could recline into a bed. I consulted with Mo Akbar to decide the names of the pilots for this highly demanding and perilous mission 
While deciding the names, I had upper most in my mind the lactor of attrition Who should I take and who should I leave? 

I had a difficult choice but finally I selected the best seven in my opinion As the names stalled appearing on the board, there was a bunch banging 
over the Flight Commander’s head as he scribbled the order of the formation For most it was like winning a lottery as they found themselves on 
the mission, while others cursed for missing out on this first strike mission Surely, the two laces that I shall never forget were those of Abbas 
Kliattak and Arshad Sami (whose son Adnan Sami Khan is now a lamous singer). I had a special feeling about young Abbas Kliattak and Arshad 
Sami because in the short period they were in my squadron they had shown great potential and I saw them as the rising stars in the PAF. When I 
thought of the attrition which was inevitable and predictable, I had second thoughts about taking along these two young pilots. Luckily, both Abbas 
and Sami bad been on ADA and had just landed, so I had the justification to leave out both of them and suggested six others of the best warriors, 
besides Mo Akbar and myself 

When these two saw their names missing I could see an expression of extreme disappointment. Abbas Kbattak looked in try direction and I could 
not mistake that he was holding back tears of disillusionment. I looked at him and said, ‘Hey boy, not to worry, the war has just started and you 
have already flown a mission.” That did not do much for him and I was confounded between compassion and military tradition. I called out to Mo 
Akbar and told him to change my No 6 and put Abbas Kliattak in the position. Looking at Sami, I decided to add an escort with the formation I 
told Arshad Sami, ‘You are going to be our front and rear guard boy so cheer up.” He did not get me at first and I thought he too was holding 
back tears. I told Mo Akbar to put Wg Cdr Tawab (he had been my OC Flying Wing at Mauripur but currently assigned to my unit for the 
duration of war) and Arshad Sami as tactical escorts toprotect us in case we were intercepted. “We want the best air combat chaps for this role,” 

I told Mo. I felt that did the trick for both Abbas Kbattak and Arshad Sami; such was the spirit of the pilots in No 19 Squadroa I told every one 
to assemble at the ‘Droopy bangqr’ for rest and briefing immediately. 

It would be pertinent to mention that most of the pilots were Hying our third sortie of the day, and had not slept more than a few hours for many 
nights. ‘Bala’ Iqbal’s crew room was what we needed for a couple of bom's of uninterrupted snooze before we launched the strike missioa In the 
luxury of Bala’s crew room, Mo Akbar and I careftilly studied the map and decided that the first leg at 25,000 feet should be a ruse to confuse the 
enemy radar which would indeed pick us up as we neared the Cbenab River. Thereafter, we would descend steeply to disappear from the radar 
screen before turning towards the target. 



The tedious calculations of actual headings to steer and ground speed had to be worked out very meticulously and we did not have the time for 
that. So I asked one of Bala’s navigators to give me eight sets of flight plan cards according to the route and attack plan 1 had drawn out. Our plan 
was to go towards Gujranwala at 25,000 feet to let the enemy radar at Amritsar see us and hopefully, predict our flight path towards Hahvara. We 
were to descend steeply on that heading till we fell out of Amritsar radar as we hit the deck, turning towards Pasrur air strip as the Initial Point (IP) 
and then run-in towards the target, hopefully undetected. 

Standing in the plush crew room I had a sudden impulse. I asked one of my boys to get hold of a bottle of eau de cologne and pom- it in a large 
bucket of cold water, ready with ten bind- towels immersed in the bucket at exactly 1 600 Hrs. Hie pilot looked at me with a comical expression 
but I told him not to waste time and go find the cologne. Hien I got all the eight attack pilots and the escorts to get some mandatory sleep. In the 
cool comfort of those luxury chairs we all were out like babies, Mgued from day’s tension. ThoselOO minutes in the leather bound chairs was like 
a catharsis and it was over in what seemed like a blink. I was disturbed by our perennially nervous Station Commander (the good Auzi Khan bad 
been posted out in July as Air Mshl Nur Khan took over command, and we really missed him in this hour of need), who insisted I call my wife 
because she had made life miserable for him, calling every 10 minutes. Reluctantly I dialled the number, and when I got through, I couldn’t believe 
it when I heard her screaming in the phone about some problem with the old, Mhfiil cook! 

Back in the hangup I gently nudged the eight heads turn by turn to awaken the young Falcons. Zambo (our call sign) fonnation was up and the 
bucket of sweet smelling cologne water with 10 or more hand towels was given to me. I said to try team, “Boys we don’t know who will be the 
unlucky ones who won’t be able to dodge the enemy Ack- Ack. They would surely anive in the reception hall up there (Heaven) at around 1715 
Hrs; but let us be sure we all smell good for the promised houris and angels who will receive us at the gates leading to heaven, for fighting as Allah 
Iras commanded us.” Most of our coveralls were white with the salt of sweat from the hot and humid September summer and the towels worked 
magic on my team 

I read in a recent article by the IAF Air Marshal Rag) ra vend ran, The Day’ The PAF Got Away , that at that veiy moment, he as a Gnat Squadron 
Cmdr at Patbankot had been trying to convince Iris Base Commander, Group Captain Suri, to authorise a CAP before dusk! But God was 
guarding us Zambos as tire dithering commander bad refirsed to authorise the CAP, to save flying effort. Bless him for Iris obduracy! 

I told my team that I would not do tire regular strike briefing because we had done that plenty of times. However, unlike Ambala we had no 
information, pictorial or otherwise, on the lay-out of the airfield at Patbankot. Consequently, in the absence of any photograph of the dispersal 
areas and pen’s location, we would not be able to execute according to our well- rehearsed attack profile. I told theml would allocate targets after 
pull-up and possibly stagger tire second section I realized that I had to take account of eight aircraft in attack at the same time in restricted air 
space, which was not a comforting drought owing to dre danger of mid-air collision, in an action-packed environment, with anti-aircraft flack 
blazing. So I decided to play it by sight and would instinct the second element into atiack as the situation demanded. 

A brief re-cap of tire sortie emphasized that our primary mission was to attack the aircraft on the ground. If bounced by enemy interceptors, 
however, no one was to take any action until I said so, except if the atiack was imminent. I drove home drat the safest path was an unwavering 
attack on tire target, ‘lfyou waver you will collide with a stray Ack- Ack shell inscribed ‘to whom it may concern’ and up there the Creator will 
sort you out for violating tire lighter pilot’s code of honour.” Finally, when I asked if they bad anyquestions about any part of the mission, there was 
a powerful silence, which conveyed to me that they were anxious to get on with the mission 

The two escorts Wg Cdr Tawab and Fit Iti Arsliad Sami were told to stay behind and at the same level with the main formation, and to descend 
with us close to Gujranwala. Once at deck level we would turn towards the IP and the escorts would maintain level and stay behind us. They 
would commence pull-up to 1 5,000 feet on my cue about two minutes (14 miles to the tar-get) from our pull-up point; to stay out of Ack- Ack 
range, keeping tire attack fonnation in sight at all time, and engage any one bouncing us. We had to maintain formation integrity unless seriously 
threatened. Tire escort mission was to make sure that our strike went through without any interruption by IAF interceptors. In case we were 
bounced by more than four aircraft, then only the threatened pair would be asked to punch drop tanks and engage. Tire rest would accomplish tire 
assigned mission at all cost, with no panic. 

We all moved on to our aircraft and radio check-in was completed at 1 6 1 5 Hrs. Monrents later, ten fighters were lined- up on the runway and the 
engine check at 100% power must have sounded like angjy thunder. As soon as the last man had conferred ready, I called, “Leader rolling, 
Bismillah Ar Rehman Ar Rahim (Begin with tire name of the Allah, the most merciful and beneficent)”. We had a Hi-Lo-Hi profile with a steep 
change in our heading for the final run in to tire IP 8 . As we climbed to our planned height I looked at the other seven hr immaculate finger- four 
formations. Hrere was eerie silence (as a pre- determined code of mission conduct) as I waggled ny wings to indicate commencement of descent. 

I heard a crackling of tire radio as I began to descend, but no transmission was heard. About 1 0 minutes from the tar-get at deck level, I sensed we 
were 3-4 miles olf track. I got a feeling my compass was bucking on me on this most crucial mission of ny life. In lact it had an error. I waggled 
wings and No 3, Dilawar Hussain instantly closed hi I made signs about direction; within seconds he gave nre a correction of six degrees. It was 
an excellent correction by him as it turned out. We bad arrived smack-on at the IP, over Pasrur air ship, and I punched my aircraft clock and 
altered course for tire final run- in to the target, keeping my finger's crossed about the accuracy of the compass. I waggled again and got a 2-degree 
correction from Dilawar. The moment of truth was nearing and adrenaline was spiking our stomachs. Ninety seconds to pull-up. 

By Jove, look what is up there? A pair of enemy fighters in what was about four miles at 2 o’clock position turning left. I held my breath, clenched 
my teeth and prayed to Almighty for them to pass without sighting us. I decided to keep mum hoping the escorts would have picked them up; they 
bad not, because tire pair crossed above and behind. Tire enemy fighters passed smack on top of us but being high (I thought around 5,000 ft) they 
appeared to have missed us altogether. I broke radio silence for the first time, but did not announce the enemy above. May be it was a wrong 
decision but that was my instinctive reaction with an intent to maintain fonnation integrity. I called, “Zambos, one minute to attack.” Thirty seconds 
later I called; “Re-check circuit-breakers IN, Guns HOT, 30 seconds to pull-up.” Then I said, “ Allah-o-Akbar (Allah is tire Greatest)” as I 
commenced pull-up. Bang on, at 1 1 o’clock position, at 2 miles on my left lay the airfield of Patbankot. 



Instantly, my eyes caught a number of Mysteres and two Mig-2 1 sparked next to each other in the northern dispersal area. I called out excitedly, 
‘There are Mig-2 1 s and plenty of aircraft around, let’s go lor them”. Abbas Kbattak ( flying my No 4) later told me that he took my call to suggest 
the Mig-2 Is were in the air and he broke so hard that he was back in position after the 360 turn; only his chewing gum went missing! I instructed 
Fit Lt Mo Akbar, leading the second four, to loosen out to the right and make a 90-270 turn to let us get two attacks. This was a deviation from 
the standard attack but this was war. I called, “Leader is in,” and went lor the first Mig-2 1 . 

8 Initial Point is a prominent ground feature selected while mission planning, located between 30 to 

40 miles short of the target. This facilitates the formation leader to make adjustments in heading and time to the pull-up point where the leader begins a climb with his 
formation and enters into the attack. 


At the end of my second attack I pulled up and transmitted, “In for last attack” as Mo Akbar had called ‘IN’ for Iris first attack. Mo Akbar called 
and said, “Not lair, sir, leave us alone.” I laughed to myself and promised him plenty of shooting, but pressed on for a third attack. For the 
professionals it would be prudent to explain that our attacks were extremely swift, in a constant 3-4 ‘G’ pattern, pulling-off and re-entering within a 
90 degrees arc. Finally we exited, with my No 2 glued on mv left at 1 ,000 ft regulation distance as though we were practicing at Janrud range. As 
I was exiting at 50 ft or so heading towards the Pathankot ATC building I spotted a transport aircraft. Just as I was about to sight and blow it up, 
my wingman Arshad called, ‘Permission to shoot die transport aircraft at 12.” 

‘Go ahead, and don’t miss it or hit me,” I replied. His bullets went past me on the right and hit the C- 1 19 Packet on the ‘bull’s eye’. “Well done 
boy, let us get out!” I was hearing No 6 calling ‘IN’ as we left the airfield at Pathankot, pulverized and in flames. The escort leader, Wg Cdr M G 
Tawab, called very excitedly, “Zambo leader, fantastic shooting I can count 14 fires, it’s an inferno down below.” 

“Roger sir,” I acknowledged and asked for a feel check when No 8 (Ghani Akbar) was heard calling off fromhis second attack. I had a strange 
sense of incredible gratitude towards the Almighty that with all that Ack- Ack blazing away at eight aircraft in a tight circuit, only two aircraft were 
scratched with shrapnel that too negligibly. I called out and told the Zambosto hug the ground for 7-8 minutes till everyone was well inside Pak 
territory, and join up in pairs, keeping cross-cover. Amazing as it may sound they were all re (brined in elements within a couple of minutes. Hie 
foel check was not good news for most of my fonnation meirbers. Some were as low as 1 ,400 lbs and that is when I directed all aircraft with less 
than 1,500 lbs to head for Sargodha and asked for a channel change to the air defence frequency for help to recover at Sargodha. 

When Air Cdre Masroor Hussain, die Air Defence Commander, heard our check-in, he came on the radio and said, “Haider you have caused us 
heart attacks, we expected you on the radar scope 1 1 minutes ago, what’s happening? Tlie entire Ops Command lias been in suspense as to what 
happened to the eight aircraft.” I replied by giving him a snap account of the attack but the great news was that all 10 were safely exiting Later, 
after recovery, which was superbly guided by Sakesar, Air Cdre Akhtar, followed by the C-in-C AM Nur Khan, talked to me and said they had 
feared the worse when we didn’t show up on the scope at the predicted time. I gave him the attack picture blow by blow and proudly said, “Every 
one is back, sir. I decided to conduct more attacks as there were a lot of aircraft and I didn’t feel it right to run off after die first attack”. He said 
“Very well done, you chaps may have made history.” I chose not to tell the Chief that Abbas Kbattak and Ghani Akbar were so low on fiiel that 
Abbas flamed out before reaching the aircraft shelter. Phew! It was close but it was a decision I had made with foil cognizance of the 
consequences. 

It would be interesting to see how this mission was seen by the adversary, 40 years later. One such fighter pilot, later an IAF Air Marshal, who has 
recently relived the Pathankot Strike, was a Gnat Squadron Commander at Pathankot watching the Zairbos of No 1 9 Squadron decimating their 
aircraft right in front of their eyes, peering from the trenches. Must have been an awesome sight! Here is the account of Air Marshal S 
Ragbavendran who witnessed the attack: 

There was pandemonium. Bullets were flying all around. We all rushed to the nearest trench and dived in, not sitting and crouching 
as we should have been but piling ourselves flat on top of each other! We could hear and see the Pakistani Sabres going round and 
round, as though in range practice, and picking off all the possible aircraft, including the 2 MG21s, in spite of the anti-aircraft 
guns blazing away. The rest is history. We were told that 4 Sabres had attacked, but since they were going round and round we 
couldn V count them accurately whenever we put our head up in the trench. 

Mystere IA-1008, 31 Squadron was destroyed in the Pathankot raid by the PAF. The Mystere had just returned from a sortie and was 
being flown by Squadron Leader Tony Mousinho. 28 Squadron had six PF’s and four FI 3s (Type-74) on strength. . . Two MiG-21 
PFs (Type-7 6s) of 28 Squadron, which were flown there on September 2nd by Wing Commander MSD Wollen and Squadron Leader 
Mukherjee, were destroyed on the ground during the raid. 

I have no doubt that none of the Pakistani aircraft would have gone back had the four Gnats been airborne. I am not saying this out 
of bravado. That same evening the PAF had launched attacks on two other Indian airfields, Adampur and Halwara, besides 
Pathankot. The PAF formation bound for Adampur had not even reached their target, but abandoned their strike after a brief 
encounter with a formation of IAF Hunters on the way. At Halwara, four IAF Hunters had been on combat air patrol when the 
Pakistanis arrived, and all but one of the attacking Sabres were shot down, one even by a young Flying Officer, VK Neb, who was 
still U/T Ops. We would have done just as well; I am sure, with our high calibre Squadron. Unfortunately, the anti-aircraft guns 
didn V get any of them either and so the PAF got away with it. 

Once back, there was a thunderous welcome by all and sundry at the station. Armen were saying thanks giving prayers for all the pilots coming 
safely back. Every one was curious to know what results had been achieved. All the 1 0 pilots were together in the ops room, filing in after- mission 
reports with some what exaggerated claims. As I glanced over a few of them I saw a Mig-2 1 being claimed. This was a difficult moment and I 
decided to be diplomatic for a change but not without announcing that only Klialid Latif shot a Mig in my view, the rest were Mysteres. Anyhow, I 
decided to wait till the films came. I had briefed the armament crews to make sure all the films were secure and ready for me to see that evening. 


Klialid and my film had the two Mig-2 1 s blazing away. Also, Mo Akbar, Ghani Akbar, Arshad, Dilawai' and Abbas Khattak had good shots of 
their attacks, though the film quality was poor or perhaps the light conditions made the frames hazy. Only one from the formation had a bad 
shooting film, but 7 out of 8 pilots scoring was a damned good performance. The India Pakistan Air War of 1965 is a well researched book, 
especially their statistics of kills and aircraft destroyed on the ground. The author's Jagan Mohan and Samir Chopra have written a comprehensive 
narrative of the 1 965 war, which is fairly authentic as far as the PAF operations earned out inside enemy territory are concerned. The authors have 
captured the moments at Patbankot prior to the attack most vividly. Nearly seven pages have been devoted to describe in vivid detail the attack by 
tlie Zambos ofNo 19 Squadron. 1 have now learnt why we did noteneounter any IAF interceptor's. It is a lesson for both the air forces in how 
poor decisions by timid commanders can impact the outcome of operations. 

The authors state that the Base Commander of Patbankot, Group Captain Suri, had been told during a Western Air' Command meeting that the 
Indian Army had crossed the International border into Pakistan, but that the high command had authorised the Indian Air Force (IAF) only to 
detail missions against targets of opportunity and that no counter air' operations against PAF stations were allowed. He did not elaborate as to why 
the IAF Chief bad restrained Iris commanders from attacking PAF stations. Apparently, the pilots at Pathankot were quite upset at this defensive 
policy. The real story behind the IAF not attacking at dawn on the 6th retrains a mystery because if that was to be true how come the IAF was 
piled up at their forward airfields of Adampur and Halwara on the 6th afternoon? There could have been no doubt that the IAF strikes on the 7th 
had been planned. 

It also appears that the air defence controller at the Amritsar radar' (IAF’s main radar) site had tried to contact the Base Commander at Pathankot 
to warn him, but was not able to get through. As a second choice, he talked to the OC Flying Wing Wg Cdr Kuriyan and told him that the radar 
bad picked up several Sabres from the vicinity of Sargodha (this was our formation), but that they bad lost radar' contact as the Sabres seem to 
have descended very low (this is an amazing discovery for us today that the Amritsar radar' thought we were coming from Sargodha, which is way 
to the South, but it was our tactical planning to be picked up near' Gujranwala as though we were heading for Halwara). However the radar could 
see a lone aircraft heading towards Pathankot at 19,000 ft (this was in fact our escort pair led by Wg Cdr Tawab who bad made the near- fatal 
mistake of violating try briefing and, had stayed high providing the tell- tail signs of our raid). Thereafter, a certain Wg Cdr Dandapani at Amritsar 
bad suggested to the OC Flying Wing at Pathankot to scramble Pathankot air defence elements. Wing Commander Kuriyan claimed to have 
informed the Base Commander about the raid report, and asked permission to scramble his fighters, but was refused. 

It is suggested by the Indian authors that the Base Commander was annoyed by the insistent OC Flying Wing and ordered him off the shill. While 
this entire hullabaloo was going on, some of the ground support missions were recovering at Pathankot. It also appeal's that some Gnats were 
providing air cover to the ground support Mysteres who were also recovering at Pathankot, being low on fire! This is when we pulled up and 
entered into the attack. At Pathankot, the ATC crew had been monitoring the conversation between the radar controller and the OC Flying Wing, 
and wondering what the hell was going on, but their eyes were scanning the Western horizon. Suddenly the ATC frantically started yelling “In 
coming raid” to warn the aircraft which were landing on the runway or taxiing back to then' protective pens. This is how it looked from the Indian 
base, as described by the authors of the Indo-Pak Air War of 1965 : 

Wing Commander Kuriyan became aware of the attack as he was driving into his garage at home and heard the Ack-Ack open up. 
Immediately thereafter he saw 8 Sabres pulling up for the attack He saw 4 diving to low level, firing their machine guns while the 
other 4 pulled to higher altitudes. The AA guns had opened up and sound of the Sabres ’ eight (in fact 6 guns) . 50 Calibre guns 
created an air shattering crescendo. There was chaos on the ground as aircraft were taxiing in every direction. The attacks carried 
on unmitigated. Finally, as the Sabres left, ten plumes of smoke rose in the air. The raid had been highly successful, resulting in the 
destruction of 10 IAF aircrafts; 6 Mysteres from 3 Squadron. 2 from 31 Squadron. 1 Gnat, 1 Fairchild Packet and 2 MiG-2 Is. Three 
other aircrafts were damaged. 

This statement by the authors in 2005 reconfirms and substantiates almost 100% of the claims made by us after the mission against Pathankot. The 
onfy error of judgment is that some ofmypilots claimed Mig-21s instead of Mysteres which is perfectly understandable. No 19 Squadron can be 
proud of its success for the second time in one day! 

10 

SUCCESS TURNS TO FAILURE 

The statistical data about the exact number of missions flown by Sargodha during the war is still not accessible owing to the inexplicable policy of 
the PAF in keeping records that are halfa centmy old as a secret. Consequently, the details given have been extracted from John Flicker’s semi- 
official history of the PAF. On 6 th September 1965, Sargodha had launched 11 sorties on the Lahore front to followup the No 19 Squadron 
mission. In addition, 4 sorties had been launched in the Jassar area. Tliere is no mention of any CAPs before 1500 Hi's except the 2 F-104s which 
intercepted the Mysteres attacking our train at Gakkliar in the official PAF history. Perhaps some F-86 missions may have been flown for air 
defence but tliere is no mention in the official history in its coverage of 6 th September 1 . Two F- 1 04s were sent in the afternoon to recce Adampur 
and Halwara, to check the presence of aircraft at these bases. This was to validate the purpose of the pre-emptive strikes. 

Adampur Strike 

A Cdre Mitty Masud, Station Commander Sargodha and possibly the Air Defense Commander presumed that the late arrival of the Sargodha 
strikes would be met with scores of IAF interceptors buzzing all over the place. This over assessment of IAF command’s efficiency to have 
reacted so swiftly across the border as Patbankot was being attacked proved to be wrong and it was devastating for the pre-emptive magnum 
opus of the PAF. 



Resultantly, too many fighters were kept on Air Defence and No 1 1 Squadron launclied-offlate with just three F-86s for Adampur around 1710 
Hrs. By then our attack on Pathankot was already raging. While recalling the mission, Sqn Ldr MM Alam (Formation Leader) said that he saw 4 
Hunters crossing over high near Tam Taran In recent and lairly credible research published by authors Jagan Mohan and Samir Chopra in the 
India-Pakistan Air War of 1965 , it is stated that the 4 Hunters that came across the PAF strike formation were actually returning to their base, 
Hahvara after an abortive CAS strike mission and were not prowling CAPS from Adampur under control of Amritsar radar (code named ‘Fish- 
oil’, as mentioned in the PAF histoiy). Had these Hunters been scrambled by ‘Fish-oil’ they would have been in the vicinity of their own airfield 
and not heading north-east, straight and level towards their base. There was no role played by ‘Fish-oil’ in detecting the PAF raids heading for 
Adairpur and Hahvara. 

1 Th e Story of the Pakistan Air Force , Pages 360-362. 

The after-mission report and statement by the leader of the F-86 formation to John Flicker soon after the war raises some interesting questions 
purely from the point of view of basic tactics. The PAF strike formation was short of Tam Taran, south of Amritsar, when they spotted four 
Hunters crossing on top at 90 degrees. It would seem that it was the PAF strike leader who chose to jettison the tanks and go after the Hunters, 
who then jettisoned their drop tanks and turned towards the Sabres and a brief air combat ensued. That means that the PAF strike force drew the 
Hunters into a fight and not die Hunters who started die combat. Then the strike leader states diat they were fighting at tree- top level in scissors at 
very low speeds. He claimed never to have fought at such low heights before and at less than 200 Kts. From here on, the accounts of historians 
frombodi sides tally to the extent that a dog- fight at very low level ensued. 

Sqn Ldr Peter Rawlley, who was No 3 in die formation executed a break into the Sabre behind him (most likely the leader of Sabre fomnation), 
misjudged his proximity to mother earth and cart wheeled into the ground (a combat accident). Even the F-86 formation leader did not claim 
shooting down Rawlley, but only taking a shot at him at high angle and not sure aboutregistering a hit. Still, the benefit of the doubt was given to 
him That was fair enough because the enemy had lost an aircraft. He was awarded this as ‘destroyed’ by the PAF as well as Indian historians. 
Ostensibly, this aircraft was the only one dial was lost during this brief engagement; the other 3 Hunters with Wg Cdr Zachariah, Fit Lt Sinha and 
Sqn Ldr Shamna disengaged, claiming to be low on feel and returned to their base, Hahvara. The Hunter aircraft enjoyed a clear edge over the F- 
86 in power and thus in speed. Consequently, unlike die Sabres, the Hunters had die choice to disengage when circumstances so demanded. No 
other Hunter was actually shot in this encounter. Yet, this was proof of the grit and confidence of our fighter pilots to engage die adversaiy on their 
turf 

There has been some commentary on the Adampur air battle which is somewhat questionable. Firstly, it is inpossible for a fighter pilot to keep eye 
contact, as was claimed by die Squadron Leader Alam, with 7 aircraft dogfighting at tree- top level, pulling max ‘Gs’ at 200 Kts in combat over 
enemy territory. Secondly, the PAF’s official history 2 claiming that the all India radio had announced that “Fit Lt Hussain (believed to be son of the 
Indian Vice President Zakir Hussain) had been awarded the ‘ Vir Chakra’ for bringing back a badly damaged Hunter after intercepting die enemy 
Sabres at about the time of the first engagement near Adampur”, was also not correctly perceived. The authors of the India-Pakistan Air War of 
1965 have confinned to me that no pilot by die name of Fit Lt Hussain (or the son of the Indian Vice President Zakir Hussain) was present any 
where in the area on that day. 

The official Indian histoiy of fosses dining the 1 965 War (which are essentially accurate), also confirms that no other IAF pilots were shot at or 
lost, except Rawlley. They have recorded the loss of Sqn Ldr Rawlleyas lost after hitting the ground during combat. The last paragraph of the 
Adairpur episode indie PAF History- 1988 ends with an amazing end piece, “Although these Sabres had been prevented from reaching their 
target, die PAF could feel reasonably well feel satisfied at the credit balance of two Hunters destroyed and tiiree more damaged without loss.” This 
meant a claim of five Hunters destroyed and/or damaged, as recorded by our historians while there were only four Hunters in the only combat 
which took place! These claims were also not backed with any film, eye witness account or other valid evidence or proof The Indians deny these 
claims as well as an alleged second encounter which presumably never took place. Even Air Cdre Kaiser Tulail in his well researched book Great 
Air Battles of Pakistan Air Force has not alluded to the Adampur air battle at all, leave alone substantiating the claim of die shooting down of 3 
aircraft by the leader of the formation. 

I lalvvara Strike 

The inexplicable depletion of the strike force at Sargodha dining that afternoon should have been questioned by the PAF leadership but to be told 
at 1 700 Hrs (die time when the strikes were expected to be going in for the kill) that only 6 fighter aircraft were available out of over 70 fighters 
held at Sargodha should have created an alann Hie nonavailability of aircraft, I am certain, must have been particularly demoralizing for the fighter 
pilots, who were impatiently waiting for aircraft allocation from base operations since 1 600 Hrs to launch-olf by 1 640 Firs. Sqn Ldr Sarfaraz 
Rafiqui’s formation was delayed even further by several cmcial minutes after the Adampur strike comprising just three F-86s had taken-olf His 
formation got airborne when day- light was lading last in the target area as they crossed the border. The aborted Adampur strike was already 
returning and crossed Rafiqui’s fomnation near the border. This meant that Rafiqui had taken-off at around 1 720 Hrs or even minutes later, which 
was nothing short of courting disaster - doomed to become a suicidalmission 

^ The Story of the Pakistan Air Force, Page 365. 

Cecil Choudhiy said that Rafiqui had sounded the foreboding as they sat waiting for their aircraft, when crucial minutes were slipping by. Rafiqui 
was alleged to have said that it was developing “into a one way mission.” This was because the Pathankot strike was in the attack while they were 
still on die ground and they rightly felt that the IAF would react with massive CAP effort over die other bases to deal with further strikes. Butch 
Ahmed made contact with Rafiqui’s formation and warned him to look out for lots of Hunters for the reason that their formation had encountered 
enemy aircraft. Evidently, Rafiqui’s formation did not run into any Indian Hunters till tiiey had amived in the vicinity of Hahvara and were reportedly 
circling to look for the airfield. 


According to the narrative of Rafiqui’s wing man, (No 2), Cecil, the visibility had deteriorated owing to their late arrival and they could barely 
identify ground features even from 1 ,500 feet (inexplicably though he states in the same sentence that their formation was flying at 150-200 ft 
AGL). What becomes evident from the narrative of the sole survivor, though not explicitly admitted by him was that they had missed the target 
and spent the next live minutes at 200 ft AGL trying to locate it. The narrative also does not mention that the formation had arrived on top of the 
airfield, because the visibility and light conditions had prevented recognition of any ground features. However, from present historical renditions by 
Indian authors, it is reasonable to assume that Rafiqui’s formation did fiy over I lalwara airfield possfolywitbout realizing it. Just a couple of minutes 
before their arrival, 3 of the 4 Hunters (Sqn Ldr Rawlley having crashed) led by Zachariah, who had mixed with Alarn’s formation, bad landed at 
Hahvara. 

The authors of The India-Pakistan A ir War of 1965 , state that when the 3 Hunter's were taxiing back to then' pens, the Ack- Ack opened up, 
lacing the sky with tracers. If true, this had announced the arrival of Rafiqui’s fonnation overhead. Quite possfoly, unable to make out the targets 
on the ground Rafiqui may well have been planning to exit safely. That was possfoly the moment when he spotted enemy aircraft on CAP at the 
southern end of the runway. From here on, there are several versions of the famous air battle which ensued. 

A reconstruction of events as evidenced in the recent dissertations by credible authors from India and Pakistan may help elicit the most probable 
pattern of what really occurred before and after Rafiqui and Yunus were shot down, hi the final analysis, there were only four Hunters 
overHahvara and not 10- 12 as claimed by the No 2, the only survivor from that iateftil strike. Rafiqui shot the leader of the first two Hunters 
spotted by him and by Cecil’s own irrefotable admission it was Yunus who bad gone after the second Hunter flown by Fig Off Ghandlu Gbandhi 
did manage a pot-shot at Cecil but was not able to get him. Ibis distraction cost Ghandhi dearly as Yunus, who was chasing Gbandhi, eventually 
managed to shoot him down. The No 2 himself admitted to me recently that he did not shoot the second Hunter from the first pair spotted by 
Rafiqui He had earlier claimed shooting down the third Hunter which did not happen because only the first two Hunters had been shot down - the 
third and fourth Hunters had shot Sariaraz Rafiqui and Yunus when the battle had ended. 

The Indian pilots who bad shot Rafiqui and Yunus confirmed that there were only two F-86s in the air battle and not three. Could that be 
construed to mean that the sole survivor, No 2, was no longer in the area when Rafiqui and Yunus were shot down? Since there were no ftrther 
dog fights and consequently no further loss of any Hunters, the air battle had ended there with two Hunters downed by Rafiqui and Yunus as these 
consummate fighter pilots were themselves martyred within seconds and crashed six miles west of Hahvara near the village of Haran The Hahvara 
dog fight bad come to a tragic end. 

The rest of the stray narrated by the surviving wing man about fighting with ten Hunters and shooting down three more before deciding to 
disengage at will, can at best be assigned to the fog of war; at worst a flight of laney. Both of these are possible dining war, but need to be cleared 
up half a century later. Air Cdrc Kaiser Tufail, the authors oftb e India-Pakistan Air War of 1965 and the recently released air combat losses of 
the IAF explicitly state that only four Hunters were involved in the fight over Hahvara and two of them were shot down in the periphery of the 
airfield. Consequently, the story told by Sariaraz Rafiqui’s wing man is unsubstantiated, as is his claim of shooting down an Indian Canberra 
bomber at night. The story chronicled by the PAF’s official history- 1988 also cannot stand the test of veracity as none of the doubtful and 
controversial claims by Sargodba were put through incisive scrutiny, including Cecil’s account, at any stage. Tlie PAF’s official history needs to be 
corrected - PAF’s proud legacy should not be subjected to denigration by critics just because it would be embanassing to admit exaggerations 
during the war (an understandable tendency at that time by both antagonists). These phantoms mustbe put to rest to retain the glory of the PAF. 

Fiasco of Jamnagar Strike 

The Sargodha fiasco was further compounded by the iailure of PAF Mauripur to launch the 8 aircraft strike a^inst Jamnagqr, for which the signal 
had been sent according to the June Plan Mauripur foiled to even attempt the dream mission Any commander with a resolute will would have at 
least sent a fonnation of six or even four F-86s to Jamnagar. Hiey would have destroyed a number of the Sea- Hawks, Vampires and Otter 
aircraft which were dispersed in the open and were sitting ducks. This collapse at Mauripur has been glossed over by the PAF historians who have 
employed the same irrationality as for Sargodba, to reinforce the justification of fewer aircraft, “None available for the PAF’s strategic strike, but 
several kept on stand-by reserve for anry support which was a shoddy approach to the cardinal mission” 

The research for this bungle-up has been made difficult by inaccessibility to simple statistics available in AHQ archives. I had to search for some 
one who was at Mauripur in a responsible position to provide information regarding the complete indifference to carry out the assigned war task. 
Through a former colleague I was able to get some amazing input about the Mauripur botch-up. One of the Squadron Leaders present at Mauripur 
was made in-ebarge of the remaining lighters by the Mauripur Base Commander Kliaqan Abbasi, since the OC 32 Wing had moved to Sargodha. 
According to this Squadron Leader, they had 14 to 16 F-86s left behind which included a few that were unserviceable; and about sixteen pilots. 
This combat availability was better than what was available to No 14 Squadron isolated at Dhaka, with just 10 F-86s; also it was about the same 
strength as we had at Peshawar with the No 19 Squadron Mauripur was also the least threatened base as the IAF and the Indian Amy had not 
under taken any major operation in the area, while the bases at Dhaka and Peshawar - were foced with a potent threat from the IAF. 

The Story of the Pakistan Air Force (official history- 1 988) laments that there was only a single Squadron at Mauripur, which was carrying out 
air defence duties and four F-86s permanently reserved for CAS. 3 This is simply not true. The official history also most unconvincingly asserts that 
120 gallon tanks were taken-off the aircraft a few days earlier for air defence needs, and the strike on Jamnagar was not possible without long 
range tanks owing to the distance. This is an utterly erroneous statement to put it mildly. Putting back 120 gallon drops required no more than a 
maximum of half an hour with a brave effort, since these tanks were lying right next to the aircraft and maintenance effort was available. But the 
rationale forwarded by the Station Commander and readily agreed to by the historians that without the tanks the F-86s would not have had the fuel 
for an attack on Jamnagar was for fetched. If F-86s fromPeshawar could make three attacks on Pathankot 220 miles away, beyond the 
operational range of the F-86, why then could the Mauripur fighters have not achieved the same at a considerably less distance and with virtually 
no air threat? 



3 The Story of the Pakistan Air Force , Page 360. What was actually lacking was the resolve of the local commander to make it happen; all the resources in 
implements and war ready pilots were available. B-57s and T-33s have completely different ground crews and technicians. The F-86 had its own Squadron which was 
servicing the ADA and CAS aircraft. So the contusion was in the mind of the commander spawning the entire operation. Minor problems were capitalized upon to 
prove why the mission could not be accomplished. An after-war synopsis would have had many heads rolling but for a rejoicing President and service chiefs who 
were happy to call it a success. Out of the 38 sorties planned for the pre-emptive, only 8 from Peshawar performed. That constituted 80% failure. This was a major 
catastrophe by any measure. 


The official history also asserts that the message for the strike was received at 1430 Hrs, while the tasking signal had to arrive at Mauripur at 1230 
Hrs at the latest. However, die local handling was a matter of responsibility of the Base Commander and his signals officer. Hie PAF’s official 
history has given no valid reason as to why an unbelievable three and a half hour’s delay was caused between the green light from the C-in-C given 
at 1 1 00 Hrs and the receipt of die flash signal. As asserted earlier, this would nonnally take only 1 5 minutes, which was SOP even in peacetime. 
Also, the historians have relentlessly tried to cover up by stating that enough ground crew members were not available to prepare the aircraft to 
launch for the strike. This implies that die Mauripur base had no inkling that war that had broken out. They also contradict themselves because they 
have indicated diat the F-86s for Sargodha had been kept waiting since the morning Hie last batch of Mauripur F-86s left for Sargodha at 1320 
Hrs, die bombers and T-33s had dieir own designated areas of operations and dedicated crews; thus leaving die foil complement of manpower for 
the remaining F-86s at Mauripur to service them 

Like the botch- tip at Sargodha, this turned out to be anotiier missed opportunity to have removed Jamnagar as a threat to Karachi. Hiere cannot 
be any acceptable excuse by the Mauripur Station Commander for not launching the strike force with aircraft and pilots available (who must have 
been anxious to make their mark). It is outrageous to say that there was only one squadron for Air Defence and CAS. Where was the threat? 
There was actually no threat to our soudiem borders like in the plains of the Punjab. How many Squadrons and our southern borders like in the 
plains ofdie Punjab. How many Squadrons and 10 enemy Squadrons? One single squadron with only 10 F-86s, but the air and ground crews had 
an indomitable spirit to do or die. How did they achieve such stunning results agiinst targets farther away than Jamnagar. repeating the attacks 
thrice on the 7th? The Station Commander at Dhaka, Gp Capt Ghulam Haider, showed what it took to be a real commander with the courage of 
decision making His pilots and ground crews had die will to fight and were not paralyzed by the thought of air defence as a nightmare and die 
enemy as an invincible threat. 

Here one must pause and examine die devastating impact on theoverall strategic pre-emptive strike plan and the reasons for its lailure. Had the 
strike gone on with its foil fray of nearly 40 fighter strikes from Sargodha, Peshawar and Mauripur like it happened against Pathankot in die West 
and Kalaikunda and Baghdogra in the East, a minimum of 50- 60 Indian aircraft would have been blown to smithereens. This is a conservative 
estimate owing to the eye-witness account of Fit Lt Hakimullah, during the recce pass at 1530-1 600 Hrs reporting Adampur and 1 lalwara 
brimming with fighters, unprotected, and parked on open tannacs. This was also an indication that they were most unlikely to launch a surprise 
attack against our bases, especially Sargodha. 

Every other base had been allocated targets well in advance, months before, and they rehearsed repeatedly according to die PAF history. Hie 
magnitude of the lailure of PAF’s centre piece, the pre-emptive strike, and the command lailure responsible for the tragedy has been eloquently 
hypothesized by well known Indian authors Pushpindar Singh Chopra and Ravi Rikhye, in their dissertation about the 1 965 War, FIZA ’YA, 

Psyche of the Pakistan Air Force . After paying tribute to die three spectacular successes on 6 th and 7 th September by No 14 Squadron against 
Kalaikunda and Baghdogra in the East and the Pathankot strike by No 19 Squadron from Peshawar as well as their CAS mission on the GT 
Road, the authors sum- up die lailure of the PAF in its proposed ‘Counter Air Strike Plans’ as follows 4 : 

To counter balance the picture of the above three successes, it is necessary to note a major PAF strategic failure, its proposed 
counter air strike plan against several Indian targets. Such a strike was the centrepiece of the PAF counter air effort, and had been 
planned and rehearsed over and over. Had it come off, the effect on the IAF would have been every thing that Pakistan could ever 
hope for. But instead of the anticipated 59 strikes, only 33 were launched Of these 10 went to Pathankot for the sole (and 
spectacular) success; the rest failed The precisely coordinated time over target was to be 1 705 Hrs. 

A Requiem for Great Heroes 

Sarfaraz Rafiqui and Yunus’s exemplary performance has become the stuff of legends. They should have earned the highest gallantry award, the 
Nishan-eFlaider. Besides, the Government of Pakistan through the Defence and Air Attache in New Delhi should have made concerted eflbrts to 
recover the bodies of all the pilots who may have been buried on Indian soil, especially Sarfaraz Rafiqui, whose body was found intact and was 
buried witii honour in a village called Haran, a few miles fromHalwara airfield near Ludhiana. 5 The Bangladeshi Air Force has been able to 
retrieve the mortal remains of Fit Lt Mati-ur-Rehman (one of the Bengali pilots originally of No 19 Squadron in 1 965) who crashed while trying to 
highjack witii Pilot Officer Rashid Minhas. 

Sarfaraz Rafiqui, more than anyone else, deserved to be buried in Pakistan He died heroically for his country, and people should be able to visit 
his grave and pay tributes to his courage. He should have become a symbol of" leadership in its highest tradition. One of the living legends of die 
1 965 war told me some time ago with a deep sense of remorse that in 2006, while visiting a fighter base which he had commanded years ago, he 
was taken to the crew room of the Squadron When he posed a question as to what the young fighters knew about the spectacular mission led by 
Sarfaraz Rafiqui, die response was blank. Sadly, we denigrate history and instead of eulogizing true heroes we accept rogyes as national icons. 

FIZA ’YA. Psyche of the Pakistan Air Force . Pages 34,35,36. * The lndia-Pakistan Air War ofl 965 . Page 1 12. 

Failure of PAF’s Grand Strategy 

The strikes against Adampur and Halwara airfield were delayed for extremely questionable reasons by Sargodha. There was no rationale for 


keeping more tlian 8 F- 1 04 Starlightcrs and tlie same number off- 86s with Sidewinder missiles and a similar number with guns only, fertile 
defence of Sargodba in case the impossible happened and the IAF retaliated swiftly. These 1 6 aircraft could not have gotten off the ground in case 
of raids developing against Sargodha owing to a maximum of 1 0 minutes warning available for Sargodba about any incoming raiders. All aircraft on 
the ground were sitting-ducks for the attackers. Sargodba also claims to have been sending F- 1 04 escorts with nonspecific CAS missions over 
Chbamb. How could the commanders justify their failure to use the F- 104s as escorts for the all important strike missions and also for a simple 
strafing attack if necessary? Hie F-104s should have been an integral part of the pre-emptive strike, in part to exploit its psychological deterrent 
effect on tlie IAF, and also to perfonnthe compositerole of escort and attack against aircraft on the ground. 

Such a composite force, iflaunched at 1615 Hrs even with 4 F-86s and 2 F104s against each target, would have wreaked havoc at the airfields of 
Adampur and 1 lalwara (which were jam packed with aircraft collecting for a dawn strike the next morning). Strangely enough, tlie COC Med to 
questiontlie decreasing availability of aircraft at 1615 Hrs when first reported. This got worse soon after, and only 6 aircraft were declared 
available by 1650 Hrs. Why was tlie air staff at COC not relating to the aircraft serviceability on their aircraft status display? Why did the senior 
commanders at tlie COC M to order PAF Sargodha to use all its resources for the strike, leaving no more than 4 CAPs and 8-10 aircraft on 
cockpit stand-by, till the raids landed back? No questions were asked about their monumental negligence in treating the centre- fold of tlie PAF 
strategy so callously. 

In tlie Adampur strike, tlie leader chose to jettison tanks and engage tlie Hunter fonnation lead by Zachariah who were returning to 1 lalwara far 
north of Adampur. The question I bad asked Sa’ad Hatmi, who had come to dine with me in the 90s, was whether the Hunters had attacked them 
first? He had said ‘No”; they bad gone after tlie Hunters as soon as they were spotted (lienee the bardbreak by Sqn Ldr Rawlley into his attacker 
who bad to be behind him). It was this factor which compelled John Flicker to comment about the strikes: ‘The Sargodba fonnations did not press 
home their attacks.” True, that was with the vantage of hindsight, but the question is: why would the mere sight of the enemy, which was not 
threatening your integrity, disrupt a cardinal mission? Perhaps the leader thought that a bird in hand was better than two in the bush But that 
decision will remain a moot point - should one abandon a primary mission of such significance as was the Adampur strike? hi the case of Hahvara 
tlie sanctimonious conclusion by tlie PAF historians that the "brighter side lias always been recommended” is based on a completely incorrect kill 
ratio. Hie “6 intercepted Sabres downed 7 Hunters” perception was an incorrect conclusion drawn from unsubstantiated claims and not a tribute 
to PAF’s aces Sarfaraz Rafiqui, Yunus, and Alam Hie fact is that the loss of two PAF aces was not an unavoidable causality; an inevitable factor 
in war. It was a senseless loss owing to poor judgjnent and dithering by Sargodha operations. 

In actuality, 2 Hunters were shot down by Rafiqui and Yunus (one each) at Hahvara later in the day and Sqn Ldr Rawlley was the first Hunter lost 
during a defensive manoeuvre. Therefore, the IAF lost three Hunters against 2 F-86s of the PAF lost at Hahvara during tlie two failed strikes. This 
was not bad at all, and tlie PAF can rightly be proud of the pilots who achieved such results under the most unfavourable circumstances (launched 
too late, deep in enemy territory, outnumbered, and operating at deck level in poor visibility). Tlie real problem was that tlie high command was 
getting incorrect input and that impacted their plans for tlie next day’s counter air operations. 

Having delved into an empirical analysis of tlie fate of tlie pre-emptive strike at Adampur and Hahvara, it would be prudent to discuss tlie 
philosophy of accepting or rejecting claims of aerial kills by the IAF and the PAF, especially after a 40 years lapse. It would be a sacrilege for a 
nation to hide the losses of its gallant fighting men who sacrificed their lives in defence of their country. They deserve the highest honours given by 
their nation. The PAF did not hide its losses of martyrs, so why then should any one think that the IAF would do so? 

Wrong Moves 

Four decades after tlie war, it lias also become clear that the PAF command had vacillated and made some wrong moves in tlie crucial hours 
before the war. After declaration of Phase- III by the PAF C-in-C on the 1 st of Sept as per the War Plan, Mauripurhad dispatched No 18 
Squadron to Sargodha on 2 nd and 3 rd Septand finally 10 F-86s had moved on 6 th September, but owing a confounded plan they were moved to 
Sargodha and not to Risalewala. This change was especially astonishing as it proved to be a blunder because according to tlie official history by 
John Fricker, 6 ‘No 1 8 Squadron led by Sqn Ldr Butch Ahmed had previously been earmarked to attack Adampur from Risalewala, but this 
mission was changed for inexplicable reasons with disastrous results.” Operating from Risalewala, which had been activated weeks earlier, would 
have also provided tlie flexibility for the air defence of Sargodha the next day when a reprisal by the IAF was a 1 00% certainty. 

Whoever was responsible for abandoning this fundamental advantage to use Risalewala for the first couple of days should have been held 
accountable. Placing every asset from Mauripur at Sargodha was tactically unsound and dangerous because the IAF was offered 80 fighters as 
sitting ducks in their tin pens when they attacked at dawn on 7 th September. This flawed tactical move was also a major contributor to tlie 
confusion at Sargodba and inevitably responsible for the failure of the strike against Adampur airfield. 

The PAF also bad to divert its meagre resources to halt tlie enemy offensive against Lahore and Sialkot. As mentioned earlier, this was the specific 
reason that tlie Air Staff decided to move 1 0 aircraft from Manipur on 6 th morning to supplement the army support. Looking at tlie effort 
provided to tlie army by Sargodha till that morning it is evident that air effort was being wasted in chasing phantoms on the Kashmir front by 
sending 12 aircraft with F- 1 04 escorts, against niknown targets of opportunity. 

The Story of the Pakistan Air Force (official history- 1 988) is clear that the Station Commander bad taken the position that only Sargodba pilots 
would lead tlie ‘pre-emptive strike missions’ because they had rehearsed their missions to perfection. This is a highly contestable claim as Air Cdre 
Imtiaz Bliatti revealed during a telephone interview that to his knowledge, except for launching 24 aircraft, (to determine any problems during 
recovery) no realistic training had been carried out like tlie way it was done at Peshawar. On the 6 th afternoon, the Base Commander felt that 
since they were all tired from the day’s CAS/CAP activities, the strike should be postponed till the next day. Tlie pilots at Sargodha were alleged 
to have been suffering from war fatigue on tlie very first day of war. The question is, were they in fact tired and had indicated so, or was it just an 
excuse to have the strike cancelled till the next day, as was advocated by the Base Commander. 



The late arrival of the additional aircraft fromMauripur has also been made the basis of severe criticism of the Air Chief for the failure ofPAF’s 
strategic ‘pre-emptive strike’. This does not hold any water and was a cynical attempt at a cover up, which lias been described by the official 
historian. John Fricker, as ‘Total confusion prevailed at Sargodha.” All eyes were looking east, when the Sargodha Station Commander called the 
C-in-C at 1615 Hrs and told him that only 12 F-86s were available instead of 24 for the strike force. This was the defining moment for a bard 
decision and the only course of action available was to have ordered the strikes immediately without further ado. Tire C-in-C ordered him to 
launch immediately with what ever number was available. 7 

The question arises, wiry did Sargodha wait three and a half hours after receiving the strike mission to express its inability to produce only about 
26% of the strength present at the base? The landing of the last sortie at 1 545 Firs Iras been made to appear - like the entire lighter force from 
Sargodha was airborne and bad landed together. That was simply not the case! 

We were told that the bulk of the Sargodha aircraft had been engaged in CAS missions and the aircraft fromMauripur bad arrived late, some with 
unserviceable gun sights. Tire question that remains is wiry was the COC not able to determine from the aircraft availability status at Sargodha that 
too many aircraft bad been unwisely blocked for air defence? Even if we assume that the leadership at the base was excessively apprehensive of an 
enemy attack and bad placed all the F- 104s and nearly 20 F-86s on air defence, why did Sargodha not launch the 12 aircraft against the two 
strategic targets, tire airfields, and tackle tire Amritsar radar later as a second priority, instead of dillydallying? This was war, and the most crucial 
minutes of our national survival were being frittered away. 

What was even mare bizarre was that only four of these twelve aircraft which were ready on time were sent to a relatively less important target like 
Amritsar radar and that too wasteful^, as they aborted their mission on unsatisfactory grounds in a state of war. I can be asked as to why did a 
Station Commander decide to prioritize a radar station, a smaller target of much lesser significance, over attacking airfields packed with aircraft? 

As though this was not disastrous enough, Sargodha continued to procrastinate for another hour and at 1 655 Hrs the Station Commander called to 
inform the COC that only 8 aircraft were available against the two airfields and suggested to the C-in-C to postpone the entire pre-emptive strike 
by 24 hours. 

A critical mass bad been reached and the PAF strategy was under imminent threat of failure. Even a peace time exercise would not have been 
postponed in the PAF in this manner. While Sargodha was in a state of confusion, the Peshawar runway was thundering with the roar of 10 F-86s 
(80% of the squadron strength, not counting Air Defence Alert aircraft), on their way to the target. Let’s compare this with the even more 
spectacular performance of No 14 Squadron led by Sqn Ldr Shabbir Hussain Syed, at dawn the next day. Even though Dhaka was isolated by a 
thousand miles of hostile territory, with the total strength of 10 F-86s and a single operative runway, they lrad tire resolute will to fight and not to 
fidget. At dawn on 7th Sept, No 14 Squadron bad launched three missions a^inst targets nearly 200 miles away, flying mostly over the sea and 
conducted devastating strikes. These were the miracles of decentralized independent command. 

Even if depleted to eight aircraft, the Sargodha force should have headed towards their targets, so that in the least, the coordinated concept of the 
strikes could have been partially realized. If Sargodha had launched even four aircraft each against Adampur and I lalwara on time, there could be 
no doubt that they would have produced stunning results because 4 aircraft attacking an airfield are even more flexible and capable of repeating the 
attack. Uiere appeared to have been a total collapse of decision making at Sargodha. 

What was happening to the Sargodha fighter aircraft inventory? According to the OC, Maintenance Wg Cdr (later Air Cdre) Riaz Sapru and Sqn 
Ldr (later Group Capt) Subbani, they bad not received any demand for the pre-emptive strike. Both of them told me during two separate 
interviews in 2007 that the aircraft serviceability on the 6 th of September was around 80%, and they do not recall any urgency from the Base 
Operations about availability of aircraft. Cecil Choudary, who was the sole survivor of the Halwara strike, told me dining a phone conversation 
recently that when they did not find the aircraft ready for then - mission, Rafiqui and Cecil went off to the base operations centre to protest the 
inordinate delay. As they arrived there, Wg Cdr Sapru had also reached the operations room. On being asked about the availability of aircraft, 
Sapru suggested that he could make up the requisite number from the enormous air defence allocation That was rejected by the Station 
Commander. Flad the Sargodha Station Commander gone into an over-cautious defensive mode? Why were approximately two dozen aircraft 
committed to air defence when the PAF strategy for a dusk strike was based precisely on the hypothesis that after the strike when the aircraft had 
recovered back at their bases, it would have been too dark for the enemy fighters and too early for the IAF bombers to conduct reprisal raids 
against Sargodha? 

The Ack-Ack at Sargodha and the much feared night interceptor, the F- 104, a great psychological deterrent for the IAF, would have prevented 
the IAF from achieving any worthwhile results. Secondly, and more importantly, if the Indians had, by some chance, retaliated within 30 minutes 
after the PAF raids, the warning for in coming raids would have given Sargodha no mire than 1 0 minutes to react with their own Air Defence Alert 
aircraft. In those 1 0 minutes of early warning, Sargodha could not have launched mire than 1 0 interceptors at the most, if at all Consequently, that 
would have left nearly 60 plus aircraft on the ground as proverbial sitting ducks for the attackers (provided they were motivated and trained to 
press home their attacks). 

Sure enough, Sargodha had not scrambled more than 4 aircraft at a time. On the 7 th morning even the youngest pilot could have predicted that the 
IAF would strike back relentlessly in waves at dawn with frill night. That was the day, 7 th September 1 965, when maxirum fighter- interceptors 
should have been strategically positioned in orbits on all the expected approaches in all directions. Yet, surprisingly, only three F-86s were on 
CAP, along with a single F- 1 04. Accordiig to the Station Commander, nearly 80 aircraft were in the dispersal areas when the IAF raiders pulled- 
up over Sargodha. What a sumptuous target was placed on a platter below, and the attacks came as expected. Luckily, they left the massive target 
spread unscathed. 


Like the Indians, the PAF intelligence was also pitiful From personal experience, I can say that when I hied to obtain some infonnation about the 
Patbankot airfield on the afternoon of 6 th September from the Intelligence, there was a complete blank. Similarly, the PAF high command found 



out too late that there were no radars at Ferozpur or Porbunder, where lightly armed and much vulnerable T-33s were committed. Bravo for the 
T-33 pilots who made good their TOT’s at 1 705 Hrs, both in the south and in the north, but found nothing. The radar at Amritsar was created as a 
fomidable threat by the PAF high command, which was somewhat exaggerated. It should have been a priority 2 target in the pre-emptive strike 
plan execution. Anyhow, a flight of four aircraft led by OC 33 Wing was to co-ordinate Iris strike against Amritsar radar with an FI TN T RB-57 as 
a target marker. The mission description illustrates poor planning of this mission, a mere 1 5 minutes flying time from Sargodha, and only two 
minutes into enemy territory. 

The ELINT aircraft which was to act as the pathfinder to the target was forced to abort near Wazirabad and the 4 F-86s aborted a simple strike. 
The lact that Amritsar was attacked severely after the 6 th by F-86s alone, without the ELINT pathfinder, proves the point that the strike could 
have proceeded on its own Considering that these four aircraft could have augmented the pre-emptive force, which was allegedly assailed by poor 
aircraft serviceability, the decision to commit the effort against the radar was a clear case of questionable judgment, hi the ensuing days we lost 
another extremely admired pilot, Sqn Ldr Muniruddin Aimed (‘Bha’) to Ack-Ack in a poorly planned mission against Amritsar radar. The radar 
was neutralized in the final days of the war in a very bold day tine raid led by Wg Cdr (Bill) Latift with four B-57s. Amritsar radar code-named 
‘Fish-oil’, was realty no threat to the PAF as an air defence interception sensor. Its only usefulness was proven for the Indian Canberra crews who 
would get warning of the PAF F- 1 04s chasing them at night. 

A Bizarre Operation 

While conceptualizing the PAF’ s ‘War Plan’ inJune 1 965, Air Mshl Asgliar Klein introduced a novel but hazardous idea as a sequel to the 
preemptive strike to destroy aircraft and installations, which still remained intact after the strike, by using a commando force. Hie plan was 
envisaged by the PAF leadership about four months before the 1965 War, and not several years earlier as claimed inthePAF’s official history. 

The plan was somewhat utopian and proved to be a tragic feilure, essentially because the premise and pre-requisites set forth for the mission’s 
success were totally missing. Hie force which was launched did not comprise all those commandos trained for this intricate ‘mission impossible’ 
because many were on home leave and several had been committed to Operation ‘Gibraltar’. Those sent on the mission were illequipped, to say 
the least, without current maps or proper implements, and were dropped past midnight, not affording them the time envisaged for assembly and 
execution of the mission Hiis bizarre operation bad no recoveiy plan for the commandos. 

The success of the commando mission depended upon intense training and split-second timing and co-ordination between the participating 
elements. Indeed the PAF’s intelligence was to play a pivotal role in the execution of the mission, with the support of the GHQ. Hie commandos 
bad to be folly equipped to execute this extremely precise and dangerous undertaking. Inaddition, the C 1 30 aircraft had to be positioned at the 
launching base ie, Cliaklala, rather than the more distant Peshawar. Most of the support systems and coordination was the responsibility of the 
PAF air intelligence. Hie B-57 raids had to be precisely coordinated and adequate gap ensured to allow the commando groups to carry out their 
mission, allowing for delays and possible difficulties in their assembly after the drop. Finally, and most importantly, the PAF pre-emptive strike by 
the fighters had to have gone as planned with the expected successwith the attending chaos at the attacked IAF bases. 

There were three C- 130s lined up by 2000 Hrs at Peshawar, well in time to make good the mid- night TOT. I recall the unusual presence of the C- 
130 aircraft but had no inkling about the purpose of their mission One of the task force commanders had dinner at our bunker along with another 
associate. He was somewhat listless and kept asking his colleague some questions seemingly about some others who were also expected to 
rendezvous with them It was not until past 2200 Hrs that the task commander asked me if I could get some good pliers for cutting thick wire. I 
began to get wind of the ominous situation As it turned out, this was indicative of the commando raiders being poorly equipped for the mission 
The deck was dangerously stacked against these valiant men because the air strikes at Adampur and I lalwara had failed, and alann bells bad rung 
at all the IAF bases raising their security level. Thus the primary ingredient of surprise and also confusion expected due to the mayhem of PAF 
strikes was totally lost. 

The non-availability of the trained commandos had also caused inordinate delays in the launching of the C-130s on time. Consequently, the co- 
ordination with the B-57 attacks bad been mangled. In short, not a single one of the specifications and pre-requisites for the launching of the 
commandos raids bad been fulfilled and all the ingredients of a suicidal one-way mission had been mixed together. Disaster was waiting to happen 
and no one from either high command or even Gp Capt Dogar, the head honcho from the PAF, thought it prudent to call off the mission Hiere 
was clear reason to call it olf however. This was a horrific blunder by the PAF high command. 

Sadly, the authors of The Story of Pakistan Air Force (official historyl 988), have tried to shift the onus of the colossal feilure of Sargodha and 
Mauripur in the execution of their part of the war plan, totally onto the Air Chief The feifore of PAF’s grand strategy and the tragic loss of Sarferaz 
Rafiqui and Yunus lies else where, as I have tried to show. Hiis is not to suggest that lives will not be lost during wars. Hie point here is that such 
losses in the conse of executing the assigned tasks are acceptable, however shattering they may be for the kill and kii of the martyrs. What is not 
acceptable is when precious lives are lost owing to the blunders by the planners and commanders. Rafiqui and Yunus were as dear to the PAF as 
Munir, Alauddin Ahmed, Iqbal and all the others martyred dining the 1 965 War. The sad part about Rafiqui and Yunus was that they were 
martyred in a mission delayed for all the wrong reasons. Had both of them been shot down ii a normally conducted strike, ft would have been an 
acceptable loss. 

The commanders owed ft to history to address the errors of judgment and bring out honest lessons for the sake of posterity. However, like the 
army hierarchy, the PAF thought ft expedient to join in the fray of a contrived victory and let bygones be bygones. 

PAF Bombers in Action 

It is not my intention here to go into any details of the bomber operation by No 7 and 8 B-57 Squadrons, but only to acknowledge the audacity, 
courage and sacrifices made by the air crew during the war. Many of the senior pilots, the two Squadron Commanders and some navigators were 
my close friends, and had been together with me on fighter aircraft and shared their experiences with me. Hie B-57 bombers were ordered into 



operations soon after the PAF’s preemptive strike had petered out. This relentless bombardment strategy was adopted with a view to keeping all 
the forward airfields under pressure of attacks throughout the night, attacking their runways, aircraft and installations to prevent them from 
preparing a reprisal strike against our airfields and vulnerable points for as long as possible. 

The sequence of all the offensive actions was aimed at keeping up the pressure against the forward airfields to reduce the quantum of threat to the 
PAF operational assets and to our land forces. Four B-57s hid been moved to Peshawar Station a few days before the start of hostilities under 
tlie command of one of the best fighter and bomber pilots, Wg Cdr Nazir Latif Hie rest of the B57s were at Mauripur under the command of Sqn 
Ldr Rafi and Sqn Ldr Najeeb as the Squadron Commanders under Wg Cdr Hameed Qureshi (known to be somewhat apprehensive). 

Sqn Ldr (later Air Cdre) Rais Rail, my good neighbour for many year's now, lias written a fine account of bomber operations during the 1965 and 
1 97 1 wars. I decided to have a couple of sessions with Air Cdre Rais Rafi, which he happily agreed to. He confirmed to me that he, along with 
Najeeb, received their operational task to attack Jamnagar at lunchtime (this refutes the excuse about the Jamnagar strike not being received on 
time). According to him, the aircraft were loaded up with bombs, rockets and guns. Their Time- over- Target (TOT) was to be at dusk, which 
meant immediately following the F-86 strike at Jamnagar. They were to conduct a 6 B-57 formation raid starting at about 1 800 Hrs, carrying out 
two attacks at Jamnagur airfield and then continue attacking through the night in single aircraft stream. All the attacks went off superbly as planned 
and damaged two aircraft and installations as reported by the returning pilots and later confirmed by Indian historians. 

Then the bomber wing had its first casualty. The dedicated Sqn Ldr Alam Siddiqui and his navigator Sqn Ldr Aslam Qureshi on their third mission 
of that night were possibly shot down by Ack Ack, though it is possiblethat fatigue may have taken its toll and they suflerred from spatial 
disorientation in the clouds covering Jamnagar airfield. A combination of latigue andlow clouds over Jamnagar were the most probable cause of 
this tragic loss. It would be prudent to mention that this mission was originally to be flown by the OC 3 1 Wing Wg Cdr Hamid Qureshi 
According to his navigator known for Iris candidness, Iris captain Qureshi declined the mission for some inexplicable reason and Sqn Ldr Siddiqui 
volunteered to take on the mission even though he had already flown two missions on the same night. The crew died setting the highest traditions 
for the PAF, while Hamid Qureshi survived to become an Air Vice Mshl in the hazy aftermath of the 1 965 war. 

The bombing attacks against Adampur, Hahvara and Patbankot were also successfully conducted and were announced on Radio Pakistan 
Although tlie damage on the ground could not be assessed immediately, the Indian authors of the Indo-Pak Air War of 1965 have spelt out the 
impressive destruction of enemy aircraft at the three airfields. The authors have confirmed that the first raid at Adampur destroyed and damaged 2 
Mig-21s at the ORP. This was done by a B-57 whose pilot was nicknamed in admiration ‘8- Pass Charlie’. During the B-57 raid at Jamnagar, 4 
Vampires also received hits. There were many daring missions flown by Sqn Lefts Akbtar Bokhari, Rais Rafi, Ansari, Sikander Mehmood (an 
excellent lighter pilot), Najeeb, Aurangzcb (a courageous and outstanding navigator), and of course the valiant Wg Cdr Bill Latif and all the rest of 
their crews. 

It was during tlie war when I discovered at Peshawar that one of the young bonier pilots Fit Lt Shams-ud-din continued to attack enemy airfields 
in spite of a damaged kidney, which was so serious that he was passing blood all the time, but did not let anybody know. One of tlie high risk 
missions was flown by Sqn Ldr Akhtar Bokhari who was to test the Indian night interception capability, by flying deep into enemy territoiy and 
exposing himself to Indian Mig-2 1 interceptors. Another mission which deserves special mention was the day light attack against Srinagar airfield 
by Rais Rafi and Firoze. I happened to have led the fonnation along with Arsliad Sami, Gharri Akbar and Klialid Latif to provide escort to tlie 2 
bombers. 

However, tlie most spectacular bomber mission flown was by Fit Lt Altaf Sheikh with Fit Lt Bashir Choudhry as his navigator. It was during his 
attack on Adampur on 15 th September, where he disregarded the single attack requirement and went back thrice after his initial attack. He had a 
bomb hang- up with 4 bombs, which would not release despite all alternate methods used by Sheikh. He decided to go back for tlie fourth time 
through intense Ack- Ack, and jettison his bomb load with the thought that the Indians at the airfield would not know whether these bombs bad 
time delay fuses. This time he ran outof luck and a direct hit was received by his bomber. There was no choice but to eject from tlie burning 
aircraft. As per procedures, he told tlie navigator to go out first and followed him immediately afterwards. He, along with Choudhry, descended 
through an Ack- Ack barrage and landed safety, although he ended up with a badly sprained ankle. They managed to escape through the night, but 
not for too long. Tlie story of Altaf Sheikh and his navigator Choudhry’ s escape is a harrowing yet fascinating episode. They were nearly lynched 
by enraged Sikh villagers but an officer of the Indian security force saved their lives in the nick of time. 

Another incredible achievement of the B-57 bomber raids is reflected in the perfect selection of timing for the shuttle attacks. It would be 
instructive to learn that the thunder and flash of bombs rained down virtually eveiy time the Indian pilots prepared to pre- flight their aircraft for the 
retaliatory raids. Several of tlie raids were delayed till the all-clear sirens were sounded. This is also a tribute to the IAF fighter pilots, who took-off 
after each raid, taking tlie risk of rolling down their runways which may have been spread with shrapneL 

Amongst tlie last B-57 raids, the attacks agqinst Ambala were launched on the night of 1 8 th September, ten days after the first raid, which was 
abortive. Tlie target was 400 miles fromPeshawar, and was defended by batteries of Soviet supplied SA-2 surface-to-air missiles. These missiles 
were meant for high level targets and were ineffective at altitudes lower than 6,000 ft. The bombers, therefore, had to attack at lower levels. It was 
decided that tlie best tactical approach would be to use a skip- bombing technique with 1 ,000 lbs bombs. This was a dangerous undertaking and 
very deep into enemy territory. An important aspect of these strikes against Ambala was the integrity of the pilots, whose after- mission reports 
were so candid and correct that they deserve recognition Sqn Left Najeeb in Iris after- mission report said that the results of their low-level 
bombing were very discouraging and they bad little to show for their attacks, because the 1 ,000 lbs bombs were bouncing like tennis balls on the 
runway travelling as far as 6,000-7,000 ft, many of them exploding outside the airfield area. 


The strikes were repeated the next night with three aircraft led by Sqn Ldr Najeeb followed by Wg Cdr Latif and the last one flown by Fit Lt 
AMK Lodhi. From the previous night’s experience, they had worked out their release points well before as compared to the previous night. The 



Ack- Ack was blazing, the sky orange and grey with shells bursting all around them, but they delivered their attacks one after another with great 
accuracy. Fortunately, all of them returned safely. 


This in a nutshell was the highlight of our very successful bomber operations. Hie destruction and havoc caused by these daring crews earned them 
well deserved tributes, even though it took two Indian freelance air war enthusiasts to unravel the true magnitude of their devastatingattacks, forty 
years later in their book, lndo-Pak Air War of 1965 . There is a lesson to be learnt by the PAF, that many of the heroic bomber pilots remained 
unsungduring their lifetime and others were not so lucky to have discovered their good performance dining or even long after the war. We do not 
have a tradition to honour those who truly perfonned heroic feats to defend the country, unlike other nations which take pride in such belated 
discoveries and show their gratitude. 

The IAF began its retaliatory campaign on the night of 6 th September against Sargodha, Peshawar, Rawalpindi and Mauripur, starting at just past 
midnight. Canberras took off from bases deep inside India like Agra, Pune and Jamnagar. A stream of 12 bombers were picked up by Sakesar 
radar heading west at around 30,000 ft. None of them arrived at Peshawar, as we sat silently in our ADA bunker; all ears listening out for the 
sound of the enemy bombers. It was a frightful prospect to receive a direct bomb hit by the Canberra raiders, because the tarmac in front of the 
No 1 9 Squadron office building was packed with 8 B-57s, parked wing tip to wing tip, and being re- fuelled and bombed- up for their next strikes. 
These B-57s had landed after attacking Adampur, Hahvara and Pathankot, taking-off from Mauripur. But Allah was watching over us. One pair of 
F-86s laced with Sidewinder missiles was scrambled at around 0100 Hrs. Luckily for Peshawar, the Canberra raid heading towards us timed 
around near Kliushbal Garh Bridge, just a few minutes away from Pcslmvar airfield and returned without dropping its load. 

The interceptor pair returned after an hour’s wild goose chase in the hope of getting behind a Canberra and getting a lock-on missile tone. No such 
luck came their way. Finally, the ADA bunker went dark and quiet, as the tiled fighter pilots virtually fell onto the mattresses as though knocked 
out unconscious, their scrabble gpme boards tying half played. 

Sargodha received several Canberra attacks as did Rawalpindi All the IAF bombers made half-hearted attacks with no damage inflicted at all 
The bombs fell everywhere except for the targets they had in mind. A number of F- 1 04s were scrambled and some were even placed behind the 
exiting raids in the hope that their airborne radar would bring back some victorious F- 104s, but that did not happen as the Canberras were 
equipped with tail- radar warning devices and helped by ‘Fish-oil’ (the Amritsar - radar - ), which kept the Canberra pilots warned of interceptor 
presence. One single Canberra raid was directed against Mauripur - airfield, but it lost its way and aborted the mission (inexplicable conduct by a 
bomber with a navigator on board, to miss something as massive as Mauripur on the fringes of Karachi). However, Mauripur took its first casualty 
of the day. Fig OffSikander Azam crashed soon after take-off for undetermined causes. As the darkness of night merged into the pre-dawn 
horizon, aft eyes and ears were looking east for the IAF to launch a major offensive to avengethe losses of the night before. 

Quite contrary to the Canberra raids developing in poor light conditions and their choice of tedious and long routes, ourB-57s attacked most of 
the targets successfully. According to the Official Indian History of 1965 War, the B-57 bombing attacks had accounted for 12 Indian fighter 
aircraft and 3 transport aircraft destroyed on the ground. Additionally 1 7 aircraft weredamaged to an extent that they were out of operations for 
the duration of the war. The IAF on the other hand, managed to lob one bomb on the right hand edge of runway 1 7 at Peshawar, which was 
repaired within 4 hours. No other damage to aircraft or installations was done by any Canberra raids throughout the war. Uiere was one very near 
miss at Peshawar, which I was watching horrified from 1 5,000 ft on the southern end of the runway. I saw the bonis falling on what I thought was 
the taxi- track leading on to the large tamnac, where several B-57s were parked. I had another cause for concern From where I was watching a 
fewbombs exploded in the area ofthe Officers’ Mess, where many of ny pilots were sleeping. Also my only child. Adnan, was 2 years old and we 
were occupying the small bungalow (where Air Cdre Rahim Khan used to live) for the duration of the war. Although ny family was very well 
protected by half a dozen Frontier Corps soldiers and there were a couple of trenches in the lawn, that particular night was very dangerous. 

Just then, the artillery radar located near the runway and manned by our enthusiastic Station Commander, contacted me and tried to put me behind 
the bomber, which was on its exit route. Half an hour of concentrated chase was like looking for a needle in a haystack; ny eye-balls were 
popping out of their sockets but there was no target in sight. I returned remorsefully and after landing discovered that nearly 10 bombs bad Men 
on the eastern periphery ofthe airfield, destroying our ops room and several buildings behind the Mess and causing a few fatalities. Fortunately, as 
ny jeep lights hit the gate of our small bungqlow, I saw ny little angel Adnan (not so little or slim anymore), standing there amongst the Frontier 
Corps soldiers to greet me. 

Air Operations in East 

In the whole of East Pakistan, there was only a single squadron comprising 12 F-86s. They were led courageously by an outstanding Squadron 
Commander, Sqn Ldr (later Air Marshal) Sbabbir Hussain Syed, under the overall command of a dedicated and brave Station Commander, Gp 
Capt Ghulam Haider (‘Gulli’ Haider to friends). Uiey were operating from a single operational base, Tcjgaon airfield, at Dhaka. Confronting them 
was a preponderant Central and Eastern Air Command with nearly eight Fighter Squadrons and one Canbema Bomber Squadron. Theirs is a 
story of hue grit, stellar professionalism, and courage and initiative. 

Onl st September, the C-in-C had ordered the PAF on high alert. This message was also received by the Station Commander at Dhaka. From 
then on, Dhaka went on M scale operational readiness with CAPs flying over Tcjgaon airfield. On 4 th September, their aircraft strength was 
reduced to 11, as one F-86 was lost due to a bird hit. According to PAF’s official history, on the morning ofthe 6 th at 0430 Hrs, No 14 
Squadron was placed on air defence alert. Also, the COC ordered 6 aircraft to be readied for an airfield strike at short notice. At 0830 Hrs, they 
received a flash warning announcing the start of all-out war (presumably, as soon as the Indian attack against Lahore was reported to Air Cdre 
Akhtar). Uiere is an anomaly here, that the flash message was sent to Dhaka at 0830 Hrs but the bases in West Pakistan remained uninformed till 
1200 Hrs, according to PAF’s official history. This paradoxical situation has not been commented upon in the official history, while the delay in 
decision making by the C-in-C in the West has been presented most critically (for failure to alert the Base Commanders ofthe Western bases in 



good time). Again, a lesson for the PAF that avoiding to carry out a timely and systematic synthesis of the events of war to save reputations of 
errant commanders could lead to major disasters. 

The strike mission alert ordered earlier was changed to a dawn strike on 7 th 

September. For reasons of distance between East and West Pakistan, which placed East Pakistan one hour ahead in time, they could not have 
been ordered to launch strikes at the same time as in the West, because they would have Ivid to take-olf one hour earlier, thus giving away the big 
plan Any later would have been too dark for the pilots, as it would have been past dusk time. Another fector was Ayub Khan’s perennial hope to 
keep the war contained. Fie had ordered total restraint in East Pakistan by the PAF. 

No 14 Squadron at Dhaka was in readiness nonetheless, waiting for the word ‘GO’. Ibis came sooner than expected as the Indians decided to 
attack bases in East Pakistan rather senselessly on the night of the 6 th . Hie IAF, however, like its indecisive conduct on the 6 th on the Western 
front, could not make up its mind what to attack and how. Tlie Indians also toyed with the idea that the Sabres may try to abandon East Pakistan 
by escaping to West Pakistan, over Hying India at night. How conic ! To prevent this phantom escape, a Hunter fonnation was even sent up to 
practice a night interception on a C anberra, hoping to attack it from the glow of the exhaust flame. Hiis lias been graphically described by the 
Indian historians, surely to the vexation of the IAF planners and pilots. Yet kudos to them for their candid revelations wlich are a rarity for us in 
Pakistan 

The PAF pilots in the East, like their comrades in the West, were brave and patriotic men who would shed then' last drop of blood for their 
country. Hiey were soon to demonstrate their grit and mettle. The Indian fighter squadrons commenced their operation from Gaubati air base in the 
early morning hours, reportedly alter a sleepless night. It is almost fimny that, having lost nearly 1 3 operational aircraft in the preceding 1 2 hours to 
Hie PAF raidat Pathankot, three brought down deep in Indian territory and at least one destroyed on the ground by our night bombers, the HQ 
Eastern Air Command (EAC) decided to retaliate by ordering a strike on disused Kurmitola airfield. Hiis account also reads like a bad movie 
script - to go all the way with so much of boo-ha and strike merely an under construction and disused runway at Kurmitola, an airstrip one minute 
away from die lighter base at Tejgaon airfield, the home of N o 1 4 Squadron Their second target was some obscure signal unit at the disused 
airfield. The Indian Air Force Intelligence appeared to be in bad shape because they had totally Med to discover even die most obvious of focts, 
such as tlie only Pakistani airfield that operated F-86s was Tejgaon! 

I learnt from tlie authors of tlie Indo-Pak A ir War of 1965 that during the night of the 6 th , the good sleeping hours at Gaubati were used up in a 
colossal confosion whether to go for a high- level sweep at contrail height and draw- up the PAF Sabres or attack Kurmitola in counter air 
operations role. As a result of tlie muddled brain stonning, the ground crew was kept up throughout the night putting long range fuel tanks and 
rocket rails on and then taking them oil! depriving them of any sleep. First it was decided to go for a high- level sweep, which meant only external 
fuel tanks and gun pack. This was changed again and substituted with a strike at Kurmitola from a contrived scare of F-86s carrying Sidewinder 
missiles. Finally, tlie flight got airborne to make good a TOT of 0530 hour's. The Hunter's roared across West Bengal at break-neck speed of 420 
Kts for a forty minute flight to the unusable airstrip at Kunnitola. During the last 10 minutes of their leg they experienced some rain, which terrified 
tlie deputy leader of tlie formation. Fig O If Janak Kumar, who unilaterally abandoned the mission and headed home! 

The remaining three aircraft, led by Sqn Ldr Singh identified a barren runway with some construction work; the leader took a bold decision and 
decided to skip the Sector Operation Centre (SOC), referred to as a signal unit in their- attack plan and fired their rockets and guns scratching the 
old surface of tlie runway less than a few inches deep. It is noteworthy to say that for their truthful exposure of the conduct by tlie IAF 
commanders in the 1965 War, tlie present IAF Air Chief lias awarded a medal to the authors of the Indo-Pak Air War of 1965 , Samir Chopra 
and Jagan Molran. 

That morning two PAF Sabres had been scrambled and flashed passed this Hunter formation but to the good luck of the raiders, theF-86’s 
leader could not make contact with them, allegedly owing to veiy poor visibility in drizzle. Hie PAF pair' lost young ATM Aziz, who had hit the 
ground while being vectored onto the Hunters. During tlie chase, he was asked by his leader to change IFF mode, or radio channel for which Aziz 
may have glanced inside the cockpit and, in tlie process cart-wheeled, being veiy low. No 14 Squadron was now left with only 10 F-86s. It would 
be a waste of space to describe the rest of the foiled attacks by the Indian fighters against Lai Munir' Hut, where four Ouragans chased an army 
j eep and receiveda volley of small arms fire from the soldier's below. Again I learnt this from the Indian authors of Indo-Pak A ir War of 1 965. 

The Indian bombing raids were hopeless against civilian airfields. Two Canberra bombers armed with 1,000 Ib-bombs and 20 mm guns had raided 
tlie civil airport at Chittagong. Hie description of their mission is too ridiculous for an in depth recap because the bombs from tlie first aircraft fell 
somewhere in the parameter of tlie airport without exploding the second bomber then dived and released his bombs which allegedly exploded, 
missing the runway by a short mile or two. Hie two bombers on their' return nearly got shot down by the Hunters from the IAF No 14 Squadron, 
mistaking them for B-57s. There was yet another hapless attack by Vampires against Jessore without any real purpose and zero results. 

Another description of a high- level sweep to Jessore had a fimny tactical twist to it. Hunters and Vampires were to cany out a coordinated sweep 
over the abandoned Jessore single strip. As described by Indian historians, the Hunter's noticed the Vampires as they were starting up and tlie 
leader called out on tlie radio and discussed whether the Vampires being slower than tlie Hunters should take-olf earlier and they would catch up. 
Then they decided that they would take-off any way and circle over- head Jessore until the Vampires amived and together, they would draw the F- 
86s up in the air to shoot them down in air combat. Even a flying club could have put up a more organised and well briefed mission! 

All this riotous bungling and waste of ftiel and ammunition by the Indian Air Force was a manifestation of an unambiguous reality - that there was 
no coherence in the thinking of the IAF and tlie pilots lacked the will to put ip a fight. Attacking targets of no military value was not worthy of an 
air force three times the size of the PAF, and equipped with formidable fighters like the Hunter and some Mig-2 1 s, and indeed some very good 
pilots. How did the sole squadron of the PAF respond to IAF tickling their toes? Dhaka Station under the command of Gp Capt Gulli Haider had 
been given a free band to act and respond as considered expedient. Gulli made siperb work of his independence. This was the lynch-pin of 



success of all PAF units where the commanders thought and acted independently and evolved their own tacticalconcept without being overly 
authoritative. Gulli Haider was a simple man with no pretensions or chip on Iris shoulder. His unassuming personality masked a real tiger of a lighter 
pilot, M of courage and had tremendous capacity for bard work. 

In the opinion of Air Msbl Nur Khan, Gp Capt Gulli Haider deserved a Hilal-e- Jurat more than any other Station Commander, for his audacity, 
courage and highly aggressive air operations against veiy heavy odds. Air Mshl Nur Khan was unable to answer when I asked him why Gulli 
Haider had not awarded for Iris performance, when these were being dished out for average performances and at times for manufactured results. 
This is a subject that needs a separate chapter about awards and rewards given in indecent haste without waiting to assess and establish 
unequivocally the truth of what realty happened up in the air and on the ground. These awards should only have been given out for acts of valour 
beyond the call of duty. 

Kunnitola was under attack as mentioned above, when Gulli Haider gave the green light to Sqn Ldr Shabbir Hussain Syed, for a dawn strike 
against the main Indian Base of Kalaikunda on the morning of 7 th September. With Shabbir leading the team, there were Fit Lts Baseer, Tariq 
Habib, Haleem, and Fig Off Afcal making up this fonnidable raid. All of these pilots were well known to me personally and professionally. Each 
one possessed high calibre. They blazed across East Pakistan in poor visibility and low cloud base, but stuck together. Uiey streaked through the 
Bay of Bengal, to avoid detection Uien turning north, Shabbir stalled to pull up at 0640 I Irs. Suddenly, the calm of Kalaikunda was shattered by 
the sound of 6 guns firing from each of the 5 F-86s as they fiercely swept into devastating attacks. Tliere were only 2 or 3 Ack-Ack guns in 
position and these made no difference to the streaking Sabres. 

Two Canberras about to be airborne with IAF pilots Wilson and Karve (from the names it seemed evident that many of the pilots participating 
were Anglo-Indian officers), were blown up with foil foel and ammunition Another 4 Vampires were lined up on the tarmac and anned with foil 
fuel, they made spectacular fire works. The five made history emulating the No 19 Squadron strike against Pathankot as they all returned safety 
home. Not satisfied with the destruction as they drew their first blood, the Base Commander ordered a replay of the strike to Kalaikunda at 1030 
Hrs, led by the tougbie fighter pilot Haleem This was not a prudent decision, even though the boldness was worthy of praise. This time the Indians 
were ready as the first 2 Sabres blew up the single Canberra spotted by them, as the rest had been dispersed. Tliey were pounced upon by 2 
Hunters which bid been directed from 120 nm away by the 41 1 SU (Soviet built radar Unit). The Hunter pilots Cooke and Mamgain admitted to 
each other while en route that they were scared of the situation ahead. A classical dog- fight at low level ensued. 

At the outer most fringes of the Sabre’s operational range, they had to start heading back for consideration of frieL hi this process, one of the 
Hunters managed to shoot down the last man in Flaleem’s fonnation, Fig Off Afzal, who was fatally injured. Tariq Habib was fighting with two 
Hunters with the handicap of 1 hung-up tank and his flaps stuck at 20 degrees, making him totally vulnerable to the fester Hunters fighting on their 
own turf Miraculously and with Tariq Habib’s reputed professional excellence and gdmdetennination he managed to bring back a damaged 
aircraft. The day’s tally was nine Indian aircraft on the ground; four Canberras, four Vampires and one Dakota. Tlie one tiling that was clearly a 
result of fanciful bravado was the reporting of 9 Hunters over Kalaikunda by the PAF formation members on 7 th September. There were just two 
Hunters flown by Fit Lt Alfred Cooke and Fig Off SC Mamgain and both admitted to have been scared to get into air combat with the Sabres. It 
was possibly the Ack-Ack shells bursting in the distance which may have been perceived as fighters with jet plume. 

No 14 Squadron’s offensive reprisal needs to be judged in lire context of the heavy odds they were up against. From the performance ofnine IAF 
fighter squadrons versus a single No 14 Squadron, it becomes clear that the numerical preponderance was overcome by the one Squadron with 
only 10 aircraft. This was a victory of intangible fectors over the tangibles, tilting the numerical imbalance dramatically. The lesson for the present 
generation of commanders is that while state of the art weapon systems are important, it is the intangibles of bold leadership which generates 
courage in the sub- ordinates, and that in turn detennines the out come of victory or defeat. Too much reliance on technology is dangerous. 

The Indian authors oilndo-Pcik Air War of 1965 have paid a well deserved tribute to the gallant pilots of No 14 Squadron ‘The PAF was not 
deterred by its losses (just one F-86 shot down), for in the next few days they attacked IAF fields like Banakpur, Bagdogra, Gaubati and unused 
airstrips like Agqrtala.” Many IAF officers praised the way the lone PAF Squadron flew in the East. Wg Cdr Wilson, the CO of the Canberras at 
Kalaikunda, viewed the PAF in the East as “Highly motivated, well led and well trained.’’ This is what intangible fectors can do! 

Poor Start of IAF’s Counter Air Offensive 

The lightning strike against the Indian airfield ofPatliankot by No 19 Squadron followed by relentless bombing raids byourB-57s through out the 
night, could have left no doubt that the IAF would carry out major counter- airoperations against all our forward bases before dawn on 7 th 
September. For some inexplicable reason, the IAF did not launch any raids against Peshawar and Mauripur but paid their foil attention to 
Sargodha and, what the IAF wrongly perceived to be the Sargodha complex of airfields. The first strike by 12 IAF Mysteres was launched from 
Adampur. Tliere seemed to be neither a strategy nor a credible tactical concept apparent in the conduct of their air operations. Take for instance, 
the first strike. Hie role given to the IAF’s No 1 and 8 Squadrons was bizarre enough, but their weapons selection and order of attack in view of 
the weapons carried was even stranger. 

It is constantly lamented by the Indian fonnation leaders that the Mysteres did not have the operational range to effectively attack Sargodha, a 
mere 30 minute’s flight away. The Mystere is very similar to the F-86 in its operational capabilities, so why was a 30 minute leg rendering the 
fighter incapable of any combat after the attack? Assuming that their contention was correct and this bracketed the attack profile for the Mystere 
to a single attack, why then load the aircraft with rockets? These are somewhat imprecise weapons, demanding veiy steady tracking and aiming, 
thereby exposing the aircraft to the barrage of AckAck. The guns carried by the Indian fighters were highly accurate and the attack could be 
delivered with minimum tracking. Of course, all depended upon the precise target they were ordered to take- out and the determination of the pilots 
to perform with unwavering resolve. 


Even more baffling is the sequence of weapons delivery by the first wave of 1 2 aircraft. The last 4 Mysteres in the wave were loaded with 1 ,000 



pound bombs, presumably to render the runways untenable, which would prevent the PAF interceptor's from taking- off immediately after the last 
attack. Hie pattern of weapons delivery appeared to have been in the reverse order. Tlie aircraft with bonis attacking first and creating disruption 
and contusion at the airfield would have been the correct tactical choice. Hiis should have been followed by carefirlly positioned gun attacks. Hiere 
were over 70 fighters sprawled under the nose ofthe attackers. 

Interestingly, the first IAF raid liad met with adversity right from the stall APAF B-57 had raided Adampur runway just as the Mysteres were 
being loaded. Hereafter, the fonnation leader Wg Cdr Taneja found his parachute missing because the airman carrying it had thrown it in a ditch 
as the raid was on, and locating the parachute bad delayed their take- off His Nos 3 and 4 aborted on take- off and the leader ofthe second 
formation had also turned back. Hie No 4 of his fonnation, a Sqn Ldr had lost his way and j oined a different formation. Hie last four of the 1 2 
aircraft from the first raid, loaded with borrbs, lost sight of each other, and then the leader could not find his initial turning point owing to poor 
navigational skill Hiey aborted the mission and landed back with their weapons. 

Battle For Sargodha 

Despite all the confusion, Sargodha base was totally surprised when the first 6 Mysteres pulled up in perfectly conducted navigation, placing them 
a couple of miles east of Sargodha at 0538 Hrs. Neither the Mobile Observer Units (MOU) had reported the raid at any ofthe three belts nor did 
Sakesar radar pick them up. Inexplicably, only one pair of F- 1 04s had been scrambled for pre-dawn CAP but one of them aborted leaving Fit Lt 
Ariq Iqbal alone in the air. Hie formation pulled ip and carried out a pop-up strafing and rocketing attack in virtual loose close fonnation. In that 
kind of an inflexible attack profile and the incredible haste to exit after the first poorly aimed attack, there is very little chance for the attackers to 
pick-up aircraft on the ground individually and then go for a determined and precise attack. 

Here was the difference between the two air forces: No 1 9 Squadron had made 3 attacks on Patbankot, 220 plus nautical miles (approximately 40 
minutes flight time) away when ordered to carry out a single attack. No 14 Squadron in East Pakistan had made even more daring airfield attacks. 
In case ofthe IAF, notwithstanding the frankness of the pilot Vinod Bhatia, who according to Indian historians admits, "As we approached the 
international border, I bad a bit of scare,” there was no effort at all to select from the multitude of targets and cany out unwavering attacks. Hiis is 
why, most fortunately for the PAF, the raiders missed the 4 F-86s and 2 F- 104s parked at the ORP, with pilots strapped inside the cockpits, 
ready to scramble. They offered lucrative targets for an aggressive attacker. The Stoiy of the Pakistan Air Force (official history- 1 988) 
described this as a glaring defect to have so many aircraft on the ORP. I wonder who was to blame for such infantile tactical over sight? 

These gleaming silver beauties escaped completely unscathed as the raiders fired their rockets at the ATC building, and others just jettisoned the 
pods with rockets inside (all of these jettisoned rockets and rails are on display at the PAF Museum at Faisal Base). 

The gun attacks were at very high speed without proper aim; this was totally inexcusable but lucky for the 65-70 fighter aircraft interspersed in 
different locations. It is a different subject as to why 95% of the Sargodha force was on the ground when the raid was a 100% certainty. Hiis was 
an amazing bungle that a maximum number of interceptors were not in the aft covering all approaches and exit routes for Sargodha and Sakesar 
radar. As for the IAF claims, there was no four engine aircraft (claimed to be a C- 130) within 100 miles from Sargodha, nor was a single PAF 
aircraft even bruised by the raiders. Consequently, the IAF claim of shooting down a Starfigbter and other aircraft in circular pens (no such tiring 
existed at Sargodha) is just fantasy. So much for the first strike of 7 Mysteres out ofthe 12 originally briefed, who arrived undetected, pulled up 
and exited without a single hit other than Hie ATC building. 

When tlie inevitable happened on that dawn of 7 th September, 70 odd aircraft lay cosily in their pens, while the fighter pilots from 32 and 33 
Wings must have witnessed the IAF attacks in tearful frustration. It never ceases to enrage many veterans of that war, including myself as to why 
tlie 4 F-86s and a pair of F- 1 04s were on the ORP and not in the air as CAPs? This was colossal neglect and a serious tactical failure on the part 
of whoever was responsible. There were only three lighters airborne as CAPs at the expected time of the attacks by the IAF. Those responsible 
for such poor employment of fomidable air defence capability were decorated and promoted to lead us in the next round. 

But the episode of tlie first attack had not ended as yet. A lagging Mystere flown by Sqn Ldr Devayya, was being hunted by a Starfighler on CAP 
over Sargodha, piloted by Fit Lt Amjad. Amjad let go his two Sidewinders at the escaping Mystere in a wild hope to score at a target which was 
barely 50 ft above tlie ground and flying below tlie F- 1 04 (completely out of the missile envelope). Amjad pressed home his attack using his 
Vulcan gun and registered hits. Assuming that tlie aircraft was out of action and going down, he stalled looking out for other aircraft. Not known to 
Amjad was the fact that Devayya bad survived tlie F- 104’ s volley and he had decided to turn back into the F- 104 and light it out. Sighting a 
Mystere, which Ainjad thought to be a second one, he turned into it and entered a scissors manoeuvre. Instead of trading speed for height and 
waiting to engage a low-on- fuel escaping Mystere, Ainjad tightened his turn and reduced speed to present himself as an easy target to tlie 
detemined Mystere pilot. A Mach-2 lighter getting shot down by a severely damaged Mystere was a creditable achievement by any standard. 

Devayya had to be a very courageous pilot for he chose to fight it out instead of ejecting and so he perished with honour in tlie process. Devayya 
deserved the highest tribute for his git and file Indian Government awarded him posthumously with a 'Malia Vir Cliakar', the second highest 
gallantry award, 23 years after the incident occurred. What is important in this episode is the realization that the IAF, the Indian defence 
establishment and tlie historians have pursued their research and analysis of the wars with Pakistan unrelentingly, till this day. The next fonnation of 
8 aircraft was launched against Bbagtanwala, a long abandoned ship since WW-H with only cattle grazing over it. Hie IAF intelligence in tlie West 
was even worse than their Eastern counterparts. Bbagtanwala strip had been adorned with some well- silhouetted dummies of Sabres. Hiese were 
hit by the second wave from No 8 Mysteres Squadron and they caught fire and burnt with great aplomb. It appears that the pilots realized that 
they had expended their ammunition at decoys, yet they claimed one Sabre destroyed and another damaged. This fonnation also exited without 
any interference from the 70+ lighters at Sargodha, a most anguishing thought even today, as I write this. What on earth was going on at 
Sargodha? How has the PAF's official history frivolously titled the chapter on the Indian raids as ‘Hie Greatest Day’, when 1 5 Mysteres in sheer 
panic to fire or jettison their weapons, went back, with one shot down, for the cost of one F- 104 - a shocking tally by any standards. 



The next wave against Sargodba was initiated by 5 Hunters about ten minutes later. Fortunately, the Sargodba elements on ADA had been 
scrambled. Sqn Ldr MM Alam with his wingman Masood Akbtar, was told to orbit overhead at 1 5,000 ft as was the F- 1 04 flown by Sqn Ldr 
Arif Iqbal Fit Lt Imtiaz Bbatti was also airborne but ineffective for reasons unknown (Imtiaz has confimied to me that he has been wrongly quoted 
as having been witness to the shooting down of Sqn Ldr Onkar Nath Kakar. He did not see anyF-86 or the Hunter). This raid by the Hunters had 
emanated fromHalwara to attack Cbotta Sargodba. Fortunately for Sargodba, once again the target selection was completely olf the mark. This 
formation also had the experienceof a resounding attack by a B-57 at 0430 Firs. Again, like the first Mystere fly-past, this formation had also 
arrived undetected and pulled up at the abandoned strip of Cbotta Sargodba at 0547 Hrs. They should not have been surprised to find only a few 
cows in the early morning. The formation leader claims to have taken on another target (this is really silty since Sargodba base, spread over miles, 
was almost on the downwind ofChotta Sargodha and did not grab this leader's attention). 

They saw some aircraft over the abandoned strip and roared into attack. The leader Ratbore (who claimed to have shot-down Sarfaraz Rafiqui the 
day before) over shot whatever target he was imagining The only real thing which happened was that they were pounced upon by 2 Sabres. The 
Indian pilots claimed to have shaken them olf and returned to base. Yet they also admit that Sqn Ldr Jog was hit but only damaged. In addition 
they admit that Sqn Ldr Kacker was also hit on his fuel tank, and was losing foeL He bailed out over Pakistan, and was captured and became a 
POW for 5 months. MM Alam had not implicitly claimed to have shot this Hunter. The Indian version of Kacker's fuel problem and also the 
aircraft being hit from the guns of a Sabre or Ack-Ack fire is muddled up and contradictory. 

MM Alam himself states that both Iris Sidewinder missiles fired one by one had missed the escaping Hunter, but that as he over- shot the Hunter he 
had fired at, he saw the canopy missing and no pilot in the cockpit. He also confinns seeing the pilot coming down by parachute. He was later 
captured and identified as Sqn Ldr Kacker. The account by the leader of the 5 Hunters, Sqn Ldr D S Jog also confimied that Kacker suffered an 
engine flame out during the exit while still in radio and visual contact. The fonnation had to leave him behind as he let out some Punjabi profanities 
for having to bail out owing to a technical problem 

Even for in- experienced fighter pilots it is difficult to comprehend Alam's account. After firing your second Sidewinder at the quarry in front, how 
can you not see its impact unless you pull-up steeply and instantly to reposition for a gun attack? Alam says he over shot his quarry at low-level "I 
took die last man and dived behind him, getting very low in the process.” While going past the Hunter flying straight and level he noticed that 
ominously it had an empty cockpit. Is it not tactically unsound to overshoot an enemy fighter aircraft not knowing that the pilot has bailed out? 
Secondly, at such low-level (around 50 feet above ground), as admitted by Alam, how does an abandoned aircraft maintain flight and how can the 
chasing pilot miss a whole sequence of ejection and not see the inpact of his missile, while all this is alleged to have taken place during the same 
attack of firing the first and second missile? Why was a gun attack not pursued, since the chasing F-86 had no clue about the escaping Hunter 
flying without a pilot inside? Very curious, and certainty could not be constituted as a kill by a long shot. Ibis seems to have been thrust upon 
Alam Only MM Alam can explain this quandary which has been raised by historians as well as fighter pilots from both sides. 

What is also not understood is the role of the first F-86 pair and the F- 104 which had been scrambled as the first dawn CAP who were allegedly 
witnessing Alam chasing five hunters. Why did they not pursue and follow on the heels of the Sabre combating 5 Hunters who claimed to have 
disengaged from the Alam pair and moseyed along back to 1 lalwara, except for Kacker? 

The astounding reality was that there were 10 Hunters prowling around attacking aimlessly at Chotta Sargodba and Bhagtanwala and only 5 
Hunters came for Sargodha base at 0605 Hrs. These were extremely vulnerable Hunters with veiy little fuel margin to engage in air combat. Two 
were finally shot down by Alam's excellent air combat skills. But the other 13 from the three initial strikes went back unchallenged because the 
formidable interceptor force at Sargodha was kept lolling on the ground. 

Thirty Seconds Air Battle 

This last Hunter fonnation arriving at Sargodha also came unannounced. One wonders what was going on with the air defence system comprising 
Sakesar radar and hundreds ofMOUs. How come none of these raids were picked-up and reported by these MOUs? These 5 Hunters fromNo 
7 Squadron had taken off from Hahvara with Wg Cdr Tone Zachariah in the lead. This strike had also been subjected to a thunder and lightening 
attack by a B-57, while their crews were preparing the aircraft. After the PAF bomber had exited the Hunter formation took-off One of the 
wingmen abandoned the mission because he had lost sight of his leader and the remainder continued towards their target which was Sargodha. 
Approximately 30 miles short, this fonnation was attacked again by the lone interceptor pair with MM Alam leading The Story of the Pakistan 
Air Force (official history- 1 988) has given a lengthy commentary on this air combat episode. It has also recorded the first hand account by MM 
Alam about the duel 

Ambiguities and tactical limitations make this incident the central subject of controversy between Indian and PAF historians. It is tactically and 
mathematically very difficult to resurrect the incident in which all 5 Hunters in a hard turn were claimed to have been shot down in a 270 degree 
turn in 23 seconds. The Story of the Pakistan Air Force (official history- 1 988) 8 as well as John Flicker also admits that the claim was difficult to 
confirm, especially when only 2 Hunters were found near Sangla Hill railway station, with the pilots chaned beyond recognition. The IAF lias 
repeatedly admitted the loss of 2 Hunters in this mission, along with two more damaged (Jog and Parihar). Logically, since the five were claimed to 
have been shot down in 23 seconds, then they should all have crashed within close proximity. Hie conjecture that all the rest could have crashed 
after 8-9 minutes of flying is superfluous and unworthy of the official PAF history. Hie remainder two Hunters did escape What makes the PAF’s 
official history’s insistence so pointless is that MM Alam realty did an excellent job of shooting down 2 Hunters, and the fact remains that he, along 
with his somewhat ineflective wing man, handled 1 0 Hunters in the few minutes of this combat. 

^ The Story of the Pakistan Air Force . Page 380. 

Added to this, Sqn Ldr Rawlley’ s cart wheeling into the ground on the 6 th , as Alam tackled him, takes his score to three and makes him the 


highest scorer after Sarfaraz Rafiqui till the 7 th of September. Yet another Hunter shot by him on 1 6 th of September makes Alam the uncontested 
top scorer from both sides in the wars fought between India and Pakistan He deservedly earned the reputation of being an outstanding air combat 
pilot, a privilege not many living fighter pilots can claim 

The results of the entire day on 7 th September were the botched strikes by tire IAF. It was evident that nearly 44 aircraft raids were planned by 
the IAF. Out of these only 33 materialized; from the 1 1 that aborted most need not have done so. Another Mystere strike on 7 th September 
deserves mention lor the loss of an experienced Squadron Commander. Sqn Ldr Jasbeer Singh crashed during low-level evasive manoeuvres, 
taking his wing man to be a Sabre. There were no Sabres in the area as was confirmed by his wing men Fit Lts Irani and Doru. Sqn Ldr Jasbeer 
was exiting at 30-50 feet above ground level and weaving as he cart wheeled into the ground. This happened about 25 miles fromRahwali during 
the exit after the formation had unsuccessfully attacked the mobile radar unit at Rahwali Some how, John Fricker had mistakenly taken this crash 
as a kill over Sargodha on the 7 th of September, in order to show a high kill rate inflicted upon the IAF raiders. That was incorrect as Jasbeer 
Singh had not been in any formation that attacked Sargodha. To claim an accident as a kill is very unprofessional So, that was a false award. 

However, it would be instructive to know that the claim by the attacking Mysteres led by Jasbeer Singh is also controversial One of theAir 
Defence Controllers in the PAF, Gp Capt Rab N awaz, during a recent interview infonned me that the IAF claim of completely destroying the 
radar as described by the Indian authors was totally incorrect. He was emphatic that the Rahwali unit never went off the air for even a minute 
throughout the war. 9 1 also interviewed one of the most respected signals officers, Wg Cdr MS Khan, in January 2008. He was in charge of the 
FJ JN T Squadron which had the task of analyzing the information captured by the EUNT-B-57’s from No 24 Squadron, commanded by my 
batch mate and exceptional pilot Sqn Ldr Iqbal (Bala). Wg Cdr MS Khan recounted that the black-boxes of No 24 Squadron were analyzed on a 
daily basis by his experts and Rahwali was last de-briefed on tire evening of 11 th Sept 1965, the day the PAF lost its brave son Iqbal from our 
own Ack-Ack at Rahwali The radar at Rahwali continued to operate as it had from the start. The IAF story that the radar was pulverized is pure 
fantasy 

9 IBID. Page 145. 

What actually happened is revealed by the tragic incident involving my friend Squadron Ldr Iqbal (Bala) and his somewhat anxious navigator Fit Lt 
Lodhi who were both shot over Rahwali on September 1 1 th afternoon when they were calibrating their FJ JN T equipment. This entailed an 
approach to active radar (the one at Rahwali) to establish its precise location For this exercise, the radar was operational and transmitting and 
active on 1 1 th September. So there is no way that this radar was even scratched on the 7 th as claimed by the IAF. It remained fully operational 
through out the war. 

It is imperative that 40 years down the line there should not remain any controversy about the perfonnance of the two air forces during the two 
wars. Hence the importance of verifying the facts in the war dailies and books currently being published or written Tlie phantoms and myths 
should be laid to rest so that researchers and seekers of truth have access to valid versions of what really happened and who was responsible for 
the successes and failures. These controversies have raged for over forty years - they need to be resolved afiably yet professionally. 

Looking at the overall picture candidly and truthfully, the surprise attack by the Indian army without coordinated attack by the IAF was a God 
given opportunity for the PAF to have altered the course of history. The failure of the pre-emptive strategic offensive on 6 th September was no 
less than a debacle, especially considering that the PAF operational readiness was at the optimum with missions fully rehearsed and highly 
professional pilots available in droves to wreak havoc on the enemy. Ibis once in a life-time opportunity was thrown away and shoved under the 
carpet and a candid synopsis of the events was veiled behind the shill trumpet blowing of a victory that it was not. Ibis is even more painful 
because even a 1 2 aircraft strike at 1 6 1 5 Hrs launched from Sargodha would have achieved massive success. Over caution and obduracy won the 
day and initiative and grit, the hallmark of the PAF, became the loser. 

That we were saved on the 7 th was essentially for poor target selection, bad tactics, hunied wavering attacks and just bad flying by the IAF rather 
than good tactical employment of our interceptor force. Incontestably, the IAF perfonnance contributed to the PAF ultimate success in substantial 
measure as did the excellent performance of the cheeky PAF. Uiere should be a serious message for the leadership of the PAF today and in the 
future to remember that opportunity in war only comes once and is also given away just once. This makes the difference in the final outcome. If 
leaders at all levels right down to the sections are not clear in their objectives and found dithering when the chips are down, the results can be 
traumatic. But if every one has a clear vision of their tasks and are highly motivated by the personal example of the top leadership, the results can 
be astounding, as indeed these were through most of the operations. 

The PAF had all the ingredients for a final and thundering success. They fought an enemy 3 times its size and overawed it. Uiey hit the enemy hard 
and our lighter pilots made the skies of Pakistan very dangerous for them What took the thunder out of what could have been the obituary of most 
IAF raids was the ‘Over Caution’ shown by the commanders handling the air defence and CAPS. They made the same inexplicable but fatal error 
of keeping fighters and the finest crop of pilots vulnerable on the ground. But for this, the PAF operational elements could have brought the enemy 
to its knees. Yet, what this small and cheeky PAF managed to achieve was unmatched in the history of air warfare from Suez to Seoul during the 
last half century. They deserve the highest tribute, which they earned, at a cost that was avoidable. 

The hype of success especially since all the pilots had returned safely on the 6 th was still exuding at Peshawar Base on the 7 th morning when six 
pilots were placed on ADA alert from 0500 Hrs. The PAF was anticipating retaliation and intense reprisal by tire IAF any time soon One pair 
with GAR-8 missiles had been placed as overhead CAP and four' aircraft with missiles were placed on cockpit stand-by by the SOC. There was 
great expectancy about air combat in tire next hour or so . Plenty of arm entangling in mock dog- fights between the section leaders and their wing 
men was going on in the bunker by those on 5 minutes stand by. Another pair was scrambled just as I arrived in the Squadron at 0600 Hrs after a 
good night’s sleep after many days. The frustrating hours dragged on but we were not paid a visit by the much awaited IAF raiders. 


We kept hearing from our comrades in Sargodba that they were feeing the frill brunt of the attacks by the IAF yet they were frill of spirit, telling us 
that the raiders were dropping like birds out of the sky. The news of Alam claiming the shooting down of five Hunters brought frenzied screams of 
'Tally-ho’ in the bunker. Yet nothing had headed our way so iar. As mentioned earlier, Air Cdre RahimKhan had taken me to Srinagar in the 
month of June. He had rightly assessed that the IAF could launch from Srinagar against Peshawar and Risalpur without any early-warning and 
could cause havoc. For this reason the preemptive strike on the 6 th for No 19 Squadron was envisaged either against Ambala or Srinagar. But for 
reasons best known to the air staff we were given Pathankot as the first strike target. 

The Theatre had taken the right decision to send us to the latter. Air Commodore Rahim Khan must have had anxious moments as to when the 
IAF would raid Peshawar. We did not have to wait too long as I got a call from my Base Commander at about 1430 Hrs, asking me to come to 
tlie Base Operations immediately. With his hands wringing and playing with his wedding ling in his typical manner, he looked at me with that 
perpetual deep frown and whispered, ‘There is another one ibr you chaps.” I waited in anticipation as he gave me the signal message he was 
holding. Anxiously I unfolded the paper. The tasking order read that No 19 Squadron with 4 aircraft, guns only, was to reconnoitre file airfield at 
Avantipura and strafe any targets on the ground and follow up to Srinagar and attack aircraft on the ground. I had already flown over Srinagar on 
3 rd September in an armed patrol mission and had seen one Canbema and one 1X1- 1 0 aircraft. 

Back in file bunker I asked my Flight Commander, Mo Akbar to detail three pilots to go with me ibr the Srinagar strike. He asked if he could take 
the mission I told him sure he could lead the sortie as long as I was given the No 3 slot. He succumbed because we had an understanding after the 
Pathankot strike that both of us should not be in the same fbnnation as fer as possible. Akbar suggested Fig Oils Arshad Sami, Rao Akhtar, and 
Kbalid Latifto fonnthe team We planned ibr a Hi-Lo-Hi profile, making Khel under the Nanga Parbat on die bank of Kishangangp River as our 
IP. The rest of the mission would be detennined once we got to the targets since proper intelligence was always conspicuous by its absence. 

We climbed to 20,000 ft in the shadow of Nanga Parbat to avoid being picked up by the Jammu radar. Crossing the deep gorges of die 
Himalayas below, we commenced a steep descent over file village of Khel which was exactly a 90 degrees angle from the target area. Turning 
right, we entered the vale of Kashmir with its high peaks on either side till we were short of the tamous Dal Lake, where we dove down to 1 00 
feet AGL. The panorama was spectacular, visibility unlimited, and nature seemed to have poured the most vivid colours into file fields and 
surrounding hills. I could not help but break the radio silence, ‘This is where I am coming ibr my second honeymoon boys.” We were thundering 
down file valley until I began to see the febledWular and Dal Lakes approaching, which enveloped the northern outskirts of Srinagar town 
Crossing the western edge of the Dal Lake, the city of Srinagarexuded its magical tranquillity. A couple of minutes later I looked at die clock and 
knew that the target should be appealing at 1 1 o’clock about two miles. I transmitted ‘pulling up’ and went into a steep climb winging over to the 
left. 

As expected Avantipura strip was where it should have been, desolate, without any sigps of life but blocked with four boulders placed equidistant 
on the short runway. We dipped down to deck level and set course making a u-tum back towards Srinagar airfield. A few minutes from the target, 
I noticed an object virtually hanging in file a ft at 1 1 o’clock about three miles. Fit Lt Rao Akhtar picked it up simultaneously and it turned out to be 
a brightly painted helicopter (later reported to be carrying the Chief Minister of Occupied Kashmir). Rao asked my pennission to shoot him down 
I said, “No, leave it alone, it’s a civilian helicopter.” Akhtar must have cursed me like hell ibr not allowing him Thirty seconds before pull up, I 
called my formation to check ‘Guns hot’. Just as I commenced pull up I noticed the sky over Srinagar replete with big black pulls; this meant 
heavy Ack- Ack had opened up with a vengeance. I instantly called my fonnation for ‘gun sight un-caged’ for a high level strafing attack. We had 
trained for high angle strafing much more than was required or expected of us. That day, it was to pay the real dividend. 

All of us observed the unwelcome message from the ground defences at Srinagar. They were definitely heavy guns because file shells were bursting 
at 10,000- 12,000 ft above ground level Hie sky was feirly well pitted as I called in for the attack. It was a disappointing sight to see a few 
transport aircraft parked with no signs of file Canberra or any fighters that I had hoped for. I took the DC3 on the left, there were actually two 
parked on file tannac and I could see a fair amount of panic as men were jumping out of the aircraft and running for their lives. I opened with a 
very long burst and could see my bullets landing on the tail section and running through the engines in front. 

Khalid Latifwent in after me with his reputed deadly aimandtook out another transport aircraft. As I looked back, Arshad Sami went for file 
white painted DHC Caribou, just like file one that Fig Off Arshad Choudhry, flying as my wing man, had shot at Pathankot. The Caribou faithfully 
caught fire and a very orange flame erupted towards the sky. A frustrated Rao Akhtar called and said, “There is nothing for me to attack.” I said, 
“Shoot at the antennas on the ATC.” That’s precisely what he did. We exited without a scratch from the menacing heavy Ack- Ack shells clearly 
visible and bursting above us. The fonnation joined up just like we used to after an armament mission at Jamrud range. It was anxising to find out 
from some one listening to Radio Srinagar that 2 PAF Sabres had been shot down over Srinagar and Sqn Ldr Haider was specifically mentioned 
as having been captured. The BBC crew which interviewed my pilots and I a couple of days later had asked me the question whether I knew that 
file Indians had claimed shooting me down. 

Jhc India Pakistan Air War 1965 (IP AW) 10 confinus the results of our mission; “Squadron Leader SS Haider led die PAF raid at 1600 hours. 
After his earlier successful raid on Pathankot, Haider chose Srinagar, as it was the only airfield within range of his Sabres from Peshawar. As usual 
no warning was available to file defences until the Sabres were almost overhead. Haider and his wingpian attacked 2 Dakotas parked near the 
ATC. Both aircraft had to be written off The other 2 Sabres strafed and thoroughly shot up a Caribou parked on the apron ahead of file tenninal 
A Sabre hit and damaged by the Ack- Ack was trailing flames as all 4 Sabres disappeared over the mountains, heading back for home. It seemed 
unlikely that the damaged Sabre would make it back to the air in the near future. The raid netted the Pakistanis three aircraft destroyed on the 
ground, one of'which belonged to file IAF. One ofthe Dakotas belonged to the civilian Indian Airlines Corporation The Caribou belonged to the 
Royal Canadian Air Force contingent of the United Nations Military Observer Group in India and Pakistan.” 

18 India Pakistan Air War 1965 has covered every strike by No 19 Squadron in greater and much more accurate detail than the PAF’s official history. Page 146-147. 

Botched Attack Against Pathankot 


As we had landed from the Srinagar strike late in the afternoon, I decided to take the rest of the day olh and spend it with my wife and son. F ate 
had something else in store. Suddenly, I was taken by surprise by the Base Commander at the Base Ops Room, as we arrived for filing in the after 
mission reports. He told me that the Theatre bad ordered a repeat strike against Patbankot. I think it was past 1 600 Hrs when this news was 
broken to me. My first reaction was why had the Base Commander waited so long and why did he not he tell my Flight Commander, Mo Akbar 
or even better Wg Cdr Tawab to take on the mission to attack on time, so that they could make a success of it by sulking it in good light 
conditions? He told me that he had been unsuccessful in getting Tawab and thought it fit that he should wait for me since it was a critically important 
mission. As though to appease me, he announced that six aircraft were ready and two more would come on line shortly. Mockingly, 1 said, “Sir, 
make sure the night flying equipment is serviceable sinceit would be a novel attack in darkness by F-86s; would you like to come along, sir?” I was 
really upset at the Base Commander’s obduracy. 1 told try boys, “Let’s get the hell out of here.” 

Meanwhile, the Base Commander had taken an in-coming call from the Theatre as was apparent from the announcement of the Duty Ops Officer. 
Amanullah called try ret me as we started to leave and pointing at the receiver indicated for me to take the calL Gp Capt Saeedullah Khan, the 
Director of Operations, told ire in Iris clipped Oxford accent to speed up and take-off as it was getting late. My riposte was sharp and sardonic. 
“Sir, if we were even to run and go without bothering about parachutes, we would not make it to Pathankot with any daylight left to see the targets, 
just like Rafiqui yesterday,” I added for effect. His crisp response was, “Now you do as you have been ordered and don’t waste time.” This was 
perhaps the only time in ny life that I wished that Gp Capt Saeedullah was near enough for me to tell him “Sir. why don’t you lead the mission and 
1 will % as your wing.” He was thrusting a mission upon Peshawar which had zero chances of success but was fraught with nothing but danger. 

The whole incident was an enigma to me and extremely dangerous for the pilots who were going to be sent into harm’s way especially considering 
tlie tragic finale of the Hahvara strike only 24 Hrs earlier for the very reason of delayed launching. 

The Base Commander seemed to be waiting for ny reaction, knowing fully well that we would not reach our target before dark, as he would not 
talk sense into the Operations Director. Danger and death had little place in try mind as the Squadron Commander at that moment where ny 
personal safety was concerned, but to shove ny young pilots into an inferno knowing fully well that the light conditions on the ground would be 
against us while we would be easily picked ip from the air and the ground was quite awful I looked at the frowning Base C ommander and said, 
“Sir, ours is not to reason why however ridiculous this mission is, just give me the aircraft serial numbers and location while we get our torches and 
pilots!” He wished us good luck and a repeat performance. What a weird sense of humour, I thought. 

Mo Akbar implored ire that he would take the mission I told him that was fine but I was definitely corning along. It was getting dicey and we 
would have to take the best with us. The conduct of flight met with hick- ups from the start. Only seven aircraft could be made ready in the short 
time available since several missions had already been conducted and the aircraft availability at that late hour was understandably under pressure. I 
told Mo Akbar that it was his turn to avenge ny actions over Pathankot the day before and he could keep me on hold on top of the target till he 
had Iris fill “With the way the sun is rocketing down to the horizon, we won’t even recognise a jumbo jet in the middle of the runway,” was his 
retort. 

We could encounter interceptors and CAPs overhead and Ack-Ack from below. Given the light conditions, it would be past dusk, when we 
would pull up and I suggested to Mo Akbar that as he pulled ip I would pull ip higher and provide some cover to clear the formation into the 
attack. Exiting west, the enemy would have the advantage of spotting us as we would be a^inst a slightly better lit horizon than the east. “Should 
we get into an unavoidable air combat situation, we will fight it out and not run because running would mean becoming a sitting duck.” We had 
planned to recover again at Sargodha after the attack. For just a moment I felt a sense of foreboding for the young laces as we got ready to leave 
the bunker. I had made it a Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) for one aircraft to start- ip and check-in on radio and remain stand-by to be 
used by any one of the formation pilots who may encounter problems till take-off for all counter- air- operations missions. It was to pay dividends 
that fateful evening. Only seven aircraft were ready as the day light started lading 

We decided to go ahead with the six and leave the 7 th as reserve. No 6 had to abort just as we were starting to roll There was no time to switch 
with the stand-by aircraft. Five of us roared down the runway, as the sun was glowing red-hot behind us, just touching the horizon. It was a 
spectacular sun-set; I wondered for a fraction if it was the last sun-set for some of us. But the thought was consumed by what happened in the next 
few seconds. Hie first four got airborne and turned to set-course. Suddenly, I panicked as rny wheels would not retract. A very unusual un- 
serviceability, but on that day I cursed aloud and asked the leader to throttle back to 78% power to conserve fuel and carry out a veiy wide left 
hand orbit. I called the stand-by pilot who luckily responded. I instructed him to come to the beginning of runway 17, and stand-by to switch 
aircraft with me. I requested the ATCO to allow me landing from the opposite side to the runway in use. The problem was the barrier at the end of 
runway 1 7, but I told him that I would manage. Landing with fill fuel in the direction of the wind was dicey enough, but having to stay above the 
barrier stanchions added to the dangerous situation, owing to lesser length available and slow deceleration down wind with foil weight. But this was 
war and a decision had to be made. 

I was sceptical whether ny manoeuvre would jeopardize the mission by fortber delaying it, but I had to give it ny best shot. With a prayer in try 
heart, I came in holding try aircraft with a lot of power and made a very high angle of attack landing. The switch-over was amazingly swift and I 
was again rolling down the runway, as Mo Akbar leading the five, was completing a 360 degrees loose firm and approaching on the right side of 
the runway. All of that took about five minutes as I sat behind Iris formation which set course for the IP. The rest of the flight went without further 
incident and five of uslike a perfect arrow were darting across to pierce the eneny’s defences. At Gujranwala, the ground features became very 
dim as the leader started a steep descent and at Pasrur he turned towards the target. When we were about six to eight miles away, the leader 
called up and said, “Sir, they have lit up the target for us at 1 1 o’clock.” The sky ahead was a stunning colour of orange and white as we drew 
closer to this barrage of Ack-Ack awaiting us, denser than I bad predicted. I will never forget the sight but there was no time to admire the beauty 
of tlie 4 th of July Independence Day fire works. 


Fit Lt Akbar and Iris formation pulled up virtually over dark ground underneath. I did a tear-drop on to the formation and advised the leader to pull 
up high and to carry out a high angle strafe attack, bottoming out at 2000 ft. Ibis way I thought that we would be spared tlie heavy Ack-Ack fire 



but we had no choice but to attack smack in the core of the Ack-Ack inferno, without aiming owing to the darkness but with the sky lit up with a 
prolusion of shells bursting all around us. It was virtually a shot in the dark as only the silhouette of a dark runway was discemable. I mist have 
held my breath through tliat attack because as I exited, my lungs seem to explode with tremendous pressure. We made a random attack as nothing 
was identifiable on the ground and the Ack-Ack was profiise. Just as I pulled up from the attack, I spotted a lone unidentifiable aircraft travelling 
south to north with his navigation lights on. I called up and told the leader to hit the deck (get very low) and head west. I was enraged at the 
stupidity of the entire wastefiil and dangerous mission we had to go through. We landed at Sargodha again and returned to Peshawar at night. 

My log-book bears an irrefiitable testimony to the conduct of this flight in darkness as it lias logged 30 minutes of day flying and 50 minutes of night 
Hying. My comments in the log-book cannot be repeated for the language I used. I do not think that my pilots were at all amused at taking such a 
grave risk without any legitimate or cogent rationale. This mission is mentioned by the British historian John Flicker, and the Indian historians but 
tlie latter have file date wrong. 

Irrespective of the outcome, it is amazing that The Story of the Pakistan Air Force (official history- 1988) has been completely quiet about this 
mission Not a word has been uttered as though it was wished away to dissipate it as last as the jet exhaust of the five pilots. Fortunately, file de 
lacto historian, JohnFricker, the author of Battle for Pakistan which was written a decade before the PAF history in 1988, had chronicled this 
senseless mission I have no idea why the PAF historians have chosen to exclude this ill-conceived strike. 

John Fricker lias encapsulated those moments vividly when he recounts, “Despite having gone without sleep since dawn on 6 th September, the 
indefatigable ‘Nosy’ completed his second day of intense operations by taking part in another dusk strike (after delivering file strike against 
Srinagar hours earlier), with 4 other F-86 pilots agiinst the IAF fighter hornet’s nest at Pathankot. This mission was somewhat of a forlorn hope in 
view of file preceding operations, a wall of flak arose from the Indian air base before the Sabres were even within range. Although die PAF aircraft 
braved the ground defences and pulled up to attack, no target was visible on the ground. One unidentified aircraft was seen flying around with its 
navigation lights on, but the five F-86s made their exit after only a nominal attack in the general area of the airfield.” 1 1 

Friends Embrace Martyrdom 

The morning of September 1 1 th turned out to be one of file worst days of 1151 life as for all those who had loved and admired the two legends who 
were martyred that day. We had been given a mission against a suspected signal/radar unit at Jammu and I had just finished briefing file formation 
when I got a call from the Base Commander who gave me the second worst news of the war thus lar as he heard me literally scream, “But where 
and how the hell”? Every one in file bunker was silent as they sensed there was some real bad news being communicated to me. I put the receiver 
down and tried to hold back my back my emotions, unsuccessfully. My course mate and a jewel of the 13 th General Duties Branch (GD), our 
saviour during file Pathankot strike, 12 Sqn Ldr Iqbal, OC of special EITNT No 24 Squadron and his navigator Lodhi had been shot down 
Enraged, I said, “Not by file bloody enemy, but some stupid bastards at Rahwali using PAF Quads-guns.” 

11 Battle for Pakistan by John Fricker. Page 118. 

12 Sqn Ldr Iqbal was commanding a secret communication unit No 24 Squadron. His specially equipped Elint aircraft were highly sophisticated and could monitor and 
interrupt any transmission 


First Rafiqui and now this wonderful Iqbal (Bala) gone. Both were close friends since the first days at file academy, they were amongst the best 
cadets from our batch, always smiling, infinitely kind and genuine. Both men went down senselessly. 

On the morning of 1 3 th September, I decided to % the morning mission taking lead from Dilawar and putting him at No 3 position I told him tliat 
he and Arsliad Sami had been hogging all the CAS missions in Chawinda-Phillora area (reportedly 800 tanks were involved in this battle for the 
survival of Sialkot). We got airborne and all was well as we tore across the landscape in immaculate low-level battle formation Across the Chenab 
River I heard a Sargodha formation check-in I could never miss the voice of the invincible Butch Ahmed. I called him and he acknowledged. I 
asked himhis mission and he quipped, “Hot stuff and boy.” Jokingly I said, “Butch, ifyouwant we will do the job for yon” He shot back at me, 
“Hey Nosy boy, you are forgetting who taught you to fly Jet aircraft, watch your self son”. I wished his fonnation good hunting and told him to 
check back on his return He said Roger and we got focused on our respective tasks. 

As we returned after blowing-up quite a few of file enemy tanks and Amnoured Personnel Carriers (APCs) swanning the battle area, I heard 
Butch’s No 3 Amanullah (The Kid, as I called him fondly) asking for check-in by the fonnation My heart missed a beat as I asked Aman, what 
about your leader? “Sir, he bailed out after going through the blast of the train he had hit. He was very low but he bailed out, I saw him coming 
down” I responded harshly, “What file hell are you doing here and not covering him?” He replied, “Sir, we are low on fuel” When I asked where 
he bailed out, he said near the Gurdaspur Railway Station I went into an orbit at that point not sure what to do. I immediately asked my fonnation 
to change frequency to the SOC to ask them for help. Before I could call the SOC, I heard Arshad Sami check-in with his No 2. 1 asked himhis 
position and instructed him to forget about his mission and go to Gurdaspur and look out for Butch Ahmed who had bailed out near the railway 
station Arshad confirmed and I headed back with a prayer in my heart. I couldn’t believe all that was happening. 

Unfortunately, I could not pursue my basic instinct to look for Butch, but I knew one fifing: if Butch had landed safely, not the entire Indian Amy 
and file population around him could catch him He was too invincible and had nerves of steel compounded by his unmatched resolve and he 
would certainty escape. But Butch did not return because the cowardly enemy soldiers could sense the danger from this short, wiry man hanging by 
the nylon chord of his parachute and in the most heinous act of cowardice, they shot him while he was descending towards file ground (the Indians 
tried to make it out to be a result of the Ack-Ack fire - - imagine tliat from a moving train). As the PAF heard the news of Butch’s martyrdom, there 
was a sense of foreboding of a different kind in the entire command. It was ill-omened drat the very best were going down Not surprisingly, 
because it is always file best who go down in flames fighting. 


on any band of frequency. On 6 1 * 1 September during the pre-emptive strike, he had played a pivotal role in confusing the enemy radar and interceptors by mangling 
their transmissions, which had provided us a great measure of freedom from enemy air defense elements during very crucial moments. His aircraft had the capability 
to track enemy radars and home onto them with incredible precision, acting as the path-finder right onto the target. 


Before ending the episode of the 1 965 war, I feel that not enough tribute has been paid to No 14 Squadron for having destroyed several enemy 
aircraft, for the loss of only one aircraft when Fig Off Alzal was shot down over Kalaikunda after a brave battle with enemy interceptors. The 
second loss was an accident involving Fig Off ATM Aziz. The No 14 Squadron strength had been reduced to 8 aircraft, yet they continued their 
gallant fight to the end. The IAF with 9 Squadrons could not destroy a single PAF aircraft on the ground. Besides No 14 Squadron, the 
performance of the B- 5 7s was stunning. The destruction of enemy aircraft caused by their bombing is as impressive as the IAF fighters shot in the 
air. 

In the final analysis, the PAF held its head held very high for knocking terror into the heart of its adversary, three times its size. But the tragedy that 
beset the PAF in the coming years was that there was never an attempt made or even encouraged at base level to carry out an in depth synopsis of 
the war to bring out vital lessons. This bad a detrimental effect on the fiiture leadership and performance of the air force because those guilty of 
neglect, lack of courage, or foiling to perform their war mission with fortitude or not performing at all (Mauripur failure to attack J amnagar on 6 th 
September), were simply swept under the cockpit. This infiised mediocrity as the key to success in one’s career and some of these cunning types 
ruled tlie roost over us as the countiy was pushed into the 1 97 1 war. A lot more survived again after the second war to inject further mediocrity, 
corruption and nepotism in this sterling service. 

Worse, the nation was hoodwinked into believing in the delusion of victory by the high command. Their incompetence and treacherous 
compromise in the failure of Operation Grand Slam was in feet worthy of indictment. To detract from criticism and the wrath of any truth 
commission, the 6 th September holiday was created as a symbol of victory! Hie media and the services celebrate this so called victoiy to keep the 
nation in its state of ignorance. The truth never sees the light of day because it is horrendous. This ‘victory’ is fallaciously assigned to the leaders 
and not to those pliant men of God who saved Pakistan by sacrificing their lives. I have made this point with my former service chiefs and army 
generals that the day should be commemorated with a candid and accurate post mortem of the war. Unfortunately, even seniors whom I revere do 
not want the Pandora’s Box to be opened and prefer bygones to be bygones. Thus we shall never learn from our history. 

During the war, gallantly awards were distributed like Eidi, instead of accountability for feilures. There should not have been any gallantry awards 
given out during the war, rather the names of the officers recommended should have been made public for boosting the overall morale. Why could 
these awards not have been validated after the war, after an incisive investigation and recommendation of a feet finding commission to ensure that 
tlie veracity of claims had been established? 

Lastly, why were the three versions of file PAF history not given to professional historians to be written without bias, fear or fevour; candidly and 
comprehensively researched, so that they could stand tlie test of veracity for all times? Why did the sponsors of the PAF history not ensure that 
those tasked with the dissertation were not themselves controversial so that the episodes could be scrutinized, with exaggerations carefully edited? 

In all feimess, 6 th September should be Pakistan Air Force day and the purpose and the emphasis should be to commemorate the memory of the 
gallant sons of Pakistan, who shed their blood so that Pakistan could survive. As for those veterans whose performance was legendaiy, they 
should be the pegs on which the PAF should hang its glories. Sadly, they appeal' to have lost all relevance in the present day state of the air force, 
where tradition and legacy have feded away. One only has to see the legends and martyrs treated with regrettable condescendence on 7 th 
September which is Air Force Day. The enclosures are separated according to tlie stripes on the shoulders (now bland emblems), past and 
present and not by deeds or misdeeds. 

I have witnessed those who created histoiy on 6 th , 7th and rest of September being steered away from the enclosures exclusively reserved for the 
star ranking officers. What an irony that at the dinner table the incumbent chief is invariably flanked by those from the 1 965 era who had heard the 
sounds of bombs exploding from the trenches; others who had lost then' way to the targets or even half rolled away at the sight of a Gnat; and yet 
others who brought the name of the PAF to disrepute through illicit financial misdemeanours. Ibis blatant disrespect for those who fought with 
indomitable resolve must be a sony experience for the present generation 

This mockery of tlie gallant became pronounced after Air Mshl Rahim Khan was removed unceremoniously as a victim of political chauvinism It 
was not until Air Chief Mshl Hakimullah took over command that the 1965 war was given its proper perspective and tribute was paid to the 
martyrs and veterans. After yet another long gap it was not until the era of Air Chief Mshls Abbas Kbattak (who created a spectacular museum to 
preserve the glorious heritage of the PAF), PQ Mehdi and lastly Mushaf Ali Mir (a maverick and thorough professional) that tradition and the spirit 
of achievement ofthe PAF was again revived after being lost for several years. They took foil advantage of using the 1965 event to inject the old 
spirit amongst the men in blue. Flowever, the revival was short lived and got buried with Mushaf Ali Mir and the three other future chiefs of the 
PAF who were lost in the tragedy ofthe plane crash in Kobat a few years ago. Upon reflection, it became evident that those who had fought 
valiantly in tlie wars and had reached the summit had a good feel for how to treat the day with solemn and deep respect; the rest carried a chip on 
their shoulders larger than tlie braid on their epaulets. 

The brave men in uniform who defended Pakistan in 1965 with their blood so that our country men, women and children could sleep and work in 
peace and tlie nation could live on with dignity, may well have done it in vain Tlie truth about the blood soaked blunders of Ayub Khan and Gen 
Musa was kept under wraps and no one was allowed to discuss tlie Kashmir tragedy of betrayal by orders of the high command. The field Intel 
spooks would report any criticism of the war by officers. Fortunately, the contrived victory could not endure and public opinion against the 
misdemeanours of leadership gathered momentum The capitulation of Kashmir at Tashkent by Ayub Khan brought him down crumbling. But tlie 
question that should have been asked by the nation was “What about the blood of the martyrs, why was it shed in vain by the leaders who lacked 
the courage to achieve what was so obviously laid out on a platter; the control ofthe artery of Kashmir?” 


In spite of the feet that more than four decades have elapsed since the 1 965 war, the real truth is not common knowledge and hence the truth nxist 
remain the biggest casualty in the tragedy of errors played out by the leaders of that period. Like most wars, the 1 965 was an avoidable 
catastrophe. It was horrendously senseless and falsely contrived to appeal' as a victory. Only those martyred and tlieir neglected, ravaged kin had 
to pay tire terrible price for this ferce. Hie legacy of the 1 965 tragedy perpetrated a bigger watershed in 1 97 1 . There is no logical reason why the 
legacy will not continue if we are averse to the lessons of history. 

In the final analysis, had it not been for the courage, unconquerable feith and resilience of the fighting men, our leadership and military high 
command had committed hara-kiri of Pakistan in 1965. Kashmir was lost for the second and possibly the last time. In the words of Field Marshal 
Von Man Stein, “No General can vindicate his loss ofbattle by claiming that he was compelled against his better judgment to execute an order that 
led to defeat.” 

11 

THE DRIFT AFTER 1965 WAR 

Ayub Khan was imploring for a ceasefire to save his throne when the Indians reluctantly agreed. What actually happened at Tashkent and who 
dictated the tenus of the ceasefire and how much ground was lost by Ayub Khan to achieve the ceasefire declaration remains couched in a 
multitude of conjectures. But condemnation by Ayub Khan’s fevourite young foreign minister Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto finally became Ayub Khan’s 
Achilles’ heeL The blame game gathered stonny proportions as Bhutto made politicalcapital by advertising the total trade- oil" by Ayub Khan to the 
frail but staunch Indian, Lai Bahadur Shasta In die process, he lost all moral ground on Pakistan’s historic claim to the vale of' Kashmir. From 
there on Ayub Khan’s narcissist delusions gave way to serious trepidations about his remaining in power. 

The entire 1 965 war was fought under US and Western embargo, a price we had to pay by hocking national sovereigpty as collateral to CENTO 
for a few hundred weapon systems. After the war, Pakistan had to change direction and find more reliable sources for annaments to escape 
Anerican blackmail and total dependency. The Russians made promises to Ayub Khan but reneged on them given the pressure from India. ZA 
Bhutto had die vision to engage the Chinese when he was re-assessing Pakistan’s foreign policy in the changing paradigms of global alliances and 
national interests. Chinese leadership had spontaneously oflered us a substantial number of fighter and bomber aircraft. Let us remember that a 
similar offer by the Chinese Premier had been stalled by Ayub Khan during die war for fear of Anerican wrath 

A major acquisition programme was launched with typical focus and alacrity by Air Marshal Nur Khan to modernize the PAF and equip it widi 
deep penetration operational effectiveness. He was determined to take the PAF out of the clutches of the US military aid with which Ayub Khan 
had burdened Pakistan He wanted to give the PAF potency and turn it into a fomidable force without US crutches. Within months after the 1965 
war was over, F-6 (Mig- 1 9) squadrons were being fonned at Sargodba, with the help oflered by the Chinese Premier Zhou-cn-Lai, who had 
provided 70 fighters free of charge to the PAF. The PAF leadership had also closed a deal with Gennany to buy 70 Canadian built F-86-E 
fighters. The Americans tried to bungle the deal but with the help of the Shah of Iran, we managed to % the aircraft into Pakistan from an Iranian 
base. Meanwhile, the PAF had also started evaluating several European fighters but finally settled for the French Mirage- III aircraft. Alas, all this 
was happening without any re-evaluation of the conduct and feilures of the 1965 war. 

Making Excellence a Habit 

Meanwhile, an annament competition was planned to keep the weapon delivery efficiency high with depleted resources. However, the competition 
was conducted with a modified concept owing to the continuing tension with India. All the squadrons were to participate with the entire strength of 
the squadron pilots but they would participate in the competition from their respective bases. Each base would have umpires attached from out 
side the bases who would monitor and conduct the competition I was conscious of being under close scrutiny to produce the kind of results I had 
undertaken A lot of midnight oil was burnt on film assessing. Thorough de-briefs and briefings with the previous day’ s films were the order of the 
day. The competition started. I received a call from a colleague Sqn Ldr Azim Daudpota, OC No 1 7 Squadron, who laughingly said to me, 

“ Saeen (a Sindlii word used to address friends) the Air Chief was here in Mauripur monitoring Are competition results and he said ‘you chaps are 
wasting your bloody time because No 1 9 Squadron is going to beat you chaps hollow’”. I was quite pleased to hear the comments of the C-in-C 
but kept my fingers crossed hoping and praying that we would meet the challenge. 

A it turned out, No 19 Squadron won the competition hands down, and one of our youngest pilots FlgOlfAliuddin (later Air Marslial) picked up 
the best pilot’s Sher Aigan Sword. We achieved 62% average in strafing, beating my own commitment much to tire delight of Air Mshl Nur Khan, 
who ordered the Dir of Ops to write to all lighter units and tell them to get their armament bar as high as No 19 Squadron I received a call from 
Sqn Ldr Akhtar Hatmi from Mauripur, who said, ‘ ‘Sir, you have got us all into big trouble’ ’ and then read out the letter to me from AHQ 
mentioning the high scores achieved by No 19 Squadron and the C-in-C’s directive that he expected all fighter units to match these. It was signed 
by Gp Capt Saeedullah Khan, the Dir of Plans. 

This sense of achievement was doubled when we also clinched the flight safety trophy. All three were coveted symbols of operational standards 
and professionalism as well as flight safety. What also made me proud was that 9 of the pilots in the Squadron had come on their first posting to 1 9 
Squadron after the war. Consequently, only four of us were from the war time lot. All this was achieved under a professional Base Commander, 
Gp Capt Bill Latif His support and professional excellence were most inspiring as the unit strived towards retaining its ‘Second to None’ status. 

My last memorable event before departing for Staff College was indisputably the biggest firepower display, held on 9 th March 1967 at Jarnrud 
Range, Peshawar. The Guest of Honour was the Shah of Iran and Empress Farah Deeba. The Shah accompanied by the President of Pakistan, 
arrived at the venue exactly on time. It was estimated that there were nearly 200,000 people who had come to witness the fire power display. The 


big attraction was the Shah and Farah Deeba. Hie display was one of the most impressive feats of peace time flying, in which the F-6s performed 
for the first time beside F- 104s, F-86s and T-37 aircraft. 

A couple of weeks before demonstration day, Air Msbl Nur Khan had anived at the squadron to fly with me. Before we started a brief he asked 
tlie Base Commander (Bill Latif) that for the coming air display he would like something out of the routine sonic booms, strafing and rocket firing 
Bill Latif asked him what he would like us to do. Fie said to think about something different. I butted in and said, “Sir, I’mleading4 aircraft for 
rocket firing during the display, if you allow we could perform this event in close fonnation, which would look spectacular with 1 1 2 rockets 
impacting simultaneously”. Fie said that it sounded alright but still wanted something unusual. After he had left, I asked the Base Commander that if 
he agreed we could fire the salvo of rockets from a looping manoeuvre in close formation, which would be different to any performance so far. Fie 
asked me jokingly how we would perform such a stunt. I explained that we could approach the grandstand from behind the viewers very low and 
pull up for a loop immediately as we passed over the rattled spectators and carry out a loop slightly flattened at the top and continue to achieve the 
firing parameters as we release a salvo of 112 rockets. Gp Capt Latif said that if we could manage it and hit the target, the Air Chief may consider 
it unusual 

On the morning of 9 th March, we were the first to commence the fire-power display on the programme, immediately after 2 F- 104s had carried 
out sonic booms low over the range and were climbing vertically up with lull burner's. Meanwhile, we were on the run-in to the spectator’s stand. I 
approached the range from the Khyber Pass direction thing over the Hindu Kush Mountains. I could see a huge array of multi- coloured targets for 
different events and ours was a pyramid of 100 gallon dmms with used oil in them There was a massive crowd along the road to Jamrud Range. I 
dove vertically down aiming at the VIP grand stand with my fonnation steady as a rock while I levelled off at 50 feet AGL clocking 480 Kts. Gp 
Capt Latif was the range officer for the display and controlling all the display aircraft. As we roared over the spectators, Bill Latif called out and 
said, “Good pass, it shook-up all of us, you had better hit the target as good”. I replied, “Roger sir, 45 seconds to the target”. I levelled at the top 
at about 7,000-8,000 feet and as we came down over the horizon inverted I called speed brakes and throttle back to 80% power and a moment 
later called speed brakes “IN”. ’Ibis was meant to reduce initial entry speed and achieve accurate filing parameters. All this may sound normal but 
as mentioned before, rocket firing requires highly precise aim and firing parameters; all estimation by the pilot. Our rocket firing spectacle was from 
an elliptical maneuver rather than a classic vertical loop to obtain lateral separation from the target. 1 

As I saw the altimeter through a field of vision crossing 1 ,800 ft AGL, I called “stand-by”. Momentarily, I called “FIRE” and 112 rockets spewed 
out like guided missiles. As soon as the last rocket left the launcher, I commenced an instant pull-up with 4 !4 Gs looking right and left and in the 
rear view mirror to check the fonnation members were tucked in close. I felt very proud ofDilawar, Klialid Latif and Arshad, holding steady as a 
rock. The impact of their rockets was solely my responsibility because I had to determine all the parameter's as they only had tobeinefose 
formation on me and could not know even see what the earth looked like during the attack, leave alone even sighting tire target. We bottomed out 
at about 200 feet AGL, whereas in nomral rocket firing, each aircraft must pull-up not below 500 feet. But in this case, I had to cater for my pilots 
in close fonnation, wingtip to wingtip. As we began to pull-up, we had no idea about the inpact as I held my breath waiting for the result of our 
impact from the range officer. Bill Latif s voice broke the deadly silence of 30 seconds and said, “Fantastic shooting Haider, direct hit; it was a 
beautifirl sigjif ’. My instinctive response was to say to myself ‘God, thank you”. 

After all this thunder and firry there was some peace as we settled down in our routine. One afternoon I was just returning to the mess for my lunch 
when I met Air Cdre Zalar Melmird, who was the Air Secretary at that time. He said, “Hello Haider, how are you, I believe you have not been 
well?” I replied I was fine now and trail blazing the skies again. He said, “Keep this to yourself but you have been promoted to the rank of Wing 
Commander with effect fromMonday, so stomach it for two days. Besides, you have been detailed for the Air Staff College also.” It was like a 
high volt energy shot to hear about my promotion which I had not even dreamt about as yet, but the staff college bit was even more amazing and 
my immediate and spontaneous response was, “But sir, I have not even attempted rry ‘Q’ examination as yet so I don’t quality for staff college”. 
He said in Iris typical lingo, “You bloody man you are lucky. The Air' Chief has given a waiver justin your case”. Then he confided in me and told 
me not to repeat itfbr try own sake, that the Dir of Operations as well as the Dir of Plans had been quite livid about the Chief s decision because 
my batch mates and a couple of seniorswho were related to the former, had been superseded by me and the Chief was reluctant to promote them 
as yet or waive-offthe ‘Q’ examination in their case. 

1 The Story of the Pakistan Air Force , 1988. Page 497. Matrimonial Woes 

I later learnt from Gp Capt HH Karim, who was Secretary Air Board at the time, that after the meeting, when the Air Chief had left the Dir of 
Plans, tlie latter had remarked in anger that ‘The barrier was lifted for this bastard and dropped for the rest”. Karim cautioned me that I had 
powerful detractors and had to be careful Karim also told me that Air Cdre Khyber Khan had also brought up the issue of my matrimonial 
problems with the Air Marshal, but Air Msbl Nur Khan had ticked him off and told him not pry in the personal aflairs of young officers as long as it 
did not affect their professional conduct. Karim said something then that proved to be so hue in the times to come and highly detrimental to my 
career. He said, “You are the subject of intense envy”. He advised me to watch out but did not say how and could not explain why I would have 
to start looking over ny shoulder. I was deeply concerned to hear about the invective used by the Group Captain and wondered how and where I 
had annoyed these senior officers who were out to get me. 

At that point in tine ny married life had been gradually deteriorating and had become untenable. Without going into the details, there wasno choice 
left but for me to seek a separation from ny spouse. It was like a battle of wits and took a greater toll on me than the 1 965 War. Suddenly ny 
nerves could not take the tension and the pressure cooker effect nearly cost me ny life. 

Finally one day ny younger brother Jawwad flew into Peshawar and took me away to East Pakistan where he was working with Shaw Wallace 
and Co as a manager of their vast tea plantation The love, affection and caring that f received from Jawwad's tea planter compatriots and ny 
friends Ali Afiidi and especially Gillo Afridi turned me around and saved ny sanity. For the first two weeks which I spent in the tea gardens was an 
incredibly peaceful time. I had laid off the alcohol but ny digestive system was shot to pieces and remains so till today. But the last week which I 


spent in Dhaka seemed one long, unending party. F inally, the three weeks of recoup and rehab were over and I was seen off at Tejgaon airport by 
scores of old and new friends. 


Our divorce had not yet been confirmed owing to the three month reconciliation law. But as my car approached the gate of my home on Karakul 
Lane in Peshawar, there was no sign o flight or life. A sign on a cardboard read ‘To Let’. My wife had moved eveiy thing; the house was bare. 

My neighbour's who were a wonderful couple had asked them guard to keep track of my return. As soon as he saw the car entering the house he 
came running and said that my friends were waiting for me at their home. That is where I slept for a couple of nights till 1 got a room in the Officers’ 
Mess. I did not miss any of the material stuff she had taken away except my clothes and uniforms. It was the latter that irked me because I bad to 
be on duty from Monday onwards. That problem was also sorted out and what remained as my bete noil' was her taking away my beloved son. 
She refused to let me meet him. All messengers were met by Rottweiler- like monster's and turned away. 

When three months were over and the divorce was confirmed, I tried to get some sense across but to no aval Good old Ali Aftidi finally came to 
my rescue. He struck a deal that she would return my clothes and let me meet try child. AH thought he bad shuck a good deal - after all she was a 
woman and needed 30% of my salary for 36 months. The less said about try insolvency dining that period the better. What I wanted desperately 
was ny son Adnan. 

One day a plan was batched between ny buddy Minoo Marker and I to get the child across to Quetta to ny parents in the Bugti complex. Once 
the child was safely there, no one would dare attempt any adventure. How I would get possession of Adnan was a major hurdle because he bad 
been taken away to Rawalpindi to her uncle’s house. Hie uncle had by then cunied favour of those ruling the roost and become a lackey in Ayitb 
Khan’s royal court as it were. To cut a long story short, I earned out yet another successful pre-emptive assault on the uncle’s house and lifted ny 
son in a muslin shirt, despite the taxi driver’s agitation. A blow on his right jaw got him moving and I beadedfor the airport where Minoo had 
already landed from Karachi. The IG police was a good friend owing to ny close friendship with Anwar Khan Aftidi the great police chief The 
IG instructed all the relevant police stations not to take any action on a report which may have Adnan and ny name on it. 

It all worked out well and ny son was left in the custody of nyparents and brought up by ny noble sister, Kausar. To this day Adnan calls her his 
real mother. This was the episode which caused Adnan to be finally united with me in erstwhile East Pakistan from 1 969 till early 1971. 

Life at the Staff College 

I headed for the new horizon ofhighcr education, even though I had always run away from academics as I loved action and not so much theorizing. 
Leaving ny comrades in No 1 9 Squadron was sad as I bade farewell to these special men, courageous and heading for lame as I bad predicted. 
Nine of them made it to the starry ranks of Air Vice Marshals and Air Marshals. One predictably moved on to become an Air Chief Marshal and 
Chief of the Air Force. Bloody good innings, any one would say in all fairness, not to speak of the total of five Sitara-e- Jurats - the highest number 
in lighter squadrons - that had been won by ny Squadron hi peace time this Squadron of intrepid fighter pilots bagged the Slier Afghan (‘Top 
Gun’ sword), the Armament Trophy (the best all round Squadron) as well as the Flight Safety Trophy. At the end of this chapter of ny life I could 
look back at the period of ny first command with pride and tremendous satisfaction because No 19 Squadron had done me proud by creating 
history in war and peace. It bad been acknowledged by all and sundry, including even our adversaries, the Indians. 

My time at the PAF Staff College on Drigh Road was extremely pleasant because Air Cdre Rahim Klian was the Commandant of the College. 
Rahim Klian had, however, been sent there as a consequence of the disdain of the Air Chief Had Air MsM Nur Khan ordered an honest and 
incisive analysis of the 1965 war, he would have discovered that the fault lines ran right under his nose in the Directorates of Operations as well as 
Plans. Allah’s ways are not known to us mortals as He bad ordained for RahimKban to become the next Air Chief and he held up the tradition of 
his predecessors with remarkable panache. Many hue warriors of the PAF share the perception even today that he was the last ‘Lord of the 
Ring’, metaphorically speaking A few timid ones may have a different opinion now, but they lacked the moral courage to show their contempt at 
that time. 

I did alright on the course, but have to admit in all humBitythat I didn’t break ny back either to figure out the conplex air defence academia. My 
real perfonnance was at the squadron presentation as its leader. The subject given to our group was ‘The Arab Israeli Conflict’ . A totally new and 
political subject, but extremely interesting as we dug into the research. Tlie team comprised Zaheer Hussain (Betty), and one other East Pakistani 
colleague. I solicited the support of the nut case Sqn Ldr Jillani, a signals officer at Drigh Road base, with a thick English accent and a great sense 
of humour. He was to mimic the infamous Lord Balfour, the man who was responsible for the creation of the state of Israel I bad contempt for the 
man and for the Zionists and much respect for the Palestinians; those sentiments I harbour with intensity even to this day. Anyhow, we came 
through with flying colours as we received unusual kudos from the Commandant in his closing remarks at the end of the presentation. 

The course was quite demanding and there were times when we bad to work almost around the clock before handing over complex exercises, but 
particularly at the time of writing our thesis for the course. This, by no means, meant that one could not partake in the pizzazz of the social life of 
Karachi, where I bad many close and colourful friends. 

Saturday was always party time and we managed to make the best of it. I had the good fortune of having ny childhood friend, Minoo, a character 
so unique that there was never a dull moment in his company. Coming from a wealthy background, his Saturday night shindigs were always 
sensational On one occasion, 1 bad a large party at ny house. 1 had invited the Commandant and Begum Rahim Khan along with three other 
instructors from the College and several colleagues who enjoyed happy moments together. It was a fantastic evening and everyone bad a lot of fun, 
dancing the night away. I think the last to leave were Minoo the 'Malangf Aziz Wali Mohammed (Gigi to friends) and the craziest amongst ny 
friends, Faqir Ayazuddin (Ike to friends). I had to practically throw them out just before sunrise. 

The next day, being a Sunday, was the recovery day to repair the damages of the previous night. I was rudely woken up at 1 0 AM, which was 
unusual because ny faithful cook/bearer, Aziz, would not let a fly disturb me on a Sunday till I sent for him. When he knocked on ny door, I bad a 



royal big headache and asked him what the hell the problem was. He said he was sony to wake me but there was a gentleman outside with a big 
wagon and a huge crate like a coffin, which he wanted to give me personally and said that he had a letter, which could only be given to me and not 
to my cook. Despairingly, I put a dressing gown around me and went out to find Minoo Marker’s office manager, Siddiqui waiting outside. I got 
concerned and asked the worried looking Siddiqui if Minoo Marker was alright. He handed me an envelope and said, “Sir, Mr Marker has asked 
me to deliver this crate and the letter”. The crate was about 5 feet long and 1 8 inches or so wide, too small to accommodate Minoo ‘the Malang’, 
but one could never tell with Minoo, he was cxtrcnx'lylbnd of practical jokes. As we pulled-off the wooden strips, we discovered there was a 
huge block of ice in it. Siddiqui wanted to get the hell out ofihe camp before I throttled him Tlie note was a typical limerick about swollen heads 
from the night before and a block of ice for comfort and ready for hair of the dog the morning alter. Hiis really meant an invitation to join him at 
the elegqnt Sindh Club to treat the hang-over. 

This was just a glimpse of what the weekends were like. I loved some, lost some, gamed the Staff College qualification and a posting which was 
to make up for all the good life I had during the course. 

One incident that 1 want to include lias something to do with the character of Air Mshl Rahim Khan A week alter the big bash at my house, I was 
summoned by the Commandant in his office, who asked me if I knew that my cook’s daughter was quite ill I expressed my ignorance. He became 
very angry and ordered me to go back home and find out about the poor man’s daughter, who was not being attended to properly, because my 
cook had no time for his family owing to my busy social life. I was upset but also curious as to how he had come to know about my cook Aziz’s 
daughter, because he had not told me that his daughter was ilL I drove straight home and as soon as I saw Aziz, I told him about my dressing down 
by the Commandant and asked him what was wrong with his daughter and how had the Commandant come to know about it. 

His story was quite amazing. He said that his daughter had very high fever and the duty doctor at the MI Room told him to take her to PNS Sbila 
(the Naval Hospital). So he came home and wrapped up the girl and canned her on his shoulder, heading towards the main Drigh Road bus stand. 
While he was still inside the PAF area, a big car with a flag stopped next to him and he saw Air Cdre Rahim Khan and his Begum Hie Air Cdre 
recogpized Aziz and asked him who he was canying and where he was going. He told him about his sick daughter. Hie Commandant told him to 
take Hie seat next to the chauffer and drove him to PNS Sliifa. Here he sent for the Medical Officer on duty and instructed him to take good care 
of die child. He also gave Aziz Rs 20 to take her back in a taxi. That was just one small lacet of this great man, who possessed a large and warm 
heart, die likes of which I had not seen in my service life. 

Soon my stay at the Staff College was over and I was given some memorable larewells by Minoo Malang, Toni TuM and my gracious friends 
Aqueel and Doreen Rizvi. It was time to get back to hard core air force life. 

Tempestuous Tenure at Sargodha 

At the end of the course, I was posted to PAF Station Sargodha as Operations Officer. Hiis was a good enough posting because it was at a 
station known as the hot-bed of fighter pilots, so flying would not be difficult. This period, which I looked forward to in all earnest, turned out to be 
one of die worst postings of my career, with too many uncalled for adversities. 

Upon arrival, I stayed at die BOQs till one of the newly constructed modem flats was allocated to me. I thought it appropriate to call on die Base 
Commander on die second day at Sargodha. It was late afternoon when I arrived at the Base Commander’s bungalow and was asked to take a 
chair in the spacious lawn A few minutes later, the Base Commander, Group Captain Zafar Chaudhary, came out and joined me. I greeted him 
and mumbled something about being very fortunate to have been posted to Sargodha, under Iris command. We made some small talk over an 
excellent home made ginger beverage. I departed after 20 minutes or so, dining which he briefly recapped my responsibilities. I settled into the 
routine with a major project handed over to ire by the Base Commander. He told me that the Sargodha War Bookneeded urgent and focused 
attention to make it a document worthy of its name and capable of implementation. I asked the Senior Air Traffic Control Officer (SATCO) Sqn 
Ldr Sikandar to help me put the war book together. He was a very willing and diligent associate and was a great help from day one. 

The war book bad earlier been the responsibility of the StaffMaintenanee Officer, Wg Cdr Siddiqui, who had been a flyer until he lost one eye in a 
car accident and switched to maintenance branch Hie Base Commander, while briefing me about the war book, had mentioned that Siddiqui had 
guarded the book like a python, hinting about the high security that it was accorded. What Sikandar and I could not figure out was as to what 
Siddiqui had done with the war book, because it was a shoddy collection of 100 or so pages, lacking substance and detail, which such a book 
must contain to be effective when it is required to be implemented. With the high hope that the two of us would create a valuable document, we set 
out with all good intentions and long hours. Although I was on a staff posting, my passion for flying bad to be fulfilled if I was giving my best to 
basic responsibilities. 

It was fortunate that one of the finest commanders I served with during various postings, Gp Capt Bill Latif was the Officer Commanding (OC) No 
33 Flying Wing I, therefore, had no problem converting onto the F-6. It was a far cry from the American fighters I had been used to before. The 
Chinese aircraft bad some very vintage operating systems, switches and bandies instead of electronic actuating devices. But the power of the two 
engines made up for its old fashioned and rather uncomfortable cockpit. I was able to adapt to its flying characteristics and idiosyncrasies in a few 
sorties and was soon introduced to armament missions, a passionate love of all fighter pilots. 

Sargodha had a very nice crowd of fighter pilots, which trade life extremely pleasant and flying veiy rewarding but this was to be short lived. 
Somehow, the Base Commander seemed to emanate rancour at whatever I did. If I went flying he would send for me and say that he had been 
buzzing me on theintercom, but that I always seemed to be flying. I explained to him as properly as was deemed prudent that I wanted to become 
operational on the F- 6 (Mig- 1 9) to be able to lead and be useful forNo33WingI also implored that my flying was not at all being done at the 
cost of my basic functions and that I was giving full attention to the operational facilities at Sargodha as well as at the satellites. He was not 
convinced that I could % as well as perfonnmy duties well 



One day, a week after I bad been declared operational on the F-6 aircraft, the OC Flying Wing, Bill Latif mentioned to ire that I was the senior- 
most officer after him on the Station and therefore, it was my right to act as OC Flying Wing during his absence. I told him that the Base 
Commander may not relish this idea. Up to that time an unpopular Squadron commander, but a pet of the Base Commander used to be the acting 
OC Flying Wing in place of Bill Latif (even though this was his veiy first and only command of an operational Squadron and that too courtesy of 
the Base Commander). But I let matters slide as I did not consider it worth the acrimony that would inevitably follow owing to the character of the 
Squadron Commander concerned. None the less, a show down took place during the morning brief and I had to resort to some veiy harsh words 
for the said officer because he bad tried to show his authority as the acting OC Flying Wing. Hie matter was reported to the Base Commander 
instantly by him. 

I was called in by Air Cdre Zafar Cbaudbary and given a drubbing while the acting OC Flying Wing sat with eyes red from what seemed like some 
sobbing he had resorted to in front of his mentor for receiving scathing words from me. After this incident a tirade of complaints were addressed by 
the Base Commander to me over very petty matters. A couple of days later, I was called in by the Base Commander for the umpteenth time. He 
looked me up and down and said that it bad been reported that my infant son, Adnan Haider (he was just 7 years old and a great favourite with the 
young lighter pilots) was seen in the air defence alert (ADA) bus riding with the ADA pilots. I did not know how to react to such a petty 
observation. 

Such relentless niggling had finally got to me, and one day I decided to confront the Base Commander. I told him that he bad not once called and 
said a word about the hours that I spent in my office long after everybody had gone home in order to prepare the war book in solitude. 1 informed 
him that I did most of my flying in the afternoon, after working horn's, unless one of the Squadron Commander's wanted ire to fly as a check pilot 
to assess their flying standards. I asked him if he really thought I was committing serious violations and if my conduct was in any way unbecoming. I 
pointed out that perhaps my detractor’s conduct was unbecoming for constantly keeping the Base Commander in a negative mood with Iris senior 
Staff Operations Officer. 

Suddenly, I saw the expression on die Base Commander’s lace mellow and he got up fromhis chair, walked ip to me and patted me on my 
shoulder saying, “Haider, I feel I have been swayed by reports and I feel you are right, it lias not been easy for you From now on, you have my 
lull confidence,” or words to that effect. I seized die moment and told him that I was fully operational and the senior most officer on the station after 
the OC Flying Wing, and if he considered it appropriate, I should act as OC Flying Wing when Gp Capt Latif was away. 1 think 1 had just 
boomeranged all the acrimony that had left theroom for those fleeting moments. He asked me, not liking what he heard, “Are you realty the senior 
most after Bill Latif? I told him ifhe could please verily it fi'omthe Air Force List. He told me that if I was the senior most then I bad die right to 
be the acting OC Flying Wing. I some how knew that I bad blown it all in that last moment. He did not likewhat he had to accept. 

The next episode was hilarious but sad at the same time. Hie nagging Squadron Commander who was constantly complaining about me was also 
the President of the Mess Committee (PMC) and was given royal hell by MM Alam for intruding on the privacy of one of his pilots in their BOQs, 
trying to assert Iris authority. The next day there was a showdown in the 33 Wing area as the Base Commander decided to mb Alam for being 
rude by calling the PMC a sissy (that was the second time he had been called that). Alam and die boss had a massive yelling match in the hearing 
of scores of pilots. 

Even though it was a great relief for ire to receive the Base Commander’s re- assurance, the elation was very short lived. A day or two later, I was 
jolted with the most unexpected news. The Base Commander had flown to the AHQ that morning and had retimed the same day. hi the evening I 
received a call from die ADC to the C-in-C who was a fine young fighter pilot and well known to me. He told me in confidence that my Base 
Commander had met with the Air Chief and had asked that Alam and I be removed from Sargodba because he could not deal with the two of us. 
“Watch your six, sir”, he cautioned (six meant one’s rear, in lighter pilot lingo, suggesting I look out for the enemy behind). I was astounded at the 
news. I told him about the peace deal with the Base Commander, who had assured me just the day before that he would be considerate to me 
from then on. To this, the ADC asked me to remain vigilant and to watch out for trouble fomenting for the two of us ie., Alam and I. 

I also learnt from the ADC that that the Base Commander was told by the C-in-C that the Alam and Haider had been posted to Sargodba at his 
behest and that if the Base Commander felt so strongly about the two, then it was time for the older generation to make way for the up coming 
officers. 

Another incident which nags my memory concerning the Base Commander’s frame of mind was a misunderstanding that was blown out of 
proportion. It began when a forced landing by Fit Lt Allabdad, who had landed his F-6 after experiencing flame out in a dry river bed, which 
caused him to end up in Hie hospital, hurt with all the jostling and jolting. One of the young pilots at the Mess bar told Bill Latif that some of them 
bad been to see Allahdad in the hospital and he was doing well except that the bed sheets on which he was tying were tom and unclean It just so 
happened that in the next half hour, Hie OC Hospital Wg Cdr Walid Khan anived at the bar. Bill Latif asked the OC Hospital about the tom 
sheets covering Allahdad’ s bed. The doctor said that it was not possible to have tombed sheets for any patient. Bill Latif said, “Alright then, let’s 
go and see for ourselves, and doc you’re coming with us”. Bill Latif Fit LthntiazBbatti and Fig Off Qayyum were to have dinner with me later 
after a few elbow benders at Hie bar. 

I asked Bill about Hie dinner, since a plan had been made to eat at my house and my cook would not wait beyond 2200 Hrs. Bill turned around 
and said, “Haider, we will be seated at your dining table at 2 145 sharp”. So I left for my flat and waited for the cabal to turn up. There was no sign 
of them for Hie rest of Hie evening and so I bad my dinner by 2200 Hrs, read for an hour and went to sleep. The next morning, I got to my office 
and bad barely sat in my chair when I saw Bill Latif with his signature dark glasses virtually crash through my door. I looked at him with feigned 
scorn for Hie previous night’s let down He said, “You don’t know what happened last night at the hospital; we didn’t eat at all after Hie shamus 
was let loose after us by your boss”. 


I asked him what had happened. Just at that second, the red light and buzzer on the intercom sounded and I was summoned by Hie Base 
Commander. 1 headed for his office which was right opposite to mine. The Base Commander virtually pounced on me about the "grotesque 



conduct” at the hospital maternity ward the previous night and asked me to explain whit had happened. I told him that I had no idea whit he was 
asking me about. “Weren’t you with Bill Latif and Imtiaz Bhatti last night visiting the maternity ward in the hospital late at night?” To his visible 
disappointment for the second time, I told him that I hid returned to my flat and gone to sleep when they went to look up the injured pilot Allahdad 
in the hospital. He looked quite peeved at the discovery that I had not been amongst the presumed miscreants. 

Later, I discovered the details of a rather stupid incident blown totally out of proportion by the (re ivied Base C ommander. It transpired that after I 
bad left the bar and gone home, Bhatti and Aklitar had hopped into the OC Flying Wing’s jeep to visit the hospital Tlie OC Hospital followed in 
his own vehicle. Upon arrival at this huge hospital complex, they were only told thatthe pilot was on the second floor in the Officer’s Ward. In a 
jolty mood, they opened the first door of the Officer’s Ward corridor, only to be met by a shrieking matron in charge of the maternity ward. She 
virtually assaulted the visiting OC Wing and Iris companions with foul words asking them to get out, saying that they should feel ashamed of 
themselves crashing into the maternity ward. 

The next day was a Saturday and I was informed by SATCO at about midday that Air Cdre Rahim Khan, the AC AS (Admin) was arriving ina 
Harvard. After that, I only came to know of his presence when the red buzzer on try intercom summoned me to the boss’s office. I saw tire 
ACAS (Admin) sitting in tire Base Commander’s seat and Zaiar Chaudhary on a visitor’s chair. Air Cdre RahimKban asked me how I was doing 
in try new job. I replied that it was a challenging assignment and I was giving it try very best. He then asked if I had plans for die weekend to 
which I responded with a stammering “No, sir.” 

Some thing was terribly wrong here, I thought to lrysclf wondering what was coming next. He said that I should get an overnight bag and 
accompany him to Peshawar. Rather surprised, I did not dare question “why?”. I was ferried to Peshawar by the ACAS (Admin) after lunch 
Upon landing, Air Cdre Rahim Khan asked me to come and have dinner with him at 1 930 at Iris home. I arrived at the appointed hour and was 
shown into the elegantly appointed drawing room where a log lire was blazing. I didn’t have to wait long as RahimKban entered looking exuberant 
with bright, blazing eyes. With a smile he said, “Sajad, your Base Commander is not very happy with you. I had gone there to put this hospital 
episode to rest as tire C-in-C was upset over a minor misunderstanding blown out of proportion, but what took much longer was your Base 
Commander’s summary of complaints about you. Have you become some kind of a rebel, because that was the impression given by your Base 
Commander”. I replied, “Sir, ifyou tell me what specific problem areas or bad behaviour that have caused him such consternation, I could 
explain.” 

He laughed and said, “I think he does not approve of any tiling you do; you fly too much and thereby absent yourself from your primary Unctions; 
allegedly you have a bad influence on the young pilots, encouraging them to visit the bar regularly, and too many parties are being held in the Mess. 
He also alleges that your son misuses your position and is often seen in service vehicles in restricted areas and so forth But the most serious charge 
he held against you was that you bad abused a Squadron Commander in the presence of the wing pilots, asserting that you were very provocative 
with contemporaries and superiors. Well! What do you have to say to the list of these misdemeanour's?” I was quiet for a few moments, trying to 
digest the incredulous charge sheet made up by the Base Commander, wondering how to respond to the exaggerations and petty incidents, 
especially after he had declared a kind of peaceful co-existence just recently. “Sir, yes, I am guilty of most of these allegations, but may I ask you 
respectfully if these constituted conduct unbecoming and were serious enough offences according to air force law?” 

Mrs Rahim appeared at that point and joined us. Rahim Khan said the best solution would be to move me out to a different location. I lamented 
that I would miss the opportunity of flying the F-6 and perhaps the Mirage some day. RahimKban said not to wony about flying and opined I 
needed to putin some time on a staff job. 

One fine afternoon, one of my favourite lighter pilots Sqn Ldr Sikandar Mahmud came beaming in and said, ‘Congratulations, sir. I have good 
news; you are posted to Air Defence Operations Command (ADOC) under Gp Capt Sadmddin as your new boss”. At this stage in life I 
wondered why I was being targeted despite having achieved a lot as a fighter leader and commander. My assessments bad always been 
‘exceptional’ in all phases of flying and 1 bad a clean flight safety record. I had the reputation of a hard task master and a disciplinarian, so why was 
I in trouble and being shunted around? 

Move to ADOC Peshawar 

Looking back, it still anuses me to recall the speed with which I moved from Sargodha, almost sneaking out without any customary function or 
even a good-bye, except for all those who bad gathered the evening before I took-off for Peshawar' in try car with try sparse belongings. The next 
morning I reported to Gp Capt Sadruddin and was briefed on try new job description 

Even though there were no open hostilities with India at the time, tension prevailed and any infringement of our air space had to be responded to 
with a firm and swift response. I made out a plan to enhance the air defence reaction and response to border violations by tire Indian Air Force. 
The plan entailed mock threats in the air to establish the state of preparedness which I had shown to Group Captain Zaki Butt, my immediate 
superior. 

What I generally sensed at the newly created ADOC HQ was compartmentalization and a bureaucratic approach to matters of operational 
consequence. Gp Capt Zaki Butt had been a good flier of the Sea-Fury days, and totally gung-ho, with no taste for detailed staff work. Sadruddin 
was somewhat reclusive, intelligent and extremely well infonned about aviation but he was not assertive. The boss, Air Vice Mslrl Yusuf was a 
gentleman, articulate but did not want any waves in the smooth environs of Iris corridors. ‘Don’t rock the boat, don’t try to be a hero’ were the 
watch- word. The sound of silence in the corridors of the Command HQ was too much for me and I decided to run an exercise to check out the air 
defence readiness in the north It entailed a formation from the Peshawar-based squadron to simulate an attack against Sakesar radar without 
infonningthe air defence elements. 


The results were not complimentary either for the radar station or for the interceptors from Sargodha. I initiated a report and put it to Zaki Butt for 



review and comments. He asked me to write a letter to the Sector Commanders and ask them to take serious notice of the laxity of the air defence 
response. I put up a draft to him lor approval, which he did but noted that it should be signed by me on behalf of ADOC. I had serious 
trepidations about signing a letter to the Sector Commanders and especially to OC Flying Wing Sargodha suggesting that F-6s should have 
handled the interception more professionally instead ofbeing shot down by F-86s. Somehow, Group Captain Sadmddin had not been in the loop 
and found out only when the report went to Iris ‘In’ tray. 

In the next few days all hell broke loose. The AOC, Air Vice MsM Yusuf who was rather fond of the Sector Commander North, received a 
strong protest about a Wg Cdr writing such a strong letter. Same protests came from the South, upsetting the grand old AOC to such an extent, 
that he told Sadmddin to reign- in Sajad Flaider. Later, I learnt from Sadmddin that he was asked to move me out of ADOC. I went running to 
Zaka Butt and expressed my grievance for being ostracized because I ran an exercise with proper clearance from him and was ordered by him to 
sign the letter. He said he would speak with Sadruddin and the AOC, but I knew lie would stop at Sadmddin. I realised that I was operating in a 
stuffed chair stall-officer- mentality set up. No one wanted to consider that in the 1965 War, on the second day when the IAF raids started against 
Sargodha area, out of six enemy raids, four were not reported by the MOUs and totally missed by the radars. As discussed in detail earlier, had it 
not been for the raiders not pressing home their attacks with grit and accuracy, Sargodha would have been severely mauled that day. 

The air defence organisation had a hell of a lot to do towards achieving the desirable level of raid intercept success. But I was too small a fry, and 
the rest had little hands-on experience of real war. A Catch- 22 situation! So, I sat back and found out that doing little and writing a lot of staff 
papers was the road to success. 'Ibis was not my wont to delve into clerical articulation. Somewhat disheartened, down but not out like I was in 
Sargodha, I sat around looking at the daily mail and passing it on with ‘seen’ and my initials. There were moments when I would tear away from 
the HQs and visit the squadron for a chit chat or even a mission. There were so many thoughts and ideas in my mind about developing concepts of 
combat and air defence, but try first experience had poured ice cold water on any creativity I possessed and I desisted from taking further 
initiatives. So I decided to cool try shins. It was amazing that so many just wanted to maintain the status quo and did not want to rock the boat. 

My life load been too much of a roller-coaster for things to remain dormant. Fate had to kick in sometime soon 

In the Eye of the Storm 

Sadruddin called me one day and said I bad been posted to East Pakistan as OC 14 Squadron. I thought my star hid come out of the cusp. He 
said this was a good posting as the 14 Squadron in Dhaka was going to be supplemented with another fighter squadron and Dhaka would become 
a wing, with me as the OC Flying Wing; that I would be independent which was best suited to my temperament. I felt realty bad that I was being 
sent out of the ADOC for exercising initiative (Sadruddin’ s euphemism for over stepping my terms of reference) earlier on, but once again I 
thought that late was propelling me towards my destiny, so I looked at the brighter side of the posting of an independent command. I felt this may 
well be a good change and a new challenge. One tiring that became a glaring reality was that positive imagination and initiative to improve the PAF 
was only the prerogative of the seniors in command, as long as they maintained status quo and did not create waves. That was the sole reason why 
I was branded as one who exercised initiative beyond my terms of reference. True, that those who did not have the passion to induce fire in their 
area of responsibility were headed on track except when the chips were down and real professional and personal courage were put to test. At 
least I knew that as an independent commander I would have all the opportunity to exercise my imagination. 

The best part of the next posting was the happy prospect of serving under a superb commander, Air Cdre Zulfiqar Ali Khan. What came as 
disconcerting news was that Air Cdre Mitty Masud, then the AC AS (Ops), had vehemently opposed my posting to East Pakistan. Fortunately, Air 
Mshl Nur Klian’s decision prevailed. Why Mitty did not want me to go to East Pakistan was beyond my comprehension and I kept quiet about it. 
However, there was that ever-present sense of trepidation of last minute change, which had become a possibility rather than an exception in my 
particular case. I felt as though I was being constantly chased out, possibly for the logic that I had a problem with wanting to do a lot more than the 
book said. 

I arrived in Dhaka on 14 th April 1969. 1 bad to put up in a Bhasha (thatched roof BOQs) in the Mess since my predecessor, Wg Cdr MG 
Tawab was still in Dhaka and intended to vacate the bungalow in a couple of weeks. The first thing after arrival I needed to do was call on the 
Base Commander. I called him and he asked ire to report immediately to his house. It was a very pleasant interlude with Air Cdre and Begum 
Zulfiqar. Both of them greeted me with a special “Hello, young man when did you arrive?” I said I had landed a few hours ago. I spent over an 
hour with them and they chatted with genuine affection and heard my story of the last few months and the two posting. Zulfiqar told me he was 
very glad to have me at Dhaka, and suggested I get on with the war book as well as plan flying training suited to the emerging threat. I left with a 
feeling of relief and in high spirits. My loyalty could be commanded very simply by a commander who showed empathy and was genuinely a nun 
of dignity. 

I had a great advantage in fomner East Pakistan as my youngest brother Jawwad Haider was working with a British conglomerate which were 
involved in the tea business in the district of Sylhet. For young men those days a managerial job in the tea plantations was considered an excellent 
opportunity. Hie tea planters reminded me in some ways of fighter pilots, operating out of posts like Vliransliah; they worked hard and played 
bard. Jawwad was an extremely popular planter and made many good friends who in time became ny friends too. Also, in Dhaka itself a veiy 
well established family from the Ispbabani clan known as the Hashims virtually adopted ny little son Adnan. In iact, they wouldn’t let us stay in the 
Mess Bhasha . Although the Base Commander was keen that I should hire a nice house in the cantonment, the Hashims wouldn’t have it. Uiey 
insisted we stay with them until the assigned accommodation was ready for ny occupation. When that did liappenit was an experience. When the 
Hashims’ daughters came to look over the house, all of us were appalled to see the state of the air force accommodation! It took one month and 
more to get the cockroaches out and make the house liveable. So we settled down and ny son was taken into the Dhaka English School 

During this period of settling down, I had been fully occupied with hying to grasp the peculiarities of flying in East Pakistan Hie terrain and 
weather were two dominating factors which made flying training quite different to what I had been used to. Tlie river had such a massive delta that 
at places it was like a sea. Consequently, navigation demanded much more accuracy and focus. The weather was unpredictable, and could assume 



dangerous proportions in the absence of a proper alternate airfield. Therefore, flight safety requirements placed a serious restraint on achieving the 
flying target, especially during the rainy season. It was a nightmare during the monsoons. Yet, it had to be done and fortunately we did very well in 
achieving our operational readiness goals. 

At the same time, I had to work on the war book, which was non-existent and seemed a very sad apology for what the East Pakistan book should 
have looked like. This was yet another expression of the West Pakistani mindset about the defence policy for East Pakistan Strangely enough, 
even though MG Tawab, my Bengali predecessor paid little heed to this vital aspect, I managed to find a senior NCO who could type reasonably 
well and bad a fair comprehension of the English language. The problem was that it had to be done afier working boa's since my day was folly 
occupied with flying matters, including my own familiarization with day was folly occupied with flying matters, including my own familiarization with 
4 afternoons of the week. I had a lot of problems obtaining a response from Wg Cdr Kbondekar (Johnny to his friends). His input was the most 
important section of the war book because all the logistic services were under his preview. I did not understand Iris lack of interest in supporting 
the completion of the docanent till after events arfolded about his subversive activities at the time. 

Johnny was involved with the Indian intelligence services that were conspiring to plan the break-away of East Pakistan He would goon service 
leave or casual leave and allegedly visited Agatlala several times. But all this came to light alter the creation of Bangladesh At any rate, Kliondekar 
was a very mild person and a good flier. 

Time passed very quickly and major events bad Pakistan reeling with Ayub Khan’s despotic military dominance and institutionalization ofoepotism 
and big-bucks corruption This inevitably led to his aiceremonious downfall, which came ominously but predictably. He was replaced by Yahya 
Khan Our military dictators have always perceived themselves as ‘statesmen’ and God’s gift to the nation because the Western powers infused 
that delusion in them whenever they held sway over Pakistan Neither quite understood that it was the land and people of Pakistan that were its 
strength and not the dictators in charge. 

The PAF command also changed dramatically one fine day. Air Cdre Rahim Khan was promoted to the rank of Air Vice Marshal and he took 
command from Air MshlNur Khan Rahim Khan was not Air MshlN a Khan’s choice but there is no doubt in my mind that Rahim Khan was the 
best choice at that jaicture. Some months earlier, Air Cdre Rahim Khan had asked me to have dinner with him while he was the ACAS (Admin). 
That is when I sensed that Rahim Khan was having a rough time at AHQ. N ot being the kind to take such indignity he must have had a very bard 
choice to make. That evening he bad told me that he had decided to resign while honour was still an option But destiny bad some other plans for 
him 

Before Rahim Khan was made the Air Chief Lt Gen Gul Hassan had visited Dhaka on the 7 th of July, 1 969 and I had flown him to Jessore in a 
fourengine Widgeon belonging to the Governor. It was during this hip that Gen Gul Hassan gave me an indication that Rahim Khan may be our 
next chief It was some months later that we got the news that Rahim Khan bad been appointed as the Air Chief Somewhere in the middle of 
1 970, Air Msbl Rahim Khan visited Dhaka. The Base Commander and hiswife hosted a beautiful candle lit dinner for him I remember that Gillo 
Afridi, my friend Ali Afiidi’s wife and Riflat Haqqani, two young and very sophisticated ladies, had worked for days with Begum Zulfiqar to 
organise the dinner and the decor. They bad bent their backs to make the dinner a great success. Being the elite of Dhaka’s society, they expected 
to be placed at the table with the C-in-C or at least next to him The evening of the dinner, the two ladies discovered to their horror that they were 
not even invited to the dimer! Till this day both ofthem remember the indignation they suffered on that occasion, although they laugh about it now. 

It was during the C-in-C’s trip that I got to know from the Base Commander that an F-6 Squadron was being planned for shipment by sea to 
Dhaka to enhance the operational strength m the East. Everything was going so well that some times I feared it was too good to last. One stonny 
day, I was called by the Base Commander and he asked if I knew that he was being posted to AHQ. My heart really sank and I hoped he was 
only pulling my leg It turned out to be true and he told me that Air Cdr Mitty Masud would be replacing him With aheavy heart we bade goodbye 
to Air Cdre Zulfiqar and Iris wife Sajida. 

In the meantime, other major changes were to take place at the top m the PAF. Air MsM RahimKban had a bad tenper as well as a large heart. 
He never held any scorn, even for his known detractors and enemies. His conpassion far exceeded his volcanic outbursts, hi the end he was 
always fair, just and sincere. He faced a situation soon after his take-over where a cabal of officers known more for their intrigue than professional 
excellence, bad to be dispersed and kept at an arm’ s length of the main PAF team Air Mshl Rahim Khan decided to send away senior officers, 
whomhe knew to be the cliquish lot in the PAF. Air Cdre (later Air Vice Marshal and Vice Chief) Saeedullah Khan was the first to be sent out to 
PIA. Air Cdre Zafar Cbaudbaiy (later Air Chief) was sent off to the Imperial Defence College in England and ipon his return appointed as ACAS 
(Ops) for a few months from January 1971 before being sent to PIA as Managing Director. The third officer, Gp Capt Khaqan Abbasi, was sent 
to Jordan soon afier Air Mshl Rahim Khan took over command. 

Whether or not Air Mshl Rahim Khan’ s decision to cleanse the PAF, albeit for the duration of his command, was correct or not would be manifest 
in how this group of senior officers conducted themselves in their new assignments and especially in the long term, when they returned to the main 
stream of the PAF. 

Allegedly, Kliaqan Abbasi had exploited Iris position as an advisor by promoting a US aircraft manufacturer to induct F-5 fighter built by Northrop 
in the Jordanian air force. The Hashemite Kingdom took notice and sent him packing back to Pakistan. Air Mshl Rahim Khan was livid on finding 
out that the pristine reputation of the PAF had been compromised. Khaqan Abbasi was then sent off to Kuwait as an advisor. It was common talk 
in the PAF that in Kuwait he was reported upon by the Kuwaiti defence minishy when he repeated the Jordan modus operandi and was 
discovered by the Kuwaiti defence intelligence. I heard about Kliaqan Abbasi’ s episode in Kuwait from the Defence Minister of Kuwait in person 
when he visited Pakistan in the 1990s. It was during an exclusive lunch by the Kuwaiti ambassador, Kasim al-Yaqoot, for just the three of us. 


From PIA, Air Vice Mshl Saeedullah was probably sent to the USA as Air Attache. Dining the tenure of Air Vice Mshl Zafar Cbaudhaiy and Air 
Cdre Khaqan Abbasi, PIA had a tabulent period, as highlighted by Brig Mian Hamidud-Din in his book Looking Back published in 2006. Uiey 



made headlines when senior airline executives like Khaliq Durrani were summarily sacked without charges or reasons. Reportedly, letters of 
dismissal were sent to employee’s homes in the evening, which directed them not to attend their office the next day. Ironically, Air Mshl Rahim 
Khan’s compassionate nature got the better of him, much to the advantage of these officers whose survival was to cause serious tunult in the PAF 
in later years. 

Brig Mian Hameed-ud-Din, who served with Air Vice Mshl Zalar Cbaudliary as the boss and Air Cdre Kbaqan Abbasi as deputy MD in PLA 
during the period, writes in Iris book covering his assigpment in PIA 2: “AM Zalar Cbaudliary was posted as MD in Shakir’s place. . . I had hoped 
that with his arrival tilings would change for the better but I was disillusioned. Things changed ibr the worse; not a single decision he took during his 
stay in PIA was correct ... I was certain that he was being misguided by his deputy, Air Cdre Kbaqan Abbasi, whom he had brought with him to 
be the DMD in place of Air Vice Mshl Saeedullah Khan. Abbasi was interested only in himself and had no concern ibr the well being of PIA or his 
benefactor Zalar Cbaudliary. In fact, he used PIA extensively ibr establishing himself in business outside PIA in which he succeeded admirably as 
was evident fromhis post retirement activities”. This revelation by Brig Mian Hamid-ud-Din was a pre-curser to what the PAF had in store in 
these very hands. 

Back in East Pakistan, Air Cdre Mitty Masud had put together an excellent and graphic information system of maintenance, armaments and 
logistics on the base. It was from this data and our exercises that he wrote an appreciation of the PAF capabilities during a possible conflict with 
India. The brief was prepared for presentation to the Army Commander at that time, Lt Gem Sababzada Yaqub Khan. Briefly, it presented a 
realistic PAF capability in the event of a war which we would have to light without any support from the West after the start of hostilities. 
Essentially, it outlined that PAF Dhaka would remain operationally effective for 12 to 18 hours, thereafter the sheer numbers game with nine Indian 
Squadrons lacing a single Squadron with one runway and one radar, would render the Squadron ineffective. Nothing could have been more 
accurate and closer to reality when the war came. Incredibly, the performance of the Dhaka contingent was the stuff of history. 

2 Looking Back , by Brig Mian Hameed-ud-Din, Pages 217-233. 

In the first week of December, Air Cdre Mitty Masud came into my office after the daily drill exercise we performed for the first half hour every 
day before getting on with Hying. He sat in ny chair and give me a stare without saying a word for a while. Unable to resist the sound of silence, I 
asked “Sir is something wrong”? He replied, “You have been detailed for the JSSC (Joint Service Staff Course) in England”. I was taken by 
surprise and told him that I had not the faintest idea about ny selection. He said, 11 Youi' C-in-C has decided to send you on this course in these 
crucial times”. The conversation did not go much further and as he left, I felt that he did not want to me to leave at this time. The news of ny 
posting spread quite last, which resulted in a string of dinner parties that lasted till ny last horn's in Dhaka. 

I managed to survive this period, a great health hazard, but what came immediately before I left was one of the worst cyclones to hit Dhaka with a 
ferocity that was unknown in the Eastern hemisphere. Thus ended ny labulous sojourn in East Pakistan where ny parting gift from Dhaka was to 
have Men desperately in love. I finally met the enchanting ‘bare- foot contessa’ who was the talk of Dhaka but very elusive. She had stared many a 
moustachioed macho men down without batting an eyelid. I had the reputation of being challenged by beauty - in lact, I don’t ever remember 
losing the battle of the hearts (just ask ny former Chief Instructor at Conversion School, Air Cdre Kamal Ahmed!). We met; we stared and kept 
staring till we landed in Nairobi Kenya. God bless the greatest friend anyone ever had, Zia Rajput. He sponsored us as neither had the resources; 
just the passion to share the beautiful sky and sands of Africa. . . 

The Chasm Deepens 

Bengali nationalism was simmering too close to the surface, about to erupt. I had a close family friendship with Brig AH al- Aidroos and after Yahya 
Khan’s visit towards the end of 1 970 1 had several discussions with him about ny trepidations and forebodings. He was a highly perceptive and 
intelligent officer and it was an education to listen to him about the serious fissures of the time. I was a rabid Pakistani, but moderate and 
empathetic towards the deprived, irrespective of the province I belonged to. I considered it a sacrilege to feel contempt for any person on the basis 
of their credo or faith In all fairness, I was convinced that the West Pakistani establishment had provoked East Pakistan to act the way it did. One 
unit proved to be divisive because it took away the individuality of the people from different provinces and the centre became all powerful 

The only commonality between the two wings was that we shared a common religion which had never proved to be a binding force in the history 
of mankind except for short periods when the Prophets of God were sent to reform humanity. In our case we were divided by distance, culture, 
customs, language and economics. The two prime factors of one nation: contiguity, culture and economic interests of the people were absent. At 
best, from the very start it could have been a somewhat autonomous unit with the main subjects held loosely by a centre, but in a democratic frame 
work. But that was not to be owing to ambitious and sell-serving leaders in both wings. In reality, ever since independence, Pakistan’s leaders had 
Med to forge a strong sense of national identity between the West and East. There was no sensitivity for the participation of the Bengalis in the 
creation of Pakistan The Punjab was infested with Unionists, the Frontier Province and Baluchistan had Ghaflar Khan and Abdul Samad Achakzai 
ruling the roost; all of themhadopposed Jirmah and Pakistan. 

Bureaucratic power was concentrated in the West. West Pakistanis held an almost total monopoly of appointments in the civil service, armed 
forces and the diplomatic service, despite being outnuniiered by Eastern Pakistanis in population. I am convinced that Ayub Khan and his Punjabi 
cabal had the most debilitating impact on any efforts which night have facilitated a mutually acceptable co-existence. Ayub Klian’s 
condescendence towards the Bengalis was visible and the collective attitude of his cabal had created such deep contempt in Ayub’s heart and 
mind against the East Pakistanis that he admitted without remorse that the Bengalis were traitors and needed to be handled with an iron fist. 

When civil war finally erupted in East Pakistan, it was a sad reflection on the failure of the leadership in both wings to act earnestly in removing the 
root cause of malcontent amongst the Bengali populace. However, the East Pakistanis did not develop the notion of being considered second class 
citizens until the time the Mukti Bahini insurrection githcrcd momentum. Their feelings of being considered inferior and second class citizens were 
caused by the behaviour of successive governments and especially during Ayub Khan’s rule. Ayub’s contempt for East Pakistanis and his 


provocation by bischoice of bureaucrats to govern East Pakistan was where the iault line ran deep. 

It was well known that Aziz Ahmed, the super bureaucrat had given stem orders as Chief Secretary at Dhaka that no local was allowed to walk in 
front of Iris office within Iris view at any time. This must have been very demeaning for the locals to be subjected to such arrogance. Hie economic 
exploitation and totally inadequate defence and security of East Pakistan were the main catalyst to have caused them a general loss of faith. 

Ayub Khan had said that he had ordered the Air Chief to send a lighter squadron to East Pakistan in 1 95 3 to appease politicians like Sabur Khan 
who were critical of Ayub’ s indifference to East Pakistan’s defence, besides lack of industrialization and other developments while foreign 
exchange earning came essentially from the export ofjute, the ‘golden yam’. Bad vibes were rot only felt but were capitalized by the Bengali 
politicians. Hie language problem, though not of Ayub’s making, had lit the fuse of" Bengali nationalism and this was in fact being infused into the 
minds of the younger generation spuriously through the educational curriculum. 

The ‘brown sahibs’ ofthe bureaucracy from West Pakistan were too busy with tlieir delusions of superiority to discern the undercurrents in East 
Pakistan Yet for a certain period, there was a positive change during the Governorship of Gen AzamKhan during the Ayub era. He became 
extremely popular for his genuine concern about the neglect of the central government towards East Pakistan and the exploitation of all the 
resources earned through jute and rice export. He took serious issue with the centre while making his best endeavours to remove the notion from 
the East Pakistani mind that they were any lesser patriotic Pakistanis. For his dedication to raise the morale and hopes of the Bengali brethren and 
fuse the people of both wings together, he earned the ire of Ayub Khan 

Egged on by his family and minions, Ayub Khan started to perceive the developments in the Eastern wing as a potential threat to his reign That 
was a small reflection of Ayub ’ s insecurity which resulted in the removal of General Azam. East Pakistan was then subj ected to coercive 
governance aider MonimKhan Hie simmering volcano finally erupted and enveloped his chosen successor, Yahya Khan 

Ayub’s foreign affairs head honcho SM Zafar had branded the Bengalis no less than traitors and Ayub had added: ‘That is the only language they 
understand”. 3 When they could not tolerate being denigrated any further, the resultant indignation was provoked by passionate Bengali 
nationalism That fusion acted like a Molotov cocktail which finally imploded in the Agartala Conspiracy. After that Ayub Khan went from one 
blunder to another, finally losing it all; except the 22 nd richest family created under his sponsorship by his sons, with a little nudge from Seth Daud, 
the illiterate but clever business tycoon 4 

3 Diaries of Ayub Khan, Pages 37, 107, 203, 206 (to quote just a few), unveil his contempt for East Pakistanis (Bengalis). 

4 AM Asghar Khan recently told the author that he happened to be waiting in the office of the Military Secretary (MS) to Ayub Khan, when Seth Daud had emerged 
after meeting the President, hysterically shouting to the MS, ‘ Ayub Khan Maan Gayaa Meaning “Ayub Khan had agreed.” To what? When asked, he made some 
gurgles about Gauhar Ayub entering business. 


In truth. East Pakistan started to break away in spirit and action during the Ayub era; Yahya was held solely responsible for the coup de grace, 
although tlie embryonic process of dehumanizing and denigrating tire Bengali populace was wholly the responsibility of Ayub Kharis establishment. 
According to cokmmists like AR Siddiqui, AnjumNiaz and Faqir Aijazuddin, Ayub Kharis Diaries and Iris son’s unsubstantiated 5 ‘ Glimpses ’ in 
Iris book read more like an odyssey in egotism, begging more questions than revealing tire truth about the misfortunes of Pakistan These 
compendiums could at best be an enigma for students of history owing to tire brutal contortion of the truth, 6 and proof of Ayub Kharis 
predominant role in the break up of Pakistan Ironically, neither the politicians nor the public ever tried to trace the ominous ardoing in tire years 
1958 to 1969, which empted into conflict within months after Y ahya Khan took over. 

Yahya had inherited the political fait accompli from the Ayub Khan era. Irrespective of the recent efforts by Ayub Kharis scion to distort the 
truth (he himself was largely responsible for Ayub’s misfortunes). Hie fact remains that Ayub Khan handed over a fractured nation to Yahya Khan 
For all intents and purposes the basis of subsequent catastrophes had been laid when the rape of minds was enacted through the massacre of truth 
in tlie text books of history by Ayub Khan through Iris infonnation Czar, Altaf Gauhar. He was also alleged to have masterminded the ‘decade of 
reforms’ propaganda; he had been a brilliant bureaucrat but with strong tendency for sycophancy. 

This jugglery to deface history has been superbly articulated by the author KK Aziz. 7 The incisive and candid research by KK Aziz reveals some 
facts about these so called history books: “Out of a total of 207 pages, 63 deal with the history of India and Pakistan up to 1958 and 29 pages 
with the history of Islam; the remaining 1 1 5 pages are allotted to Ayub Kharis reign”. Facts are so mercilessly contorted that Ayub Khan is made 
to look like a super Salahudin Ayubi, for ushering in democracy (the word Martial Law is not mentioned at all). It is written that owing to the 
distinction with which he (Ayub Khan) served Pakistan he was elected President of democratic Pakistan by the masses ! 

It makes me wonder how shallow must have been the minds that ingrained such odious lies into the infant minds of our children who are adults 
today. All the books fromAyub Kharis era contain blatant lies about the cause, effects and outcome ofthe 1965 and 1971 Wars with India. 

Ayub ’ s scion has kept that trend alive with the help of publishers in Pakistan who have no respect for tlie truth of history. They rightly or wrongly 
believe that lies and sensationalism sell while the stark truth is indigestible and thus not easy to market. No one in the successive governments lias 
shown the moral courage to stamp out these lies. These compendaims of history are no less despicable than the ones taught in the madaris , of 
which thousands were created by Zia ul Haq. These were intended to misguide tlie poorest sequent of our society and spread contempt and 
hatred against targeted persons, sects, minorities, communities and nations. 

5 Book Review of Glimpses into the Corridors of Power By Brig AR Siddiqui infers “Why write history without any evidence or reference and make up incredible 
yams without any substantiation?” 

6 ‘Tampering with the Truth’, an article by Hafizur Rahman in Dawn , October 10 t6 2007. With reference to Ayub's Diaries and Gauhar’s Glimpses into the Corridors 

of Power , the theme “is falsifying and twisting facts of history to achieve political ends”. 


7 The Murder of History by KKAziz, Page 29. In fact, the entire dissertation is a historic gift written with integrity and veracity for all ages. 

Zia ul Haq’s creations have timed into savages who are Idling and mutilating the bodies of Pakistani soldiers in Waziristan and blowing to 
smithereens innocent Muslim citizens, women and children. These are the monsters created by our rulers who are wreaking havoc on the nation 
and propelling us towards a bleak future. 

What is extremely disturbing is the fact that renowned publishing houses have alowed unsavoury propaganda about despots to be read as a valid 
part of history. Nothing could be more destructive for the minds of the youth than to be provided perverted versions of our bistoiy. To vaporize 
ZA Bhutto from the annals of Pakistan’ s history is one such crime committed by the historians covering the Ayub to Zia era. It is shameful not to let 
the enthusiasts of history know that it was ZA Bhutto who laid the groundwork and foundation of our nuclear programme and not Zia. It was 
Bhutto who brought the world’s Muslim leaders, monarchs and even his arch enemy Mujib-ur-Rehman to Lahore and rutiled the West with his 
charisma and potential to bring the fractured Muslim world together, not Zia. Bhutto’s rule was any thing but a dark chapter; his ways and means 
to achieve political goals through nationalisation and total intolerance for dissent notwithstanding (which eventually spelt his own nemesis). If it were 
not for venerable historians like KK Aziz, Air Mshl Asgjrar Khan, Sherbaz Mazari and some others who were able to tell history as it actually 
happened, even I would not have been any wiser about the distortions we were fed as a nation. 

In the events leading up to 1971, the Agartala Conspiracy and tire arrest of Mujib had done him good. Ayub Khan showed lack of courage to 
pursue it with an iron fist and address the real root cause. Once freed, Mujibbecame a hero and a messiah for the discontented Bengali populace. 
By the time Ayub Khan’s invincibility had been obliterated by his corrupt sons, repressive policies and a shackled media, India under Indira 
Gandhi had scored its firstmaster stroke in the undoing of Pakistan. Her closest cabinet confidants had meticulously crafied a plan which worked 
out superbly as events unfolded in East and West Pakistan in 1 97 1 . Agartala-2 became Pakistan’s nemesis as the East Pakistani politicians, civil 
servants and more so the military personnel had become an integral part of the massive revolt that had spread through out the entire Bengali 
population. 

Ayub Khan had actually hoped to exploit the loyalties of Yahya, Musa and Monimto rig elections for his son Gauhar Ayub to win and replace Mu 
as the next president. But then he had feared that in a democratic set-up, the majority Bengalis would call the shots and that was a bete noir for 
Ayub. Mujib would never have allowed the dynastic perpetuation Ayub was planning Also, if the plan had failed he would be in die straits with 
the powerful politicians of both wings, and if Yahya Khan used the army card against him (of which there were discemable vibes), Ayub would be 
in worse position. 

Eventually, he sacrificed the national interest at the altar of personal security by handing over power to Yahya Khan rather than the Speaker of the 
National Assembly which he was legally and morally obliged to do even according to his custom tailored Constitution. Yahya Khan’s habit of 
meny making and depravity was well known to Ayub Khan. He chose to hand over power to Yahya for his weaknesses, hoping to retain his 
loyalty for his personal and family’s protection, not for the national interest. It would be a fair comment that like Nawab Kalabagh, Yahya was 
strictly honest in financial matters and neither of them allowed their family members to exploit their high chairs. Corruption, of course, was endemic 
in Ayub Khan’s family and was purposefully condoned by him All the dictators had a tragic end and unflattering eulogy. However, their history 
and end did not deter those who came after them from repeating the same crimes. And the circus goes on as Pakistan continues on its perilous 
roller-coaster. 

Yahya wanted to stay in power but with a different intent. He give the country reasonably lair elections, but not without ulterior motives. On the 
recommendation of Gen Umar he had pumped money into the MuslimLeague in the West and Bhashani in the East to neutralize Bhutto and Mujib 
and have an endemically split verdict and divided assembly. This predicateda lame- duck coalition to perpetuate his hold on power. Hie National 
Assembly results made the intriguing plan masterminded by Yahya’s confidant Gen Omar stand on its head as Mujib swept the polls in the Eastern 
wing and Bhutto emerged with 70 plus percent seats in the Western wing. Yahya Khan was check- mated and he began to lose his grip as Mujib 
held over Yahya Khan’s head the sword of Damocles by way of reneging on the original six points agenda to total independence. Yahya did try his 
best to strike a compromise with Mujib but by then Mujib had become too big. Still, Mujib alone would not have wanted to break-up Pakistan but 
he found Mnself riding the tiger of the Awami League’s hard core group. They would have killed him had he made any compromises with Yahya 
or even Bhutto. 

The Indians had invested too much to let any East Pakistani make independent decisions. They were already trailing thousands of Mukti Bahinis 
and the large Hindu faction in East Pakistan was the Trojan horse ii the East. Consequently, what Yahya had inherited was a ship without sails 
which was irretrievable. His militaiy action was not a choice he made happily but the Award League had pushed him into a comer. Hie atrocities 
committed by the Award League goons and Muktis supported by Indian Special Forces was far more disgraceful and brutal than the linked action 
taken by Gen Tikka’s aim His denigration as the Butcher of Bengal was part of the vicious propaganda unleashed by the Indians and their new 
found brethren, the Mukti and Mujib and his goons. There was incontrovertible evidence of the atrocities committed against the Biharis and West 
Pakistani men, women, soldiers and their families. No one ever talks about the horrors of women cut-up ii their private parts and soldiers 
decapitated in the style of the Taliban. 

The cold blooded murder of Wg Cdr SM Ahmed, a friend, and Fit Lt Safi, an outstanding fighter pilot who served will me in Dhaka, along with 
his 20 or more air force men deployed as MOUs, left a chilling evidence of the brutal and perverted mild of the Mukti BaliinL Military action came 
too late and against millions by very few scarcely equipped troops with only personal rifles, wearing cheap tennis shoes to ward-off a juggernaut of 
Indian militarymight wading through the Rangamati and other water courses. This was a complete surprise to Gen Niazi who was busy with his 
dirty jokes and orgies, described to the author by a respected Admiral of the Pakistan Navy who was an eye witness to the general’s deranged 
state of nind. 


Ayub Khan’s Nadir 


The period from 1965 till Ayub Klian’s (all from grace is a long and sad stoiy. It is an epoch of Pakistan’s descent into an abyss. It is also the 
story of a broken man, obdurate with no sense of right and wrong where the long temi future of Pakistan was concerned. His final eulogy for 
Pakistan rang hollow because it was his family, especially Iris son’s future, which consumed his thoughts, hi all laimess, it lias to be acknowledged 
that Pakistan’s economy had a jump start during his rule but it was exclusive to the big industrialists and those feudal landlords who wielded 
political influence. Inextricably, massive American aid played a decisive role in this uplift programme. The street slogan was that the rich got richer 
and poor became poorer and the courtiers and courtesans benefited beyond belief The common man was excluded from all this prosperity. 
Amongst Ayub Khan’s legacies, the military coup, the mockery of the constitution, the %ade of basic democracy, bis iamily’ s corruption, the US 
brokered Indus- Basin treaty, the 1 965 war and the bartering of' Kashmir in the battlefield first and at Tashkent later would continue to haunt the 
future generations of Pakistan 

Ayub Khan 's Diaries are a manifestation of how he relished flattery and selfaggandizement and had contenpt for any dissent. Here are some 
offerings from his recently published Diaries which tell us in Iris own words that he lacked the vision of a gnat leader, nor did he possess any 
semblance of real (and not contrived) statesmanship. Hie fall of East Pakistan had been his doing no less than Bhutto, Mujeeb and even Yahya 
Khan Here are some relevant quotations of how people flattered him and how he actually believed them He recounts in his Diaries : 

□ Altaf Gaubar said, “It was the death of Pakistan when I finished recording my speech of abdication”. 

□ Mian Bashir (IG Police) came and kissed my bands and feet when I was lying sick and said that Pakistan could not survive without me. 

□ The Saudi king would only pray for Pakistan if Ayub remained in power. 

□ Waziri IfomMiransbah came with a message from his Pir that Pakistanis will beg him to return to power (long after Ayub’s abdication). 

□ My son Gaubar visited me (Nov 1969). “I told him that communism with all its drawbacks, does organise the society- 1 don’t see it emerging in 
this country”. Gaubar Ayub said that it will emerge and that it will come through the army: he felt that it would take a few more Martial Laws 
before comnunism comes to Pakistan (Ayub said that he found it difficult to disagee with his son), “As in our army large numbers of leaders come 
from the lower middle or peasant proprietary class. Hiey naturally tend to be agarian and socialistic. The conduct of the present military regime 
towards pressure goups of leftists’ trend is a fair pointer to the future .” (Page 339). 

□ He asked QA Sbaliab, Iris Secretary Education to have all the school books re-written and be edited to include the “truth” (about him being a 
saviour and lather of democracy in Pakistan and many other such canards). 

□ He was livid with Suleri, a consummate column writer, when he exposed in the New Times that Ayub Khan had convoluted the history books 
by imaging himself even beyond the Quaid-e- Azam and had spent enormous amounts to publish Friends not Masters written by AltafGauliar. 
Suleri squarely blamed Ayub Khan for not spending any effort or resource to write a proper biogaphy of the Quaid-e- Azam 

□ A booklet had been printed in Arabic which demolished Ayub Khan as a Muslim. His fuftnination was fiery and he blamed Maududi (without 
any proof that he was the author) for being behind the pamphlet. Ayub Khan said, ‘This is what Pakistan gets out of giving asylum to this traitor 
and hue enemy of Islam In any other Muslim counhy, he would have been lynched like a dog but in Pakistan we have rule of law (sic) of which 
the traitor takes full advantage and protection” 

□ He said that God had been very unkind to West Pakistanis by giving them Bengalis as partners. 

□ ‘Hie present conspiracy was the direct out come of the perfidy of hideous elements and their (Bengali Ministers’) silence. Hie whole object is to 
get whatever they can (their rightful share) by black- mail Meanwhile, they are doing nothing to consolidate the nationhood; continually try to 
behave differently to West Pakistan; how long will this relationship last? Bengali outlook does not conform to any rationale - it was with the advent 
of Pakistan that they got the blessing of freedom and equality of status (sic) and a real voice in the running of the country. . . Any [nonnal] people 
would have rejoiced. . . Something which was unknown in theft history - they have cut themselves away from Muslini culture, thus making 
themselves vulnerable to Hindu culture”. 

After his abdication he predicts nemesis for Pakistan without him on top. 

□ ‘Two long time American friends had written penetrating things; one had said that it was a marvel that how were a divided people like us held 
together (sic) by me for ten years and made to progess. How true. . . I can see very clearly that after Martial Law is lifted and politics allowed by 
political goondas (meaning Bhutto, Asgjrar Khan, Bbasbarri, Mujeeb et al), East Pakistan will separate and West Pakistan will split up in penny 
packets”. 

□ “I cannot preside over the destruction of Quaid’s Pakistan!” (He meant let Yahya bear the onus of responsibility for the inevitable, as he 
decided to band over the country to him). 

These are mere glimpses into the dark corridors of power games, military incompetence and the intellectual mediocrity of a President who led us 
into senseless wars. 

12 

THE GATHERING STORM 

Prior to my departure from Dhaka, I decided to dispose of a few of my belongings, which included a Chevrolet Ranch Wagon (jokingly called 
‘Hie Hearse’). Hiis was a 15 year old junket procured for Rs 5,000 through my friend Hashim, owner of Dienfa Motors. I advertised for a kind of 
garage sale of my scanty belongings and received a resounding response. The car was sold for Rs 9,000 after a thrashing of 18 months or so. Hie 
other item dear to my heart was my music system I had other miscellaneous electrical items as well All the proceeds were converted into pounds 
sterling courtesy of a friend, which gave me some sustenance, given my empty coffer. The capital thus acquired enabled me to buy some halfway 
decent clothes made for the high powered course in England. Had it not been for this garage sale, my bank account presented a bleak picture for 
my upcoming trip to the UK. With the kind of salary I was earning without any supplementary income, I was accustomed to living in a Spartan 



manner, although I was very content and happy. 


Alter that I spent a week or so in Karachi and destiny created a crossroad for me. I was invited for a Christmas Eve party by my fiiends Adeeb 
Ahmed and Tehmina. 1 was standing alone on the dance floor when Tchmina tapped me on the shoulder. I turned around, and felt as if someone 
bad belted me in the stomach She introduced us, ‘This is Tahira, and Tahira this is Sajad, I have been telling you both about each other.” 

She was beautiful, and as we got talking and then dancing and then talking again, I realized she was just as intelligent. Her lather, Ambassador 
Masud was a senior and highly regarded diplomat, at that time Pakistan’s Ambassador to Belgium I was smitten We met every day as long as I 
was in Karachi. Then I had to go to England, but she promised me before I went that she would many me when I came back. 

JSSC Latimer 

Arrival at die Joint Services Staff Course, Latimer, was uneventful; the accommodation was like a large closet with one bed, a small table and a 
chair. We had to contend with a tiny bath room Through a notice in the reception hall all the students (they comprised officers from the US to 
Japan) were required to assemble at the Officers’ Mess early in the evening for an informal get-together to interact with the staff and each other. 
When I arrived at the Mess with the Pakistan flag proudly pinned above the name tag on my lapel, I was an instant attraction owing to events in the 
region One of the Royal Navy commanders offered to get me a drink, if I didn’t make a habit of free loading! 

This caused much laughter and broke the ice right there for the rest of the temi Some of the foreign students introduced themselves and asked 
questions about what was going on in die Subcontinent; what they politely meant was the imploding situation in East Pakistan. In fact, a month 
before departing from Dhaka, there had been two nasty incidents of misbehaviour witliPAF wives involving the angiy Bengali youth who bad been 
incited and charged by Mujibur-Rehman’s nationalism I had instructed my pilots, especially the mamied ones, to avoid going to the city centre for 
shopping with their families. But there, in Latimer, with the entire world represented including India, 1 managed to wriggle out of awkward 
discussions by pretending that the RAF tradition of strict rules forbidding political discussions were still in force in the PAF. A loud guffaw and the 
subject was always changed. 

The meeting with the Indian student Wg Cdr Bobby Dey that evening, proved to be a pleasant experience only because he was an affable person 
with a positive mindset. The British and European students hied to joke about us two adversaries sharing drinks together as soon as we had 
introduced ourselves. In fact they were quite surprised and half disappointed to see that by the time everybody moved into the dining ball, Wg Cdr 
Dey and 1 walked together and shared the table on the very first evening Perhaps the rest of the crowd was anticipating some sort of acrimony 
when die two of us bad spotted each other. 

Somehow, during dinner, the conversation led to the 1 965 War when the British Wg Cdr sharing our table asked jokingly if we might have met in 
die air during die war. What a surprise it was to leam then that Bobby Dey was one of the original Mig-2 1 pilots ! I was pleasantly surprised to 
leam that he was Hying Gnats based at Patbankot during the 1 965 war. He was quite agape to discover that I was the leader of the strike to which 
he was an eyewitness. That was the first time that I heard the adversary’s eye witness account of our strike. His mild cynicism about our claim of 
destroying seven Mig-2 1 aircraft at Patbankot was corrected immediately by me. Unhesitatingly, I explained that only 2 Mig-2 Is were spotted by 
me and both had been destroyed. The rest were lighters of other types. I also opined that in the heat of the battle and with adrenaline punping as 
bard as the Ack-Ack was punping shells, imagination bad run wild on both sides as lar as claims were concerned. Happily, it was a satisfactory 
tally because he admitted the destruction of nine aircraft and three damaged. Tlie actual tally of 1 3 aircraft destroyed or damaged still stands today 
as highly credible. In 2005, the Indian historians continued ten destroyed with three damaged; the three damaged did not participate in the war. 

Frankly speaking the JSSC course was focused more for the British, European and American officers rather than the rest ofus from the 
Commonwealth. Hie participants from African and Asian countries like Kenya and Malaysia were very casual and made little effort to leam from 
tlie knowledge imparted. It was more about being observers on most of the exercises than being part of the team participating. Hie social life was 
more prominent than die academics. Hie result was that a lot of friendship and bonhomie was spawned dining the seven months of tlie course. 
However, a significant event took place during my stay at Latimer. 

Back in Pakistan, my family formally proposed for Tahira’s band in marriage from her parents. All was agreed and the marriage date set for the 
first week of August 1970. Dining the course, we were due for a ten day break sometime in early July. A week before the college break, Air 
Marshal and Begum Rahim Khan bad arrived in London for a 1 0 day visit. Tlie Air Marshal had been invited by the C- in-C Royal Air Force to be 
tlie Guest of Honour at tlie passing out parade of the cadets at the coveted RAF College in Cranwell I had the opportunity to attend the function 
and felt proud to see tlie PAF Chief stand out as distinguished and dignified. His speech was flawless and deep in substance. 1 wish some of his 
detractors could have been there to witness the event and hear him speak with such eloquence. After the ceremony Air Msbl Rahim asked me to 
have dinner with him during tlie week-end in London. 

It was during that occasion that I met some wonderful people. The Air Chief and his wife were staying at the flat of (late) Air Cdre Rabb’s son 
Saeed Rabb, who became good pals with me for the rest of my time in the UK. Another unforgettable person I met during that visit was Moni, the 
daughter ol'an Indian Talukdar, but bom and bred in England. Her parents were friends of Begum Rahim Khan’s family in India. Moni still remains 
a close friend and is the staunchest Pakistan supporter as compared to some of our own people settled there. 

Late at night I sat with Air Mslil Rahim Khan, having a night cap when I ventured to ask him if the situation in East Pakistan was still tenable or was 
it going to explode. He did not sound hopeful and thought that the Indian factor was very worrisome as there were ominous signs that India might 
intervene directly in Pakistan’s affairs. The first thought that came to my mind was the possibility of a direct conflict with India and I asked him if 
there was a possibility of matters detonating to such an extent. I asked if I could go back to East Pakistan to re-join my unit. 1 will never forget his 
response, “Well Sajad, 1 suppose we will have to fight this war without you”. Whether he was joking or serious, it did leave me extremely 
anguished. As I was departing, the Air Marshal came to the elevator and when I bade him goodbye, he said, ‘Keep thinking, who knows what 



might happen?” 


At Latimer, my thesis had been completed but I had to give some final touches before handing it in I had made some cogent comments about 
China being a rising nation and a very reliable partner for its neighbours. The Chinese potential to become a world power through its socialist 
centric economic policies was considered an oxymoron in those days but I expressed my thoughts about China vociferously. The Commandant, Lt 
Gen McN eecken, alluded to my thesis during Iris closing address at the end of the course, commenting that my ideas about China had engaged his 
attention He suggested that China should engage everyone’s attention owing to its geographic, economic and strategic realities. 

In the mean time, my wedding took place in Brussels and it was a glittering allair with the younger Royals of Belgium in attendance along with the 
diplomatic corps. Also attending were my brothers fromNew York, YousafHaroon with wife Pasha, the Gokals and a score offiiends from 
London who made it an aflair to remember. It seemed almost too good to be true and an evil eye was cast upon us because the marriage was 
doomed in weeks. Hie exuberance of youth makes every friendship seem an opportunity to be grasped finnly or lets it % away, in the hope for a 
more enduring one, not cognizant of destiny’s hand. 

As we returned to Latimer for the course- ending, we held a big reception at the college and invited the entire student and staff community. The 
menu was so good that the Commandant and several of the staff commented that the college had never had such a lavish reception in their 
memory. That turned out to be the highest point of this short lived marriage. Unluckily, tilings went wrong very abruptly and the marriage was in 
doldrums before it even realty took off Although she joined me at Sargodha during the 1 97 1 War, we could not work it out, in spite of my deeply 
sincere efforts. We parted company soon after the war ended. 

We were on our honeymoon in Paris, when my lather- in- law contacted the Defence Attache Captain IF Qadir, and told him that we needed to 
return to Brussels immediately, and that I was summoned back to Pakistan right away. Ibis was about the end of the second week of August 
1971. My excitement at the news did not go down well with my new family, but I told them that it was a national crisis and that I was duty bound 
to respond with promptness. I recall my last evening in London, which was spent with our dear friends Abbas Gokal, Murtaza Gokal and their 
femity, who had organized a party to celebrate our wedding and incidentally, my unforeseen larewell too. I recall Abbas asking me what I planned 
to do with my little Fiat 124, the first car bought with my own savings. I told himjokingty that I was leaving it outside his house hoping one of his 
hundred cargo ships would transport it to Pakistan. That’s exactly what he did and the car was delivered to me at Sargodha through their office in 
Karachi. 

I returned to Karachi and was informed by the organisation handling departures and arrivals of officers from abroad, that I was posted as Staff 
Operations Officer at Sargodha and was required to report immediately. I was terribly upset at this posting, which I had already suffered under the 
Station Commander of that time in 1968. Even though I had conpleted the war book of Sargodha then, I could not see nyseff running around in a 
jeep arranging trenches and camouflage activities, while my compatriots were trailblazing in the war zone. I made a quick detour to Quetta to 
spend a couple of days with my parents, sister and son and landed up in Sargodha the last week of August. 

Treacherous Hijack Attempt 

Fit Lt Mati ur Rehman had been grounded along with other Bengali pilots in the aftermath of the March 1971 army action Mati, who was 
performing a desk job as an assistant safety officer after being grounded, decided to hijack a T-33 trainer aircraft fromPAF Base Masroor to 
escape to India. The conspiracy was hatched by a group of' Bengali officers with Mati as the ring leader. Mati had served under my command 
during 1965-66 and had displayed aggressive tendencies. On 17 August 1971, Pit Off Rashid Minhas of No 2 Squadron was taxiing out for a solo 
training mission, when Mati tricked him into stopping the aircraft out of sight of the mobile controller. His pretext was that there was some 
malfunction in the aircraft. He managed to force himself into the rear cockpit and took- off without a parachute 1 . Rashid Minhas was told by Mati 
it was a hijack and that he would use a gun if there was any resistance. Minhas had made a call two minutes before the T-33 was in the air, 
announcing that he was being hijacked. The air traffic controller could not comprehend the emerging situation. 

Minhas made no effort to botch the lnj ack attempt with several options available to him. He could have ducked down to stay out of the line of fire, 
even if Mati would have chosen the unlikely course. He could then have switched off the main fuel shut-off switch available only in the front 
cockpit. He could easily have held the control column fully forward to prevent take off and pushed either rudder and sat fimnly on the breaks. Any 
of these simple actions would have prevented the take off These and other observations by the President of the Air Investigation Board (AIB), 

Grp Captain Zaheer Hussain, established that the young and inexperienced Minhas ostensibly froze in the cockpit. Mati made a low turn off the 
traffic in a non-standard direction Base Commander Air Cdre Bill Latif was informed instantly by the air traffic controller about the violation He 
ordered two F-86s already in the air to intercept the plane, according to the inquiring officer, but the radar put the interceptors in pursuit of a 
different target. In any case it was too late to intercept the aircraft. 

1 The parachute also doubled as a seat cushion and elevated the pilot to the correct viewing level. 

According to the findings of the AIB the aircraft canopy was not re- locked on take- off due to tire rough way in which the aircraft was 
commandeered. About 10 minutes after take- off the canopy gradually pried loose and blew off It hit the rear part of the aircraft which caused the 
aircraft to nose-down sharply just as all the dirt blew up into the cockpit. The canopy was not jettisoned but flew off as there were deep marks of 
it hitting the upper fuselage. It was found 200 yards from the crash scene. Mati pulled up violently to prevent hitting the ground, but the aircraft 
stalled. Fearing interception by fighters he pushed the control column sharply forward which resulted in negative gravity forces. Mati (who was not 
strapped in) was thrown clear out of the aircraft and landed in a pond of water as the aircraft took a nose dive. The aircraft crashed on the edge of 
the pond with Rashid Mihas still strapped in his cockpit near the marshy Shahbandar area. Incredibly, the aircraft did not break-up and was found 
intact with its nose dug in. Mati’s dead body was found along with a toy pistol on a string. According to the doctor from the AIB, Mati’s body was 
scratch- less upon examination. Young Minhas crashed while strapped in Iris seat. No attempt to eject was made by Minhas or Mati According to 
SZ Hussain, the inquiry was suddenly stopped and no findings were made public. Thus ended the story of Mati, whose egocentric nature for 


exceeded his better judgment and which drove him to a pitiful end, taking an innocent young pilot with him Rashid Minhas was bequeathed a 
Nishan-e- Haider and deservedly so, for he died in the line of duty. 

Rendezvous with Destiny 

I started my staff operation duties with the immediate implementation of the phased actions as stipulated in the war book. My first priority was 
proper protection of personnel, aircraft and equipment. This entailed the dispersal plan, which was fairly' spread out and resources were limited. 

Air Mshl Rahim Khan bad brought about many solid changes in the operational readiness of the PAF. We had several hardened pens with 
protective walls in the ADA complex, but not all aircraft could be accommodated in the concrete pens. Therefore, some ingenuity was needed to 
use camouflage nets over the uncovered pens. For this, 1 made extensive use of the rescue flight helicopters to check the effectiveness of 
camouflage from various attack points and angles. I lb llo wed this with attacks fromF-6 aircraft during the afternoons, especially at the end of each 
air test. 1 had an urge to get into a Mirage cockpit and fly this beautiful, sleek Mach-2 aircraft. 

Gp Capt Rehmat Khan, my old buddy was the OC Flying Wing in Iris first truly operational command. He would not extend me the facility to % 
the Mirage on some pretext or the other. So I load to contend with the good old F-6, also an excellent aircraft for its power and handling. It turned 
out to be a good tiring because I managed to gather a lair amount of experience in a variety of roles on the F-6 aircraft. My other project which 
needed urgentattention was to ensure proper trenches, strategically located and well camouflaged, but also easily accessible to air and ground crew 
in case the base came under attack. Trench digging turned out to be an arduous task. The time and manpower estimated fell way short of what the 
exercise entailed. I vividly recall that I had to seek the help of the Commissioner, Mi' Molrsin to get manpowerfor digging trenches. Mr Mobsin 
was a gentleman and an incredible supporter of the PAF as was his Deputy Commissioner, Mebboob. They provided us crucially needed 
manpower for runway damage repair teams during the war. 

There were multitudes of geo-political and geo-military factor's that were beginning to add to Pakistan’s internal dissent. India had suffered a series 
of humiliations; first in the war with China lb llo wed by the Kutch defeat, and also the 1965 War had left the Indian leadership in serious 
introspection about its defence weaknesses. This set into morion a determined attempt by the Indian leadership to build a fonriidable military 
machine and then to create a situation where it could avenge its lost prestige. By the year 1 967-68, the IAF with 1 ,200 aircraft was the fourth 
largest air force in the world. They bad applied their lessons of the 1 965 War much more honestly and in earnest to revolutionize their pilot training 
program, strategic and tactical concepts and operational readiness. 

The Indian Air Force comprised nearly twenty Squadrons ofMig-21s, scvciVcight Su-7 Squadrons and nearly ten Gnats Squadrons, hi addition to 
these, they bad a second line combat force of Hunters, Mysteres and locally manufactured three Squadrons of HF-24 Maruts. They also 
possessed over eighty Canberra night bombers and some obsolete Vampires and Ouragans. The hido- Soviet pact signed in 1971 had deep and 
dangerous implications for Pakistan because it gave India the unequivocal support of a super power to encourage India’s hegemonic designs with 
men, materials, and munitions ofwar. Hie Indian Air Force, already heavily bolstered, was provided with some state of the art ordinance and 
electronic warfare capability. Most of their vulnerable airfields and military infrastructure were protected through a highly integrated air defence 
system comprising medium and fow- looking radars. Hiese were defended with low-level anti-aircraft surface-to-air missiles of the category of the 
deadly accurate SAM-6s, operated with a combination of highly effective radar- controlled Ack- Ack guns. 

The IAF bad also developed a massive airfield infrastructure with airfields strategically located to hit any target in Pakistan, exploiting our lack of 
depth. All the airfields had concrete pens to make gun attacks by PAF fighters ineffective, a lesson from the experience at Patbankot, Kalaikunda 
and Baghdogra. where they lost a large number of aircraft for lack of proper protection By 1969, India was ready to challenge Pakistan The 
explosive situation in East Pakistan and India’s recently- acquired military might have made a compelling case for India to break-up Pakistan Hie 
plan to separate the two wings had been master-minded well before the situation in East Pakistan had come to a boil The effectiveness of the 
Mukri Bahini, desertions from the defence forces and visits by senior Bengali officers from the three services to Agartbala to leak Pakistan military 
capabilities and weaknesses were the last straw. Hie Indian plans were to cross East Pakistan’s international border in the third week of 
November 1971. Hiis overt and blatant disregard for international law was only possible because India had the lull support of a super power. 

In the mean time, Pakistan bad passed through a traumatic period from the start of the 1 965 War until 1971, with a highly discriminatory embargo 
by the US establishment against India and Pakistan Although the embargo was construed to be even handed for both the two countries, the reality 
was totally different. Hie embargo was a sledge hammer agqinst Pakistan’s defence capability, which was totally dependent upon military 
hardware from the USA and Europe, while it was a mere rap on the Indian knuckles for international consumption India enjoyed the full backing 
of the super power, which had been its prime supplier of military hardware from the time Pakistan became a stooge of the USA in the CENTO 
and SEATO pacts of the 1 950s. Therefore, Pakistan bad to desperately maintain its defence capability as a minimal detenent against an aggressor. 
Such were the national and international circumstances as Sargodha was being prepared for a possible conflict. 

I was extremely busy between staff operations duties and keeping myself abreast in flying. There was the redeeming factor which kept mymind folly 
preoccupied in the duties assigned to me by the Base Commander (stations came to be known as bases after July 1 970), Air Cdre Ghulam (Gulli) 
Haider. He had always been very lair and appreciative of my professional as well as personal conduct. Hiis made my job much easier and 
motivation high since I could fly as much as I wanted to, unlike my previous bitter experience in the same post at the same base. One afternoon, I 
was taking a nap after lunch when the phone rang and startled me. It was a call from the young Fit Lt Parvez Iqbal (Payjee), ADC to the C-in-C, 
who asked me if he had woken me up. “Yes, you bloody well have and startled the hell out of me. Don’t you take a nap before sports or do you 
play any sport at all”, I yelled at him mockingly. He said, “Sir. you better get out of bed fast and stand next to the phone as the Commander- in- 
Cbief wants to speak with you”. Suddenly, I was fully awake and asked him if I was in trouble? Knowing this joker Payjee, I could almost predict 
Iris response. He quipped, ‘You sure are in trouble, sir. What kind, will only come to you from the Chief himself ’. He told me to hold on while he 
connected me with the Cliief I stood up from my bed and waited for Air Mshl Rahim Khan to come on line. Shortly, I heard his familiar voice, 
“Sajad, how are you doing there at Sargodha”? I replied, “Quite well, sir”. In the next 30 seconds, I heard what turned out to be one of the best 
news of my life. I heard the Air Chief saying “Well Sajad, I’ve decided to appoint you as the OC Flying Wing at Sargodha; you are a Group 



Captain as of today and you can put on your ranks immediately. I want you to take over the wing tomorrow, your Base Commander lias already 
been informed and you’ve less than a month in which to get ready and operational, to lead your wing into war”. 

He told me that he expected a lot from me and that this was aunique opportunity accorded to me to prove myself once again. ‘Yes sir, thank you 
sir,” I said and before I could rant more gratitude, Iris phone clicked shut. I must have hallucinated for a while because my head buzzed like a 
beehive from the exciting news. Deeply euphoric, I was not sure who to call first but that question in my mind lasted only seconds because I 
wanted my sister and my parents to be the first ones to know about this double whammy. Of course, my sister was as surprised and excited as I 
was and kept saying “Alhamd-o-Lillah ” and thanks to Allah for the unexpected news. Yet, 1 could sense the apprehension in her voice, because 
she asked me “This means that you will be back to flying again?” I said, ‘Yes you are right, and I could have asked for nothing else in the world at 
this juncture”. I spoke to my dear mother and lather, who gave me all their prayers for success and longevity. 

No sooner had 1 put the receiver down, the phone rang. This time it was the Base Commander Gulli Haider, who sounded even more excited than 
I was and told me to report to his house immediately. I dressed up for sports since his bungalow was en- route to the sports fields and saw him 
sitting in the large veranda of the Base Commander’s residence. He came down the steps and met me with tremendous warmth. As he 
congratulated me on my appointment as OC Flying Wing, he pulled two badges of Group Captain’s rank, which must have belonged to him. He 
thrust them in my hind, saying, “These look old but 1 want you to wear these on your first day”. I replied in gratitude, “Sir, you bet I will wear 
these tomorrow and keep them on”. 

This is how destiny liad finally propelled me to the pinnacle of fighter flying, which was the dream of every fighter pilot worth his salt. Sargodba was 
the hot bed of the best pilots and the fastest aircraft in the PAF. This was a dream command but carried with it a serious and heavy set of 
responsibilities. In barely a matter of weeks, my status hid changed dramatically. That evening calls kept pouring in, the first being from my course- 
mate Wg Cdr M Arsbad, “Congratulations, sir,” he taunted. Jokingly, I told him “Whose SUR (head) arc you calling; but not to worry as your 
SUR (Sir) will come soon”. He was a couple of numbers senior to me, but this was the second time I had superseded a few of my batch mates 
with senior service numbers. 

Command of No 33 Wing 

I took over command on the 1 2/1 3 th September 1971. My first day started by paying a courtesy visit to the Base Commander, the OC 
Maintenance Wing and other colleagues outside No 33 Wing. The rest of the day, I met all the Squadron Commanders, who were not merely 
known to me but were good friends. All of them had served with me at one time or another. My Stalf Operations Officer happened to be Sqn Ldr 
Masud Hatif (later Air Marshal), responsible for planning flying for the entire wing. 

Hatif asked me what I wished to do, meaning any changes in the routine of 33 Wing operations. I said “No” and told him to get all the OC units to 
attend our first tete-a-tete. I told Sqn Ldr Hatif that I intended to spend the first two weeks merely observing his planning and programming 
philosophy and visiting all the Squadrons to check out their normal operational training methods. However, my first priority was to get operational 
on the Mirage as quickly as possible. I planned to discuss my Mirage flying with Wg Cdr Hakimullah (later Air Chief), commanding No 5 Mirage 
Squadron when I met the Squadron commanders in the afternoon. The F-6 Squadrons at the time of my take over were being commanded by Wg 
Cdr Hashmi, OC No 23 Squadron, Sikander Mehmood, OC No 1 1 Squadron and Saad Hatmi as OC No 25 Squadron When all the Squadron 
commanders and Sqn Ldr Hatif were in my oflfice, we chatted informally about then' general perception of the war role for each Squadron and how 
they were achieving the given goals. Each one gave me a fairly good idea of their role and the training program 

I told them that the change in command liad been a decision of the C- in- C and that 1 liad been tasked to get the wing operationally ready to deter 
and counter any threat appearing on the horizon. I also emphasized that the situation in the region was deteriorating rapidly and India liad built up a 
massive military machine, which was intended to be put to use against Pakistan. I advised the commanders that as an overall philosophy, we would 
have to change the paradigms of training with a sharp focus on operational war roles. I assured them that they would have my foil support in their 
mission accomplishment with minimal interference unless I found it absolutely necessary to intervene. I emphasized the flight safety aspect in some 
detail and gave them the benefit of my experience of the 1 965 War, where the parameters of flight safety and operational training had to be 
achieved with a razor thin line separating the two. Hie last thing I made clear to all present was that we were fighter pilots with history behind us 
and our motto in command would be to: ‘To lead from the front’ and our functional doctrine, ‘Follow nie and I shall lead you to the target’. We 
paited company on a clear understanding that our relationship would be guided by a democratic spirit in evolving operational concepts, and that 
we would agree to disagree; but in the final analysis rny decision would be binding. 

On that happy note and with great expectations from my commanders, I began my assignment seeking help from God. As they left rny modest 
oflfice, I thought about die chair I was occupying - it represented the most powerful punch of the Pakistani military, inclusive of all three services. In 
a fligjit of imagination I tried to envision the days, months and year's ahead in this assignment and the mind refused to see any further in rank, status 
or success; this was destiny’s best hand and I couldn’t imagine anything better. Little did I know then how fate would conspire once again and a 
new trial would begin; but fortunately it would commence after the 1 97 1 War liad ended. 

On rny second day of command, Hakimullah liad given charge of my initiation to Mirage flying to Sqn Ldr Oniar Farooq, an outstanding lighter 
pilot. He was given the nick name ‘Jesus Christ” (JC) for his obsession with perfection. This was a nickname given by Rehmat Khan who was a 
master at assigning the most appropriate aliases to many, reflecting the character of the person. One of his earlier masterpieces was a pilot branded 
‘Teli’ (meaning grease ball sycophant)! This was like predicting the future personality development of the person concerned. So, there I was 
conffontedwith Omar Farooq (JC) who started by giving me the whole nine yards about his impressive knowledge. The day was slipping past and 
I was getting impatient to get to the aircraft. Little did I know that Farooq liad another agenda altogether. He infonned me, “I am very sorry but no 
flying sir, till you have finished this on the job training and conpleted the questionnaire, which will take another two days”. 


During die coffee break I slipped into Hakimullah’ s oflfice and told him my stamina for such grounding liad been exhausted and would he organise 



the first mission the next morning? He bad a good laugh and said this wasonly a taste of tilings to come. Anyway, Hakim suggested that Fit Lt Arif 
Manzoor would report to my office after the morning wing briefing to take me through emergencies and other procedures on the simulator. He 
said that once Arif Manzoor was satisfied that I bad all the nonnal and emergencies procedures tapped, Arif would take me up for a C- 1 , which 
meant familiarization mission, while Omar Farooq would continue with the on the job training contemporaneously. I gave a sigh of relief and saw 
Farooq waiting in the veranda of No 5 Squadron He was an extremely polite and highly disciplined officer, with a penchant for rule of law. I told 
him that we would have to complete the rest of the academics today or tonight, what ever it takes. 

This is how I finally found myself going around with Arif Manzoor, a tall, serious and an exceptional fighter pilot. I had already done an hour in the 
cockpit with Farooq and was well versed with all the procedures. Arif put ire through comprehensive mission simulation from start-up to all-aspect 
mission familiarization Hie marathon session was perfbnred under the supervision of a good fighter-pilot, Sqn Ldr Amanullah (‘The Kid’). He bad 
been grounded by the medical hounds of the Combined Medical Board for a non-specific cardiac problem and had chosen to be the simulator 
instructor as the closest tiling to flying. Finished with the minimal formalities, Arif briefed meon the mission profile. In four days, I bad completed my 
first solo on a new type where a senior pilot follows you around to ensure the safety of the mission Immediately thereafter, I got onto daily flying 
on the Mirage carrying out Ground Controlled Interceptions (GCI) on Cyrano radar. Soon I was frilly operational on the Mirage aircraft for day 
and night missions. During the month of November 1 97 1 , 1 flew numerous night-GCl missions at low-level It was time to start paying attention to 
F-6 flying. On 9 th November, I started flying the F-6 and flew many air combat missions on the F-6 as well as the Mirage. 

Confronted with a Fait Accompli 

The inevitable happened in the third week of November, when the Indians launched an invasion of East Pakistan with the frill complicity of the 
Soviet Union The Pakistani leadership bad no clear political agenda or national goals; a repeat of the 1 965 situation After invading East Pakistan 
the Indian plan was to cut West Pakistan in two halves near Reti in the region of Rahim Yar Khan and starve northern Pakistan into ultimate 
capitulation They nearly achieved that goal but for the men of steel of the Pakistan Aimed Forces. 

Thanks to the embargo imposed by the United States government after the Rarm of Kutch incident, the Pakistan Air Force lad found it nearly 
impossible to maintain its operational punch The realization by the Government of Pakistan of this serious weakness in the air defence of the 
country compelled it to make substantial allocations to the PAF for maintaining minimum deterrent as well as to acquire a limited offensive 
capability. Hie PAF acquired 90 used F-86-Es from the German Air Force through Iran These aircraft with a considerably more powerful engine 
proved to be of great use. The Chinese leadership also came to Pakistan’s rescue with full force, with the induction of 1 00 F-6 (Migl 9) aircraft. 
The PAF with its ingenious self reliance programme modified these short range F-6s with mediocre weapons capability, into fairly effective air 
defence fighter's by making them air-to-air missile compatible. Hie remaining PAF force comprised one squadron of F- 104s, eight F-86 
Squadrons (nearly obsolete and being phased out) and B-57s. Hie first two Squadrons were extremely difficult and expensive to maintain 

It was in this milieu that the PAF leadership had decided to acquire 24 Mirage- III fighter bombers from the French These were delivered through 
1967. To support this small force of about 280 combat fighters and bombers, the PAF bad developed Sborkot, Mianwali, and Risalewala as main 
operational airfields in the north, with Murid and Rahwali as satellites. In the surveillance sector, the PAF had to rely on the 2 US supplied high 
power radars at Sakesar in the north and Badin in the south. The maintenance of these 2 radars was a nightmare for the PAF, owing to the 
discriminatory embargo. Hie PAF had acquired 3 medium powered and 5 low- looking AR- 1 radar's after the 1965 War. However, with all this 
equipment, our radar coverage was only a quarter of what it should have been to provide a high level surveillance over vital areas. Hie low level 
coverage was dismal not even 1 / 1 0 th of the minimum requirement. In tenns of vulnerable gaps, this meant virtually no coverage in the northern 
region, including Kashmir and a huge gap fromMultan to south of Nawabshah What this meant in operational tenns was that the IAF could attack 
airfields like Peshawar, Murid and Cliaklala with impunity without being detected. 

Similarly, many airfields in the south were vulnerable to enemy surprise attack. Passive air defence measures had undergone many changes in both 
the PAF as well as the IAF. Learning from the experience of the 1965 War, the Indians had gone into major construction of concrete- covered 
aircraft protective pens. The PAF bad also developed numerous hardened pens at major operational bases. This meant that unlike the 1965 War, 
tlie PAF would not be able to carry out classical counter air operations against aircraft on the ground as a strategic concept. However, the IAF 
may not have totally ruled out such a course of action because there was a financial constraint on the PAF as to how many covered pens it could 
construct. Pakistan’s Ack-Ack defences comprised the newly inducted Chinese quads and medium range guns. Hie combination was a fomidable 
one given the concept of raised platfomns, which increased the visibility substantially and lienee the effectiveness was enhanced proportionately. 

This was the combat potential in West Pakistan 

In East Pakistan, the solitary No 14 Squadron was not bolstered with the planned and promised Squadron of F-6s. Therefore, the squadron bad 
to contend with 18 F-86-Es and a couple ofT-33s Trainers. From the two radars at Dhaka, one was withdrawn because its security was in 
jeopardy from fear of sabotage by the defecting Bengali personnel or destmetion by the Mukti Baliinl Therefore, only one radar was left to take 
on a huge challenge confronting East Pakistan’s air defence. Hie PAF leadership had paid equal attention to infrastructure enhancement in East 
Pakistan, where a completely new airfield was in the finishing stages at Kumitola. Unfortunately, given the lethargic nature of the labour force, the 
work pace was extremely slow. Consequently, it was the fighter pilots supported by the valiant Ack-Ack gunners, who were left to face an enemy 
more than 1 0 times their size. What they lacked in materials was made up by the grit and resolve of the fighter pilots and the gunners. Hiey had no 
qualms about the fact that their battle could not go beyond 36 Hi's at the most, by which time the nmway at Tejgaon would have been rendered 
completely untenable and the fate of this fomidable squadron left to Allah 

The Indians were bigger, better equipped and bad a well defined strategy. However, these were not the only factors that caused a major imbalance 
in a comparison between the forces of these two countries. The disparity was severely affected by the defection as well as conspiring by East 
Pakistani officers and men Hiis caused a debilitating set back to the PAF’s strategic and tactical plans because the defecting senior officers from 
the flying and air defence elements gave away all the strengths and weaknesses of the PAF. Hiis meant that the advcrsaiy had the most credible 



intelligence available on which to plan operations. There was around 30-40% reduction in the overall strength of the PAF owing to defections and 
the grounding of all Bengali officers. 


The Indian Air Force was given information about the precise gaps in our radar cover, the exact location of aircraft pens, bunkers for pilot’s 
protection and location of fuel storage and armament underground locations. Consequently, the IAF had every piece of information that any air 
force could have ever dreamt about. Some officers had different views about the grounding of all personnel of' Bengali origin, but the majority of us 
folly supported this action by the C-in-C Air Mshl Rahim Khan. Hie PAF was absolutely right in isolating the Bengalis. Intrigue coupled with 
sabotage was a distinct possibility. 

Fig OlfSadruddin, who had served with me and later defected and joined the conspirators at Agartala, lias given his opinion about his years in the 
PAF, which smacks of hypocrisy. Later an Air Marshal in the Bangladesh Air Force, he feels that East Pakistanis were treated with bias and 
contempt. Fig OlfSadruddin’s harangue regarding the injustices done to the Bengalis as an ethnic entity has no merit, at least in the PAF. I 
personalty cannot forgive these pilots for breaking their oath and placing their erstwhile service in serious harm’s way. As Air Mshl Rahim opined, 
had they resigned and then done whatever they wanted to do he would have had great respect for him Ineredfoty, the PAF fought with resolve 
and resilience in spite of this serious set back, which had given the enemy a cardinal advantage. 

13 

WAR OF 1971 - ANOTHER BETRAYAL 

Back at Sargodha, it was in the first week ofNovenber when my wife Tahira joined me. Tlie Commissioner of Sargodha at the time Mr Mohsin 
and his spouse Talat were a sociable couple and most hospitable. Visiting them was a good change from the stressful and demanding routine of life. 
They were interesting company for my wife because all of them were serious bridge fens. Weekends meant long bridge sessions either at our house 
or arranged by Talat Mohsin I had no interest in cards or gambling but I managed to enjoy the gettogethers anyway. Hie Commissioner became a 
source of tremendous cooperation later on during the war. 

If memory serves me right, we were ordered into Phase-HI in the last week ofNovenber. This announcement infcsed unusual vigour amongst the 
officers and men at Sargodha as every one leamt with shock about the Indian Army crossing into East Pakistan Although we were operating from 
dispersed locations, often the mail tarmacs were used for launching missions and maintenance activity. All that changed on the day Phase-HI was 
declared. There was hectic activity but a powerful sound of disquiet penneated the base. Only the thunder of jet engines day and night was the 
indication of the stonn brewing. Hie base exuded the same spirit that I had experienced at Peshawar in 1965. 

Fortunately, fete had conspired to place me at Sargodha on this momentous occasion I intended to give the job eveiy ounce of my energy and 
experience. I remembered too well the fiasco at Sargodha on 6 th of September 1965, which had caused the feilure of PAF’s pre-emptive strike. I 
also knew that this time, classical pre-emption opportunity would not be the case because the Indians had gone with foil military force into East 
Pakistan. But for the vacillating and dithering President, the Pakistani air and land assault should have begun on the first infonnation of Indians 
violating the international border in the East. 

Here it would be important to establish the difference between the strategy, planning and execution of the air wars of 1 965 and 1 97 1 . It is now an 
established feet of history and recorded by none other than Air Mshl PC Lai. the IAF Chief during 1971, as well as the statistics of IAF fosses 
included by authors of IP A W that the PAF performed fer better in 1 97 1 from both wings as compared to 1 965 . The public perception to the 
contrary is mere hearsay and based on flimsy and obtuse arguments by detractor's such as to why the PAF was not seen over the Lahore front like 
in 1 965 . Some of the losers from the army and navy have also criticised the performance of the PAF to veil their own dismal performance. Hie 
shadow between myth and reality has widened because like many contrived stories, this disillusionment lias become invasive. 

People need to read history of the 1 97 1 war, written by author's from both sides to remove the erroneous and felse impressions created by vested 
interests, especially the political cabal of this beleaguered nation. It should come as a revelation that Tiie Story of the Pakistan Air Force (official 
historyl 988) presents an accurate and comprehensive coverage of the 1971 war. According to the official history, the strategy devised by Air 
Mshl Rahim Khan was highly professional; it was well planned and therefore, very well executed, without controversy in claims of aircraft shot 
down and other exaggerations that took place during the 1965 war'. PAF employment in the counter air' operations and the air defence role was 
well conceived and folly rehearsed. The strategy and concept of joint operations with the amry was finalised personalty between Air Mshl Rahim 
Klian and Lt Gen Gul Hassan, the Chief of General Staff (CGS). 

Given that some of the second tier operational staff assisting the C-in-C had been war tested and were professionally competent, Hie operational 
plan went well (not withstanding some exceptions directly below the Air Chief the timid ones from the 1965 war who had survived and risen to 
star ranks since there had been no accountability). What makes the assessment and accuracy of the PAF history’s coverage of the 1971 war more 
credible than its controversial dissertation of the 1965 war is that the author's of The Story of the PAF , 1988, were not known to be acquiescent 
to Air Mshl Rahim Khan’ s policies and personality. C onsequentty, their' collation and namation of historical fects and events about 1 97 1 war is 
incontrovertible. Hie day to day coverage has been superbly captured in graphic detail and articulatety presented, although some air kills 
particularly in East Pakistan could be questionable. This was owing to the feet that the situation in East Pakistan was extremely fluid and the tragic 
finale did not allow any detailed investigation of claims. Hie feet is that the pilots fought with unequalled grit. Hie few minor exaggerations exist 
largely because of the lightning speed at which Dhaka came under relentless attacks. Hie pilots were going up and down like yo-yos. 

In West Pakistan, the situation was very much under control. Hie Air Chief had appointed a team under the outstanding leadership and incisive 
scrutiny ofAir Cdre Pat Callaghan His team was assigned to confirm claims of every enemy aircraft downed in Pakistani territory. He was 



equipped with technical personnel, support aircraft and vehicles to reach the sites of wreckages. Additionally, this team was assisted by the famous 
fighter ace of WW II, Brig Gen Chuck Yeager. He was the US Defence Attache in Islamabad at the time. Every single claim was required to be 
investigated by this team, its veracity established through the wreckage, its location and eye witness accounts recorded. In addition a veiy stringent 
film assessment by the local commander's was mandatory before a kill was awarded. It was unknown in the history of air war until the 1970s that 
any air force in a conflict had such an elaborate corroborative system in place. 

Meanwhile back at Sargodba, I bad made several trips to Mianwali and Risalewala to check that all facilities were folly operational and dispersal 
areas ready to take aircraft at a short notice. After the red-alert for imminence of war was declared, the aircraft operating facilities were positioned 
at these bases. No 23 Squadron commanded by Wg Cdr Hashmi was to move to Risalewala and No 25 Squadron, under Wg Cdr Hatmi, (both 
good lighter pilots and popular Squadron commanders) was to be positioned at Mianwali to provide back-up support and air defence to 
Sargodba whenever it came under attack. Some Mirages were also positioned at Mianwali for night interceptions, if Sargodba came aider a 
surprise attack and Mirages could not be scrambledon time. With all these arrangements in place, we waited with bated breath for the word ‘GO’ 
to strike at the heart of the enemy. Somehow, the President of the country was capricious, presanably fearing a trouncing of Pakistan’s Anned 
Forces, especially with the prospects of the Indians moving their forces from the East after capitulation of Dhaka and bringing them to bear upon 
West Pakistan 

The Indian army bad already crossed the international border and the Mukti Bahini were in virtual control of the out lying areas, except the main 
cities like Dhaka, Jessore, Chittagong etc. Hie ominous cafrninthe West turned into restiveness as days passed and the news from East Pakistan 
got worse by the minute. Yet there was no movement at the Presidency till the fall of Jessore was commaiicated to the President. Hie Indians and 
Muktis were moving in from all four directions, through land and rivers onto Dhaka. Finally, it was Air Mshl Rahim Khan who persuaded the 
President that time was slipping by and humiliation was staring us in the eye if a coordinated attack by the army supported by the PAF was not 
launched immediately. 

PAF’s Employment Strategy 

The employment strategy for East Pakistan was realty a Hobson’s choice. Tlie anned forces had to fight a battle to the bitter end without any help 
of any kind from outside. As stated earlier, this was to be a desperate battle for savival and any attrition that the sole Squadron in East Pakistan 
was expected to inflict upon the preponderant adversary would be a miracle of resolve and gilt. Hiat is precisely what happened and it is an epic 
of air warfare. Hiere were different paradigms of counter air operations during the 1971 war. In the East as well as the West, the PAF could not 
have repeated the success in destroying enemy aircraft on the ground as it did so remarkably in 1 965. Hiis was owing to the changed ground 
enviromnent on all Indian air force bases as indeed was the case at PAF bases. Hie aircraft were mostly kept in hardened protective shelters, 
difficult to attack. If attempted, the aggressors would have been forced to make precision attacks in a profile which would render the attacker 
highly vulnerable to ground defences. This meant that the attacker would have be exposed to the inferno of anti-aircraft weapons such as the low- 
medium and high level intense barrage of gun-fire, made even more lethal with the presence oiground-to-air guided missiles. SA-7, the Soviet- 
made shoulder- fired missile was a deadly weapon against attacks with conventional weapons. The attrition rate would have been too high for either 
of the air forces to absorb. 

Hence the most profitable choice was to bomb the enemy airfields to make the air complexes and mnways untenable for certain periods of time to 
deny the enemy air force interference with oa land assaults into Indian territory. But that groaid assault by the No 1 Annoaed Div was not 
forthcoming as will become clear in the narrative ahead. Ibis explains why the attacks against IAF airfields were suspended after 2-3 days. 

Another point that should be clarified right here is the public perception that the PAF was missing over Lahore. Weft, there was no real ground 
battle on the Lahore front, so there was no question of frittering away scant PAF resources just to show the flag over cities. 

Controversial as it was, the idea persisted amongst the military high command that East Pakistan could not be seriously threatened so long as the 
Indians remained convinced that major reverses could occa' on their Western borders if the Indian armed might was split up to attack both wings 
of Pakistan simultaneously. What did come under question was the potency of just one infrmtry division with some tanks, one destroyer with four 
gai boats, and one fighter squadron in East Pakistan. To provide the Eastern wing with a greater measa'e of confidence, some additional defence 
assets were thought to be necessary, and bad been included in the services deployment plan soon after the 1965 war. To redress, to some extent, 
the great disparity between the opposing forces in the East, the PAF had decided in 1969-70 that an additional F-6 Squadron should be raised to 
join the single F-86 squadron in Dhaka. The plan bad to be shelved when the support and operation of even the existing PAF squadrons became 
problematic due to inadequate budget allocation. 

The Pakistan Army bad similar plans of enhancing the land force elements in the East but these assumed agency only when India’s preparations 
for invading East Pakistan became obvious in early 1971. Although still adhering to the concept that the crucial battle for the defence of Pakistan’s 
Eastern wing would be fought on India’s Western front, GHQ were convinced by March 1971 that the Eastern command bad to be bolstered to a 
total of at least three inftmtry divisions to withstand India’s imminent multi- directional thrusts. A remarkably successful strategic air lift via Sri Lanka 
was then organised by the PAF. PIA was placed under PAF control (the norm dining national emergencies) and responded magnificently to this 
unusual task, and its crews repeatedly aidertook these exhausting 6,500 miles return flights without any rest, hi total, within the following weeks 
three divisions were transported to Dhaka, the capital of East Pakistan, mainly via Colombo in Sri Lanka. This airlift was supported the by C 130s 
of the Imperial Iranian Air Force and Takish Air Force, but actually Iran used this opportaiity to donate all of its foa older C - 1 30Bs to PAF - 
despite an US arms embargo imposed on Pakistan. The heavy equipment of the Pakistani divisions followed, transported by a convoy of ships, 
escorted by warships of the Pakistani Navy. 

The Eastern command was thus provided with two additional infrmtry divisions (9 & 1 6) six months before the Indians launched theirfufl scale 
invasion at foa points across East Pakistan’s border, onEid day, 21 st November 1971. The additional divisions were very lightly equipped and 
did not have their nonnal compliment of annoa, artifleiy and signals support. However inadequately equipped, these men at least constituted some 



enhancement ofLt GenNiazi’s (Commander, Eastern Command) manpower resources. Aimed only with rifles and cheap tennis shoes they would 
light the enemy and the equally treacherous weather. The air and naval elements remained at their grossly inadequate levels. 

The widely understood concept of Pakistan’s military strategy was that if India chose to attack East Pakistan first, there should be an immediate 
response from die Pakistani forces in the West. This doctrine had been so deeply ingrained in the minds of Pakistan’s general stalf that it would 
have been inconceivable to imagine anything less than instant retaliation to such an Indian move. But once again the doctrine remained a powerfully 
worded plan, played on sand models. 

The events which followed the Indian attack on East Pakistan showed that Lt Gen Niazi persisted in a faulty concept of border (or perimeter) 
defence, against the original plan of garrison (or fortress) defence. He not only Med to use his soldiers properly but also nullified the military 
advantage that the two additional inlantry divisions had given him In the West, the President and Amy Chief of Staff fell into a paralytic state of 
indecision concerning the counter offensive for which they had prepared the army and the PAF for over a year. 

Thus, the military as well as the moral foundation of Pakistan’s defence strategy was demolished in the two wings by its own architects. As 
November give way to December, the bewilderment of the soldiers, sailors, and the ainnen in the field turned into raging frustration. Even when 
die much delayed decision was taken to open the Western front on 3 rd December 1 97 1 , it was at the instance of the Air Chief Air Marshal Rahim 
Khan, who, in doing so, was also voicing the feeling of GHQ’s 2 nd echelon generals and the army’s field commanders. 1 

Air Battles over Dhaka 

In the East, No 14 Squadron was placed in an unenviable tight corner. They had lost 2 F-86s and their outstanding fighter pilots Fit Lt PQ Mehdi 
(later Air Chief Mshl) and Fig OffKlialil Ahmed. Both were shot by enemy fighters but managed to eject. They landed almost equidistant from the 
Mukti Bahini and the Indian army' invaders. Luckily for them, the Indians took themPOW, and saved them from being decapitated by the Mukti 
Bahini (they were going around killing their captives). I heard their story first hand from both The incident was a very poor reflection on the leader 
of the fomnation, their Squadron Commander, who had taken over command fromme when I left for Latimer to attend the JSSC course. 

The Indian anriy liad crossed into East Pakistan on the day of the holy festival of Eid-ul-Azha on 22 nd November 1971. No 14 Squadron had 
been flying CAS missions against the Muktis and their accomplices. Retired Air Cdre Mahmud Gul, then a Flying Officer posted with the squadron 
has also confinned the story told to ire by Fit Lt PQ Mehdi and Fig Off Khalil Ahmed. According to him, on that Eid day, the third and last 
mission to go was led by the Squadron Commander, with Fig Off Khalil as No 2 and Fit Lt Mehdi as No 3. The No 4 was a young Fig Off called 
Sajjad Noor who made a technical abort. The three aircraft were attacking ground targets, as in a typical peace time fil ing at the firing ranges. This 
was a tactical blunder. According to them, No 3 reported enemy Gnats behind them As soon as he ended the transmission, he was shot down by 
one of the enemy attackers. Mehdi was able to eject. During the battle, just as No 3 was shot down, the No 2 also reported enemy Gnats and 
himself became a victim to the guns of one of the Gnats. Luckily, he also ejected safely. During their parachute descent they saw each other’s chute 
deployed but did not see the third F-86 anywhere in sight. The leader had allegedly half rolled away from the air battle abandoning his wing mem 
According to the pilots of No 14 Squadron, the leader’s cine- film was seen by many of them It was known to all the pilots tliat it was a clear film 
with radar ranging sight reticule clearly visible but there was “Not even a bird seen in the entire film, leave alone a Gnat he claimed to have shot 
down.” 

1 The Story of the Pakistan Air Force , official history 1988, Pages 441-474. 

Somehow, the Squadron Commanders film then went missing. This entire episode was completely unexpected - for an experienced leader to 
have left his formation members to the mercy of the four Gnats and then to claim shooting down one, which was proven to be incorrect. In the 
given situation, even a mediocre leader would have adopted more sensible tactics like having two aircraft in cross-cover while the third attacked. 
Setting up such a pattern should have occurred to a Squadron Commander instinctively. This could have eliminated the surprise element by the 
enemy interceptors, as each one took turns to attack the ground targets. The pilots learnt later that then' leader had been awarded the highest 
award for individual gqllantry, Sitara-e- Jurat, for hisleadership (sic), even while he got his two wing men shot down. Reportedly, his pilots were 
agonised over this salt tliat was rubbed into their wounds of the war. They liad hoped to see their Squadron Commander court- niartialled and not 
bestowed with a gqllantry award! Not surprisingly, they liad lost all respect for him 

The Air Officer Commanding and Base Commander (dual- hatted) should have known better than to have recommended this timid commander for 
an award especially after his film of the dog fight liad become a joke at the base. Paradoxically, The Story of the Pakistan Air Force (official 
history- 1 988) has praised him as a commander. I was also told by the pilots who were shot down, as well as by Air Cdre Gift who had fought as 
one of tire junior pilots of No 14 Squadron, that the Squadron Commander flew only one overhead CAP mission during the entire war and stayed 
in the Ops Roomperfonning staff operations duties in place of Wg Cdr SM Ahnied who was shot down in an air battle with heavy odds agiinst 
him, a situation which he was not obliged to be in. It is not saprising that The Story of the Pakistan Air Force has described this mission 
differently as to what realty happened, which is known to every pilot from No 14 Squadron. The official history even rewards him with the shooting 
down of one of the Gnats during this air combat. This is incorrect and his claim should have been rejected. 

Interestingly, the air battles over Dhaka were described by a BBC camera crew as reminiscent of the ‘Battle of Britain’ fought by the RAF to save 
London from the Luftwaffe’s relentless raids. The Squadron laced an enemy with over 150 fighter bonber aircraft, comprising SU- 7s, Mig-21s, 
Gnats, Hunters and Canberras. Hie IAF had an elaborate network of airfield infrastructure and a highly integrated and effective air defence system 
The Squadrons were well trained and led by competent commanders, who had been given clear military and political aims to be achieved. The 
Dhaka Squadron had to lace this fomidable threat with only one Squadron of F-86Es, a few armed with GAR-8 air-to-air missiles. Hie nanber 
of F-86s had depleted by four which were lost before war was declared on December the 3 rd . The Squadron was left with a total of 1 1 F-86E 
fighters. They had only one runway at Tejgaon, while Kumiitola next door was still not ready and could only be used in dire emergency, for 


recovery in case Tejgaon was untenable. 


All the intense training carried out during my tenure was dependent upon MO Us reporting the incoming raids. However, this infcnriation was 
denied to the interceptors as the MOUs had been pulled back after a fine young oflicer, Fit Lt Safi, commanding the MOUs was hacked to death 
by the Mukti Baffin! Consequently, the IAF had an omni-directional capability to attack No 14 Squadron assets at Tejgaon as well as any other 
target of value anywhere in East Pakistan. The IAF was capable of launching relentless waves, attacking targets day and night, considering the 
massive quantitative advantage it enjoyed over the PAF’s single squadron The appreciation done by Air Cdre Mitty Masud still held validity. It 
was appreciated that the single squadron would sustain attacks lor 24- 3 6 hours and would be grounded lbr lack of runway lengtbavailable for 
take-olf and recoveiy. No 14 Squadron fighters fought way beyond the appreciation carried out earlier in the year. It were the intangibles that 
made the difference; grit, resolve and laitii in Allah and themselves, even though the leadership of the Squadron Commander was deficient. 

In this scenario, the only choice lbr the Tail-Choppers of No 14 Squadron was to maintain pre-dawn to post-dusk CAPs overhead Dhaka, limited 
by lack of night lighting capability. Hie Squadron could only go into action an hour belbre dawn until the last light. That is exactly what they did 
with tremendous stamina and courage and grim determination after the Indian attacks began on the night of the 3 rd December. Prior to the Indian 
onslaught, the Tail- Choppers had flown nearly 100 missions in support of the tinny. They had stalled their action as early as 1 9 th N overrber 
against India's invading army, destroying several artillery guns, tanks and personnel 

On the 3 rd , IAF launched its first wave with Canberra bombers which dropped their bombs well short of the runway. Hiey repeated their attacks 
five times during that night without causing any damage to the runway, aircraft or facilities. On the 4 th morning, the third pair launched was led by 
Wg Cdr SM Ahmed, the Staff Operations Oflicer, who was neither programmed nor required to fly. hi the highest PAF tradition, he fought with 4 
Hunters, 2 Mig-21s and 2 SU-7s. Overwhelmed by IAF lighters attacking from all sides, he was shot down and ejected a few miles from the 
runway. A rescue mission failed to recover him hi all probability, he became a victim of the Mukti Bahini’s barbaric treatment. His wing man. Fig 
Off Rashidi, fought against the IAF attackers turning bard at deck level until the Indians broke-off lbr fuel considerations. 

During the next 24 hours, the Indians kept relentless pressure against Kurmitola and Tejgaon airfields. It was clear from the pattern of target 
selection and attack approaches by the IAF against airfields in the West, as well in the East, that they were concentrating on operational runways 
unlike in 1965 where they were attacking all un-used and abandoned airfields. That they arrived mostly unannounced was die handiwork of die 
Bengali defectors, who bad provided accurate infomnationto the Indians about the PAF’s deployment, radar limitations of cove rage, and die safe 
lanes of approach 

Air battles raged over Dhaka and from all accounts, Sqn Ldr Dilawar Hussain (iromNo 19 Squadron in 1965) was spearheading most of the 
combat missions. Sqn Ldr Afcaal and Fit Lt Saeed (son of the venerable Brig ‘Boss’ Afzal) claimed a Hunter each but Saeed was shot down by 
die diird Hunter. Anodier oflicer who perfonued magnificently was Fit Lt Scbames as well as the youngest and the maddest Fig OffSbams-ul-baq. 
Each claimed one of die intruders. On 4 th December, Dilawar Hussain, who seemed to be flying between cups of tea, dawn to dusk, shot a 
Hunter in the afternoon and die pilot FI Lt Kenneth Tremenheere ejected and was made a POW. Dilawar’s No 2, a very young Fig OffSajjad 
Noor, was also shot down and he ejected. Bodi the IAF and PAF pilots were picked up by PAF’s rescue helicopter. 

The squadron kept lighting die air battle widi exemplary resolve and detennination without any participation by their Squadron C ommander who 
opted to stay on die ground in die safe chair of S M Ahmed (after he was martyred). During all these massive raids, the Ack-Ack gunners took die 
heaviest toll of die attackers, coming under attack with napalm bombs several times, but they stood their ground and gave a befitting account of 
dieir determination worthy of the highest tributes. By recent Indian admission, nine Indian aircraft were shot down by the anti-aircraft guns and four 
by the brave fighter pilots of die lamous Tail- Chopper Squadron. Tlie defenders (ought much longer than had been predicted. By the 5 th of 
December, the runway had been pretty badly cratered but the repair teams worked widi tremendous will to put it back in service for the fighters to 
operate. 

Till die 6 th , the Squadron was still defending the Tejgaon-Kiirmitola complex. Dilawar was the last one to lead a formation of four, who were 
attacked by Hunters. One Hunter was claimed by Fig Off Sbamsbad. During the 6/7 th night, the runway was hit veiy accurately by 4 Mig-2 1 s and 
diey split the runway in half Dilawar tried to start up for another CAP, when die airfield came under attack. Dilawar was saved by a miracle owing 
to die courage of die aimnan, who was strapping him in die cockpit, while the enemy fighters were firing. This brave son of Pakistan threw himself 
on top of Dilawar to protect him from getting hurt. That was the kind of spirit amongst the men and NCOs throughout this highly imbalanced air 
war in favour of the preponderant IAF. 

The C-in-C had ordered the AOC at Dhaka to destroy all of the 11 remaining aircraft but Gen Niazi asked him not to do that because die noise of 
die blasts would further shatter die morale of his troops. HieAOC then ordered the aircraft engines to be perforated with gun fire and all hydraulic 
and electrical systems destroyed. Some of the fighter pilots of No 14 Squadron along with their Squadron C ommander took- off in a Twin Oder 
aircraft to Akyab in Bumna. Hie gallant Dilawar, Atta, Schames and Shams- ul- Haq elected to remain in Dhaka despite die hopeless situation in the 
hope tiiat die runway might get repaired widi sufficient length to allow them operations for a few more days. However, diese brave fighter pilots 
finally took-off in one of die dilapidated Beavers, a spray aircraft, and headed for Akyab. After a long journey, both groups arrived at Sargodha, 
and at my request to the C-in-C, refonued No 14 Squadron as part of the No 33 Wing. 

The perfonuance of No 14 Squadron was superbly captured in a tribute by the BBC crew who were filming the air battle over Dhaka, by 
paraphrasing Winston Churchill’s lamous quote: “Never in a country’s history (Pakistan) have so very many owed so much to such a few”. Thus 
came to an end tins sagi of courage and grit of die Tail-Chopper Squadron, as Dhaka fell, slicing Quaide- Azam’ s Pakistan into two. 

The people ofbotii wings of Pakistan had been kept under the illusion that if India ever threatened our Eastern Wing there would be a major 
assault and invasion of Indian territory in the West. Hiis proved a complete hoax in the defining moments when die No 1 Armoured Div was folly 



poised to attack and the PAF committed to defend its assault at the heaviest cost toils small force. The President was reticent to allow the 
offensive to be launched in spite of the urging and imploring by the air force chief and some aggressive generals till the last hours before ceasefire, 
to letTikka’s No 1 Armoured Div debouch in the Indian hinterland. Yet, the brave men of the Pakistan Army and Air Force fought a grim battle 
on the broad Western front, from Kashmir to Karachi, from 3 rd till 1 7 th December 1971. 

Not much lias been written about the 1971 air war by air enthusiasts and historians from either side, at least not to my knowledge. Hie only writing 

1 could lay my hands on was by a writer called Pran Chopra. His dissertation is a lot of bragging with inaccurate claims of great tactical success by 
tlie IAF. From file Pakistani point of view, the loss of erstwhile East Pakistan has been blamed on the role of the military, specifically Yahya Khan 
and Gen NiazL Their role in die break-up of Pakistan was indeed indefensible, but the imbroglio was the making of the politicians, the Punjabi 
establishment and their nexus with the dictators, Ayub and Yahya and their civilian and political hawks. Hie military solution, a no-win strategy, 
was enp loved when the Bengali populace had been mentally and emotionally de- linked with Pakistan; it was only a matter of physical decapitation 
which was left. 

The Indians provided file dagger for file severing of the umbilical cord by creating a guerrilla force of 1 00,000 Mukti Bahinis trained by file Indian 
Border Security Force (BSF) and special army units in file jungles and swamps of Madhya Pradesh They were trained in sophisticated techniques 
of guerrilla warfare, water home and under water sabotage. Hie revolutionaries also had the foil support of the entire Bengali populace. 
Nonetheless, the spirit of those who had to lace file enemy was not lacking in courage and resolute will. It was the moral and professional collapse 
of their commanders which brought about the ultimate humiliation. 

It is all very well for file politicians to capitalize on this tragedy for political mileage but to denigrate their armed forces is despicable. ’Ihat is why 
Indian authors like Pran Chopra have gone the whole hog to pen down the gallantry of the Indian Amy, Navy and their Air Force with sadistic 
relish.2 hideed, the victor has that prerogative and the vanquished have little chance to challenge even the most diabolical lies when their own 
people have no stake in defending right from wrong The treacherous role played by the Indian establishment in the break up of Quaid-e-Azam’ s 
Pakistan was as much owing to file dictators who ruled Pakistan from 1958 onwards. Just for the sake of record I would like to illustrate how 
mangled was file perception of Indian historians about the reality of the air war, if only to vindicate the grim and heroic fig) it by a single PAF 
squadron against ten lAf fighter squadrons in the East. The author states the Indian aim in the East was ‘Total Liberation of Bangladesh’. Referring 
to file infamous hido- Soviet treaty, the author writes: ‘Hie Indo- Soviet Treaty can be termed political escalation of the conflict by India. But its 
immediate military purpose was only to discourage China ffomjumping into the fray.” Clearly, this was a mere ruse because the Treaty was 
Pakistan- specific. His claims about the role of the IAF are highly exaggerated and unsubstantiated, and rubbished by the official Indian historical 
record. Pran Chopra claims, ‘On the other side the IAF simply eliminated the PAF with strikes at main airfields and combat in file air. Half the 
planes Pakistan had in the East were destroyed on file ground or air combat.” 

N otliing could be farther from the truth and is sheer bragging as was the author’ s indefensible claim about the Indian N avy having destroyed our 
submarine Ghazi, which had exploded owing to a technical lailure. It had definitely not been destroyed. The most spectacular tale written by Pran 
Chopra is about destroying the PAF fighters on file ground in East Pakistan; not a single fighter aircraft was destroyed in file relentless waves, day 
and night by the IAF. The PAF had lost two F-86s before the war to IAF interceptors and two were lost in air combat during the war. The IAF 
losses in a comparative strength of 1 0 to 1 Squadrons as given out by the Indian official history is shown in the chart placed at Appendix ‘D’ 
(Indian official record of war losses by PAF and IAF). The loss of 1 3 IAF fighters in East Pakistan should be a sobering thought for Pran Chopra. 

2 India ’s Second Liberation , by Pran Chopra. 

War on the Western Front 

Interestingly, further ahead Pran Chopra describes file Indian aims in the West. That is the point I am trying to make; whether or not India was able 
to achieve its national goals against file Pakistan military in the West. According to the author, Indian forces had to fight an offensive/defensive war 
with four objectives: 

1) To inflict as much damage to the Pakistan war machine as possible to eliminate its offensive potential for some years at least. 

2) To crush the Shakargarh bulge; this was a Pakistani club with nails jutting into a sensitive area of Indian communications 
leading north to Kashmir. 

3) To push the cease-fire line in Kashmir sufficiently far to the West in certain areas to eliminate the Pakistani bulge into Indian 
territory, to join up certain Indian bulges to make a more defensible straight line, and to strengthen the line by aligning it with 
some natural defences. 

4) Lastly, to capture enough worthwhile territory in Pakistan for use as a bargain to impose a political settlement which would be 
advantageous to India, and for this especially to aim at some sensitive targets such as Mara! a Canal Head-works south-west of 
Chharnb, which regulate not only the Ichogil Canal defence system but also other sensitive irrigation channels, or at points on the 
railway line which runs in an arc north-south-south-East and connects Rawalpindi with Karachi, giving the whole of northern and 
central West Pakistan its only outlet to the sea. 

So that was the ambitious Indian plan which the Indian government considered achievable with the military might they had possessed and made 
possible by file imbroglio which was besetting Pakistan The question is did they achieve any or more than one of those defined objectives? The 
answer is, absolutely not! Then what stopped them from doing so? My humble suggestion to the Pakistani nation is that they failed owing to file 
resolute courage and determination of the men who had proudly worn the uniforms of the Pakistan army, and the a ft force. This nation owes much 
gratitude to file spirit of the armed forces. 


In West Pakistan the PAF’s day and night strikes agffinst Indian airfields and radars which began on 3 rd December were in accordance with the 
high command's operational concepts. Recognizing the limited size and resources of the PAF, it had been decided that all air operations would be 
governed by five basic goals. It would be instructive to understand that the paradigms in 1971 were hugely different to the ones obtaining in 1965. 
IAF aircraft were no more vulnerable on the ground; they had developed a highly integrated air defence system as well as point defence to make 
airfield attacks by the PAF most unprofitable and dangerous. The IAF was lar better trained and had a clear national and war aim. The ad-hocism 
of 1965 was absent from the minds of the IAF planners. It was going to be a femidable adversary. In this scenario the PAF’s cardinal role was 
determined to provide full support to the Pak Army in their land offensive. Attacks against aircraft on the ground were sensibly ruled out by the Air 
Chief 

By 1 97 1 , both the air forces bad developed hardened aircraft shelters and protective walls to make it extremely difficult to attack targets. They 
also made the attackers vulnerable to fonnidable anti-aircraft defences. The attrition, weighed a^inst the benefits, was unacceptable. 

Consequently, the bombing of airfields to make them untenable for a certain period was considered more beneficial in the context of overall joint 
operations doctrine. It was appreciated that the success of such bombing would deplete the IAF effectiveness against our land assault. Even in 
support of the land battle it was decided by the air staff that losing our limited resources and endangering multi- milliondollar aircraft for destroying 
tanks and other weapons was not acceptable, until the main offensive by the No II Coips under Lt Gen Tikka was launched to capture large 
swathes of Indian territory. Hie psychological aspect of bombing enemy forward airfields was aimed at provoking the enemy to retaliate against 
our operational assets and draw them into fighting over our territoiy and destroy them in air battles. 

On the whole the doctrine was a sensible one and it did produce the results when ever the enemy took the bait. The number of IAF fighters 
destroyed by its own admission proved the effectiveness of the tactical philosophy. Although the PAF strategy came under criticism, it was by 
cynical detractors. The intention to preserve assets to support the army’s mam offensive was lost on the critics. Since the leadership became 
reticent to launch the planned blitzkrieg, the PAF became a victim of unfair criticism 

The over-riding priority of the PAF was to give maximum support to General Tikka Khan’s proposed offensive iito India; every other air force 
objective was to be subordinated to this requirement. It is pertinent to point out the difference between the PAF operational plan of 1 965, when ft 
was put into action ii piece meal, owing to the confusion on the morning of 6 th September, and the clear-cut planning and execution in 1 97 1 . This 
is proven by the statistics of the results in the two wars. The red heniig in the latter was the failure of the land offensive by Tikka Khan’s II Corps 
to debouch The Air Chief considered this commitment to be pivotal because the success or failure of the PAF’s support would in all likelihood 
determine the late of Pakistan’s crucial offensive. When the estimated ‘cost’ of fulfilling this commitment was calculated, at his behest, by the 
planning staff at AHQ in July ‘71, ft worked out at a loss of 100-120 combat aircraft and pilots over the projected 7-10 day period. Rahim Khan 
was aware that this would amount to losing one third of his force but he had the frill support of his senior commander's when he directed them in 
August to prepare their units to pay this price for ensuring the success of the army’s offensive. 

It followed from the pervasive primary mission that a condition of aft' superiority would have to be achieved, in the form of a moving umbrella over 
the army’s deep thrust, just before ft got underway. Beneath that umbrella would be the additional need for some direct offensive support by the 
PAF, to soften especially hard resistance by opposing Indian army units. The deeper Tikka Khan’s penetration, the greater would be the IAF’s 
intensity of attacks - and staying power - against his forces, as they drew closer to the enemy airfields in the process. This also meant that the 
control of air space over the battle area would be more fiercely contested as operations progressed. The implication of this assessment was that 
the Pak Army offensive must advance very rapidly and, having readied its objectives, must consolidate its position as swiftly as possible. The 
PAF’s protective cover would continue to be provided in full measure until Pak forces could dig in and secure their protection 

Control of the air, even in the limited areas of Pakistan’s counterattack, involved not just the prevention of IAF interference by directconfrontation 
overhead but the PAF also felt compelled to plan attacks against those 4-5 enemy airfields from where the maximum weight of attack against 
General Tikka Khan’s force could be launched. How would this counter aft' effort be conducted? Since all the combat aircraft on these airfields 
would be vulnerable to air attack in their concretepens, and since other camouflaged targets such as fuel tanks, ammunition dumps and command 
centres could not be readily identified or accurately attacked, particularly at night, the targeting choice once again fell, as in the ‘65 War (after the 
partially successful pre-emptive), on the Indian runways and air defence radar's. 

Another key task to enhance Tikka Klian’s chances of success was assessed to be interdiction of enemy supplies directly serving the Indian forces 
opposing him To preserve the element of surprise, these interdiction and airfield strikes in support of the offensive were to commence only after ft 
bad been launched. N ext came those other tasks, the importance of which the PAF frilly appreciated within the context of the overriding mission, 
which was to promote the success of Tikka Khan’s offensive. 

Until the anry ’ s offensive was launched, the PAF was to maintain pressure on the IAF with sustained strikes against some of its forward and rear 
bases, in order to inhibit - both physically and psychologically - the enemy’s ability to act against either the Pak Amy in tire field or other targets 
on Pakistani territory, including the PAF’s own air bases and other installations. During this same period, the PAF was also to provide whatever air 
support was needed for the Pak Army’s ‘holding’ actions along the entire 3,700-kilometer border from Kashmir to Kutch These relatively 
shallow-penetrating actions were meant to tie down as many of the enemy’s resources as possible and to try to achieve a favourable tactical 
posture in the process. 

As war progressed, the PAF was also to provide whatever air support ft could to the Pak Navy within the finis of its maritime support capability 
which in real terms, was near zero. The PAF did not have a maritime recce capability of any consequence, and totallylacked any special anti- ship 
weapons. These PAF limitations bad remaned unchanged since before the ‘65 war and Naval Headquarters (NHQ) staffbad been aware of them 
all along. Consequently, they bad not placed any unrealistic demands on the PAF dining that war. However, when the war broke out and the Osa 
boat threat menaced the navy, the PAF flew 35 missions by B-57s, F-86s, F-104s and T-33s in their support besides making 127 sorties 
available for visual reconnaissance. 



The Navy unfortunately seems to have forgotten the sense of camaraderie and air support which was provided from the scarce resources with 
readiness. That one of the ships was attacked by their own F-86s was entirely the doing of Commodore Bhombal at the Naval Command Centre 
and the Chief of Naval Operations who sent a desperate SOS to the COC for air support against the Osa boat threat. Air Cdre Bill Latif Base 
Commander Masroor, had been given complete freedom by the Air Chief to use his assets as he thought lit to save crucial minutes instead of 
routing through COC. This had a profound and decisive impact on the land battle in the south Hie single incident of firing on our own naval vessel 
took place alter the naval operations had cleared the Sabres by confirming that there was no Pakistan Navy vessel in the area. Fit Lt Zaka, a good 
fighter pilot with his wingman went in and attacked with .5 calibre guns, which was like throwing sardines at a whale. Unfortunately, some of our 
seamen became collateral casualty of this unfortunate incident. 

The PAF’s Command Operations Centre (COC) at Rawalpindi and all the air base command posts had been fully activated on 2 1 November. 

The commanders, pilots, engineers and support personnel remained ready to launch operations at a few minutes notice. As stated before. Air Msbl 
RabimKban strove each day to persuade General Yahya to honour his political and moral obligation to counter the Indian invasion of East 
Pakistan with retaliatory action on the Western front. Yahya’s vacillation was inviting fetal consequences. GHQ had much earlier agreed to Air 
Headquarters request that the army’s opening action would be coordinated with the PAF’s first strikes and that is how it was planned. At a 
meeting on 30 November between the President, the Air Force C-in-C, the Army Chief of Staff General Abdul HameedKhan and the Chief of 
General Staff General Gul Hassan, D-day was finally set for 3 December. President Yahya made the Air Chief responsible to brief the Navy C- 
in-C regarding the plan of action and Rahim Khan did so on 1 December. On D-day, the President fonnally announced the decision at 1630 hours 
and spent the early evening in the PAF’s COC watching the launch and recovery of the first air strikes. 

On 2 nd December all the commanders of operational bases were summoned to AHQ by Air MsM Rahim Khan and briefed about the impending 
attacks by the PAF. Each Base Commander was also handed his attack plan with targets to be attacked. Hie Base Commanders were also 
briefed by the Air Chief on the ‘Code- word’ which would mean “Launch without any forther confirmation” I recall one of the Base Commanders 
telling me after the war thathe had placed his war plan document in the back pocket of his Hying coverall, just in case he had to eject. I was told by 
my Base Commander Air Cdre Gulli Haider upon his return from AHQ that war was imminent within hours and to get the wing ready with their 
strike plans; I was instructed to keep the information top secret. Hiat is exactly how it actually happened and all the strikes took-off without any 
contusion or ifs and buts. This was a fer cry from the situation which existed on 6 th of September 1965 at Sargodha and Mauripur. 

Sargodha Attack Plan 

3 rd December: 

Strike Amritsar Airfield with 4 Mirages, carrying 4 bombs each. Strike Pathankot Air lie Id with 4 Mirages, carrying 4 bombs each. Strike Amritsar 
Radar with 2 F- 104s, with Guns Only. Strike Faridkot Radar with 2 F- 104s, with Guns Only. 3 

The TOT, if I recall, was the same as in 1965, at 1705 Hrs or around that time. Considering it was December and sunset would be earlier, I felt 
they would just make it at dusk, still in good light and it was bombing of runways and not aircraft on the ground (which would require plenty of 
day-light). 

The Story of the Pakistan Air Force, 1988, Page 448. 

I must admit that I was rather surprised at first at the target selection and wondered why Adanpur was not included since this airfield was in close 
range of the expected land battle zone. But mine was not to question why! However, as it turned out tire overall PAF strike plan for the first day, 
that is 3 rd December, was very elaborate and had targeted most forward, central and rear' Indian air bases as well as radars at Amritsar and 
Faridkot. 

The moment of truth had arrived and I dashed off to No 5 Squadron to break the news. The confidence level which permeated the young Falcons 
was awesome and it made ire proud. Flight plans were pulled out and the participating pilots were asked to commence briefing at 1 530 Hrs. I told 
Hakimullah that I would like to fly with one of the missions, preferably to revive memories of Pathankot. He was prompt to remind me with his 
disarming smile, “Sir, you never got any air combat in 1 965 war. This is your super chance to % ADA and be sure you will get plenty of air 
combat, leave this job for the young ones who have been waiting so anxiously for this moment.” With hindsight I wish I had led the Pathankot 
strike, but then I ended up conceding to the Squadron Commander’s quip. 

Yet, as the leader of the largest wing which was crucial to the over all war elfort, my responsibilities compelled me to supervise the conduct of 
operations. I had left the bunker for the flight- lines and got hold of the OC Engineering Squadron to check the aircraft preparation for Hie mission 
By 1 600 Hrs, all 1 0 Mirages were fully loaded and ready to launch Just then, I saw the pilots arriving at their aircraft in the pens and I went to 
each one to wish them good hunting and luck, assuring them I would be on the look-out near the border to see their safe return Two of the 1 0 
Mirages were manned by twosenior standby pilots who were frilly briefed on the missions. They were to remain started up with a foil load to fill in 
any gaps caused by last minute un- serviceability from the strike force and had instructions to stay started for 5 minutes after Hie main force had 
taken-off Thus, every contingency had been catered to in case of an abort even after 5 minutes of being airborne. 

At 1630 Hrs, the Base Commander called me at the ADA hut and excitedly told me to listen to the radio. Hie President was announcing that 
Pakistan was at war in response to the devious and treacherous behaviour of the Indian leadership for interfering in Pakistan’s internal matters. I 
only caught the last bit of the speech after I ran out of the ADA hut and found some technicians hunched around a portable radio. They made 
space for me to listen to the last few sentences. Suddenly, the thunder of 8 Mirages hitting their after burners was heard as “ Allah-o-Akbar ” 
reverberated across the complex. Hie President had apparently arrived secretly at the COC along with Lt Gen Hamid, the successor to Lt Gen 
Musa (not as submissive as his predecessor yet not alot better professionally either). Owing to the secrecy of the COC location, Yahya Khan was 
driven by Gen Flamid to watch the PAF strikes launching. 


I had arranged with Gp Capt Zaki Butt to scramble my pair - at 1 700 and to head in the Eastern direction to cover the returning raids. It was time to 
get into the cockpit and wait for a scrarrble, some how it did not happen. Three CAPs were already in the air on the heels of the strike aircraft and 
Sakesar was too busy monitoring for enemy reaction to have remembered my request. The strikes had crossed the border just before 1700 Hrs 
and from my cockpit I looked up at the heavens in a quiet prayer for their success and safe return At about 1715 Hrs, I was advised by the 
ADOC that the fonnations bad re-entered Pakistan territory and were headed for Sargodba. I got out of the cockpit and headed for the dispersal 
area to meet Hakimullah and the rest of the pilots. In spite of the complete surprise achieved by the PAF raiders, the disturbing news was that 
Afiab Alam leading the strike against Patbankot could not find his target, which was disconcerting considering the Doppler navigation system on 
theMirage could take the pilot within a few hundred yards of the coordinates fed into the computer. 

This was particularly painfirl for me as the OC No 33 Wing that one of the formations should have missed a simple target. Anyhow, I did not want 
Afiab Alam to get distraught especially because he was a good fighter pilot and I had to find out how they managed to miss the easy target. When 
I met him, I told him that he would lead the first strike the next day and I meant that seriously to ensure that he did not lose Iris confidence, hi feet, 
the timing of the strikes was somehow the same as in 1965, except that it was December now and the dusk was several minutes earlier. This 
aspect of the planning bad been overlooked by the planning staff at COC, which had meant less visibility at the time of the attack. Besides, the 
Patbankot runway was camouflaged and verydifficult to pick-up in poor light conditions. Well no one is perfect. 

Hakimullah’ s formation had hit their target successfully but bombing accuracy was not as expected. Only 6-8 bombs impacted the beginning of the 
runway and cratered about 2,000 fi of the runway. This caused a few hour's delay during which the runway was repaired. However, according to 
the IAF Chief Air Chief Mshl PC Lai, operations from Amritsar were suspended and their bombers were ordered to launch from Adampur 
instead. For No 5 Squadron this could be called a partially successful mission Tlie formation was not intercepted and the Ack- Ack defences bad 
opened up immediately as the formation pulledup against Amritsar, but caused no damage to any aircraft. The airfield at Patbankot was also 
attacked by F-86 aircraft with bombs by Sqn Ldr Jillani. They managed to damage the taxi track and part of the runway, unfortunately some of 
them experienced bomb hang- ups. The other airfields that were successfully attacked were Srinagar and Avantipura, both well known to me and 
fresh in my memory of the 1 965 War. It was claimed that both airfields were cratered but that was not confirmed by the recce photos. 

The F- 1 04 strikes were considered successful against the two radar's but there was no confirmation of the radar's going off the air. At Faridkot, a 
small aircraft was spotted on the airstrip by the wingman Fit Lt Aman He turned around for a second attack on spotting the aircraft and the Indian 
plane was blown up byhim 

GHQ Repeats Fatal Error of 1965 

The Pakistan Amy bad also commenced their operations as jointly planned with the PAF. Hie additional air operations to support the land 
operations were conducted through raids by 15 B-57s, a C-130 and a few T-33s. The bombers attacked airfields at Amritsar, Patbankot, 
Srinagar. Hahvara, Sirsa, Ambala, Jaisalmer, Jodhpur, Jamnagar. Utterlai and deep into Indian Territory attacked Agra airfield. The Indian 
propaganda machine rubbished the Pakistani bombing campaign on the night of 3 rd and branded it as a ‘bungled pre-emptive strike’. The good 
tiling is that when people reach the apex of a fighting service, they tend to be pragmatic and rational Hie inane remarks by the Indian critics were 
refitted by none other than the C-in-C of the IAF, Air Chief Mshl PC Lai in his book My Day’s with the IAF . 

He lays down a comprehensive de-brief on the Mirage and B-57 attacks against the above mentioned airfields. With the exception of Ambala and 
Srinagar airfields (it would be interesting to scrutinize which of the PAF pilots attacked these two targets, albeit unsuccessfully), he has commented 
that all other airfields were hit and operations suspended for varying hours at different airfields. Hiat was the exact purpose of these strikes and no 
more until the launching of our No 1 Anuoured Division. Another credible evidence of the success of the night bombing was reflected upon by Wg 
Cdr Sawardekar, who took his pilots to the runway in the morning after the attack on Sirsa and said, ‘This is the kind of bombing accuracy the 
IAF pilots should achieve against Pakistani targets.” 

I have failed to understand why the amy high command had planned such a massive deception in Kashmir while the real aim of starting the war 
was to capture large areas in the Punjab. Fierce battles were being fought on the ground by No 8, 10, 11 and 23 Divisions in the north. Deva and 
Chbamb had been steam rolled by 1 2 Div in the tradition of 1 965 war. A battle for life and death was fought at Hussainiwala and Sulemanki by 
1 04 Brigade and 1 05 Brigade for the capture of the head works and Kaiser-e-Hind. Far to the south, Gen Mustafe had postponed for some hours 
the desert assault by Iris ill- prepared 1 8 Div, tasked to capture Ramgarh and hop across to Jaisalmer. It wouldbe instructive to know that Ramgarh 
was a complete surprise for the PAF and it was a shattering outcome for 1 8 Div that the PAF was ineffective at 300 miles distance from its nearest 
base (Jacobabad was non- operational). 

History does not accept that fete had something to do with the failure of 1 8 Division’ s attack against Ramgarh. Hie Air Chief was in GHQ ontlie 
morning of 4 December when he heard that 1 8 Division was to launch an attack towards Jaisalmer. He asked the CGS as to why the amy was 
springing this sudden surprise on the PAF. Gul Hassan replied that the Division Commander had a good plan and that he would “Jump into 
Ramgarh one day and Hie next day he would be in Jaisalmer.” Hie Air Chief night have asked the CGS, “So what would happen even after 
Jaisalmer had been captured, unless the mail offensive by Tikka’s division was also sinultaneously launched?” 

Greatly disturbed, the Air Clief s retort to the CGS was that the area was out of reach of the PAF both from Sargodha and from Karachi, and 
that Jacobabad was the only airfield close enough but bad not been activated for want of resources. He had also reminded the CGS that the AHQ 
bad warned GHQ ii writing that activating Jacobabad would require 1 0 days notice which had not been forthcoming. Hie CGS was also reminded 
that Hie IAF had at least 3 air bases in the area including J aisalmer from where it could give a severe pounding to 1 8 Division. Even if F- 1 04s or 
Mirages were sent there, it would take 40 minutes at high speed which would leave them without combat feel to achieve anything worth while. But 
his warning went unheeded and GHQ allowed the operation to proceed. Otherwise too, the two brigades were neither equipped nor prepared to 
undertake a penetration in the desert, hi the event, water, fuel and ammunition soon ran out, the tanks got lost and bogged down, units failed to 
reach assigned objectives and pandemonium prevailed. 



The 1 8 Div Commander had little idea how prepared the Indians had been to receive them This was discovered by Sqn Ldr Farooq Umar during 
one of Iris recce missions in the area, but alter the war bad ended. The recce missions and their analyses revealed that the Indians bad planned the 
infrastructure in the Rajasthan- Rcti- Rahim Yar Khan area to cut Pakistan at this axis. Hie Indian Air Force had a field day attacking our lines of 
communications and economic centres with impunity owing to complete freedom in the air for the absence of the PAF owing to its limited 
resources and being outside the operational radius of the fighter aircraft. 

The Indians bad created an extensive network of roads in Rajasthan, punctuated with tube- wells and other lacilities. Tlie most amazing capability 
they had developed was to use a mini-duck-board technique to create roads overnight for their tank movements in desolate areas. They bad built 
one such road overnight from Kislian Nagar to Rcti for its army to clip our national coaxial and roads near Cbor. Fortunately, they were stopped 
at Chor as they were heading for Hyderabad. 

Here is an example of what happens when lessons of history are ignored. Had the GHQ learnt any lessons from the Ram of Kutch and 1965 War, 
Hie army and Maj Gen Mustala, the 1 8 Div Commander, would have been aware of the capability and limitation of the PAF. The land battle 
situation on 4 th December 1971 was a facsimile of the Ram of Kutch episode, except that in 1971 it was a declared all out war with no holds 
barred and Kutch was just a skirmish. Fortunately, in die Kutch war Air Mshl Asghar Khan had dexterously saved the amny from die wrath of die 
IAF which it managed to do to 18 Div in 1 97 1 . But typically, Gen Musa had Med to assimilate this crucial lactor. 

Asghar Khan’ s dexterous strategy and the lessons of die Ram of Kutchl 965 War were never brought to the fore in order to save Musa and 
Ayub’s necks. Asghar Khan was instead denigrated for his reticence to bring the PAF to the army’s help. Hie situation was now proving that 
history only repeats itself Consequently, it took just four enemy Hunters based at Jaisalmer to destroy or disable most of die Pakistani tanks on 
5 th and 6 th December. Jacobabad had not been activated because GHQ had Med to notify the PAF about its ambitious plans till the Indian 
Hunters were in the attack against the 1 8 Div elements in die open desert, decimating the tanks and the soldiers. 

The IAF bad resorted to attacking our lines of communications, installations and what ever they else they chose, to create a psychological eflect on 
die national morale. Eventually, die division had to withdraw its troops alter the Longewala battering (en- route to Ramgarh, but just barely across 
die Indian border) where our tanks and troops had been marooned. Maj Gen Haineed replaced Mustala on 7 th December. Flad that incredibly 
bold assault been wellrehearsed and folly co- coordinated with the PAF in substance and deM like the main assault by No 1 Anri) ured Div, and 
delivered in a surprise pre-emptive blitzkrieg, history may well have been written differently. Hie irony is that the army had the plan, die human 
resources, die weapons and an indomitable spirit to pull both debouching by the N o 1 Armoured Div and 1 8 Div with J acobabad activated 
simultaneously, but for die inherent problem of the professional incompetence of the high command. 

A much more serious situation was developing forther south, in the CborNagar Parkar sector, where the PAF aircraft fromMauripur had reported 
massive build-up near Monabao moving in a pincer for Hyderabad with two divisions to capture the area and sever West Pakistan in two. Hiis 
could have been debilitating for the northern region to have been cut-off from Karachi and supply lines blocked. Then it would have been just a 
matter of time before total capitulation That was a very close call and known to very few Pakistanis. Hie enemy had advanced on four axes and 
had penetrated along die Kliokrapar-Chor Railway line, south of it up to Umarkot-Mitlii to Nagar Parkar itself That was when the PAF had 
reverberated into decisive action in preventing this advance farther inland and saved the north from being decapitated from southern Pakistan The 
Base Commander Masroor, Air Commodore Bill Latif wisely accorded freedom of action by Rahim Khan, acted with alacrity living up to his 
intrepid reputation His pilots flew composite formations of T-33, F-86s and even B-57s during the day to attack the Indian forces advancing 
towards Hyderabad. 

It would be pertinent to explain that during Hie 1971 war, the Air Chief had, as a departure from the established chain of command, decentralized 
air operations in Hie south. This dissemination and delegation of authority provided flexibility to PAF Base Masroor, to coordinate directly with Hie 
army and Hie navy and provide support as the Base Commander thought fit. This was the prime mover, which helped PAF Base Masroor achieve 
Hie results in Hie south and blocked the Indian army from threatening Hyderabad. 

The Base Commander, an outstanding officer flew some daylight bomber sorties, against convention It was his leadership and independence of 
command which achieved the destruction of many Indian trains, and this virtually choked the flow of supplies vital to the Indian advance. Hie 
perfonnance of Hie flying units in conducting accurate and bold recce missions and the effective interdiction by the fighters and bombers averted a 
catastrophe. 

The strikes by Mirages against all Hie targets of Hie previous afternoon were repeated again. Hiis time Sqn Ldr Aftab Alam plastered Hie target, 
tlie runway at Pathankot, with accuracy. However, Sqn Ldr Amjad flying an F- 1 04, was shot down by Ack- Ack over Amritsar while attacking 
Hie radar. He ejected and was taken PO W. Hie Sargodha fighter wing had the responsibility for the ground operations from Kashmir to the desert 
in tlie south. However, some of our flying efforts to support land operations were diverted to the defence of GHQ and tlie amny’s joint operations 
centre at Rawalpindi which were frequently attacked by tlie Indian bombers. In addition, the Corps HQ and formations, 10, 11, 12, 15 and 23 as 
well as 8 Division and especially No 6 Armoured Division were the responsibility of airfields in the northern sector. Under my command No 33 
Wing from Sargodha, Risalewala, Mianwali, and to a lesser extent the Murid detachment of a few F-86s were responsible for providing direct and 
indirect support to these fonnations. Nonetheless, as spelt out earlier, the cardinal role of the PAF was to support GenTikka’s blitzkrieg to capture 
major Indian Territory. Hiis never happened. 

The 8 th Annoured Brigade in the Sbakargarh salient and 1 8 th Div in the south trying to capture Ramgarh found themselves in a precarious situation 
requiring massive air support. I recall that more than 40-50 missions a day were being launched from Sargodha alone to support tlie battle in 
Sbakargarh sector. Some of these missions were alsodirected to my friend Gen Majid Malik’s 1 1 Div and especially to support tlie heroic battle 
being fought by tlie 1 06 Brigade, which was involved in a raging battle to capture the vital enclave of Hussainiwala on the 1 st day of tlie war. We 
flew nearly 40 missions to support the land battle on that day. OurF-6s and F-86-Es as well as some Mirages were also launched to support 105 



Brigade group. A massive support was provided by the fighter squadron from PAF Base Rafiqui to assist the Sulemanki assault. Two of the 
Pakistan Amy’s venerable heroes emerged from this battle. The Brigade Commander Amir Hamza received a Hilal-e- Jurat and Major Sbabbir 
Sharif was awarded a Nislian-c-I laidcr for Iris legendary courage. 

We were also beginning to lose aircraft in the Sialkot sector. Fit Lt Fazal (nick- named Bajloo by me when he was in No 1 9 Squadron during the 
1965 war) was shot by Ack-Ack, around the Chhamb sector. He was hit while he still had two 1,000 pound bombs hanging under Iris wings and 
blown to smithereens. May his soul rest in peace, he was a jewel of an officer and his loss was deeply felt by all of us. The same day, on 7 th 
December, we lost Fit Lt Shahid Raza, another extremely popular officer, in an F-6 aircraft. I recall this day for another episode that took place at 
Sargodha. I had just received the terrible news ofFazal’s death followed by Shahid Raza, when I decided to visit both the units to commiserate 
with their mates. 

While at Fazal’s F-86 squadron, I was first met by Wg Cdr AI Bokbari, a somewhat vernacular type of person who was quite brash I asked him 
about F azal’ s mission and made some comments about how dedicated this young man had been Tlie instant response from Bokbari typified his 
insensitive personality, “Sir, tusi khali MACH-2 jahaz urrande ho, kade apne purane Sabre noo wee urrake dekho ” (“You keep flying 
Mach-2 aircraft only, how about flying your good old Sabre”). I knew how to handle such character's. I askedhim to walk with me to where the 
pilots were sitting around. As we approached the little cove, 1 noticed Fit Lt Cecil Choudhry briefing a fonnation with a blackboard hanging on a 
tree. I walked up to them and asked Cecil what mission he was briefing. He replied that it was a bombing sortie in Samba area. I looked at 
Bokbari and said, ‘You and I will go as escort with them and try to find some Indian fighters, you will % my wing” I told Cecil to get one of the 
pilots to help me with start-up and answer a few questions about the fire control system We took-offlialf an hour later and proceeded towards 
the battle area heading east at low level, with Cecil leading the mission He was flying at about 200 ft AGL, regulation height. This was not a 
problem as long as we were over Pak territory. 

Once we were approaching the battle area, I asked Cecil to get down lower. He responded by saying there were too many birds around. Birds 
are the biggest menace against fighter aircraft especially during low-level missions. A bird hit is no less than an Ack-Ack she! hitting an aircraft, 
depending on where the bird impacts and how big it is detennines the danger to the aircraft and the pilot. PAF, like any other air force has lost 
precious lives and aircraft in bird hits. Two of the most outstanding fighter pilots and officers were lost to bird hits; Fig Olfljaz Rafiqui, the older 
brother of Sarfaraz Rafiqui was hit over Lahore airfield and the redoubtable Air Cdre Masroor Hussain was hit over Karachi. 1 called a second 
time urging the leader to get low owing to my experiencetbat in an AckAck infested battle environment, the fighter at 200 feet is most vulnerable if 
spotted by the gunner observer post. Hiat was when he responded and sounded slightly anxious; addressing me he said, “I have been hit, am going 
to eject.” 

How ironical, the choice between a bird and a shell! I instantly told him to pull up and egress. The next tiling I saw to my utter relief was C ecil 
banging by the silk cord (as we say for a pilot descending down with Iris parachute). I asked bis No 3 to take-over lead and continue with the 
mission as I watched over Cecil’s landing. This was acknowledged and I asked Bokbari, nywingman to look out for enemy aircraft and keep my 
tail clear as I dived down to deck- level, east of Cecil’s descent path I figured that luckily he may have landed on the West side of our target area 
amongst the Pakistani troops. Nonetheless, I went in for a strafing attack about 1,000 yards east of his landing point. During my pull up from the 
attack I could actually see the bomb impacts of the remainder three from Cecil’ s formation, which meant we were no more than a couple of miles 
West of the battle zone, but the FDLs (Forward Defence Lines) were not a straight line, so there was no telling where the enemy could be. In any 
case, my decision to strafe was not aimed at any particular target, but as a detenent for any Indian soldiers, who may have been in the vicinity. 

Another teardrop turn and I carried out a second strafing attack. Just then, it occurred to me that my wingman had made no calls customary in 
such a situation to say that my tail was clear. When I called him and asked if he was keeping a good look out, to my amazement and angst, he said, 
“Leader, I have lost you.” I let out an expletive and decided to turn back. I had reported Cecil’s bail out position immediately to the SOC 
requesting his rescue. We landed back without ftrther incident and the Squadron Commander took a lot of my typical de-brief flak for 
incompetence. I was somewhat surprised to discover that the three remaining aircraft led by Fit Lt Choudhry, each claimed two tanks destroyed. I 
asked in good humour that they must be the best bomber pilots in the PAF to score a mean error of 10 ft in eacbattack, at the same time giving 
themapat for their accurate firing. The F-86 camera could not record bomb inpact even though all oilier ordinances were fully recorded. 
Therefore, the proof of results was only the pilot’s word and confirmation by other fonnation members. 

1 decided to hang around and talk to the junior pilots as I felt concerned after theft Squadron Commander’s conduct in the aft, even though 1 knew 
him to be a good flier. Two young pilots sitting together but seemingly detached from the liappcnings were asked by me about their missions and 
both surprised me by saying that they were not allowed to fly because of theft limited experience. I asked them if they were operational on the F- 
86-E, both replied in affinnative. I told the Squadron Commander that he should let them fly aft defence missions and gradually induct them into 
CAS sorties. Forty eight hours later, Sargodha was celebrating the shooting down of the first Mig-21 by an F-86 pilot. Nobody could believe it 
was one of the two pilots that I had cleared to cany out aft defence missions. Fig OffMaqsood Amir, the youngest pilot of the Squadron probably 
on his second mission, had added a stunning episode to the PAF history. 

Cecil, in the meantime, was rescued by Pakistan Amy Jawans, a haft’s breath from the Indian soldiers only a few hundred yards awayfromhis 
landing zone. Cecil, an aggressive fighter pilot, pulled out his revolver, a standard weapon for all pilots dining war, and tried to play cowboys with 
whom he thought were Indians. 1 do not recall the rest of the stoiy which he told us with his usual ‘ Chat-Masala ’ , while all the fonnation members 
and some other pilots were invited at ny home to celebrate Ins successful rescue. 

A few days later, I was instructed by Aft Cdre GhulamHaider to proceed to Sakesar by helicopter immediately as the C-in-C wanted to see me 
there. Somewhat apprehensive, I tried to imagine why I was being called to Sakesar instead of the Base Commander. Fit Lt Pervez was to fly me 
in the rescue helicopter but as f arrived for the trip, he told me that the helicopter had a snag, which could be problematic in hilly terrain I took the 
co-pilot’s seat and told him, “Let’s go before I get the sack, the C-in-C wants me at Sakesar now and tliat’s what we are going to do.” After a 



pretty shaky ride, as I arrived in the SOC Ops Room, I saw Air MsM Rahim Khan standing in front of a huge map and discussing something with 
the bosses of air defense command, namely Air Cdre Saecdullah, who had been attached to the SOC, Gp Capt Zaki Butt, Air Defence 
Commander and my predecessor Gp Capt Rehmat Khan 

Upon seeing me, the Air Chief commented, “So you have finally arrived.” Possibly he had arrived earlier and Rid expected me in attendance 
before his arrival. The Air Chief started to brief me about the developments in land battle. He said that the Army had sprung a surprise on the PAF 
by launching an offensive in Ramgarh area hoping to capture it. Also, Tikka Khan’s Armoured Div was to prepare lor launch immediately. He 
ordered that No 33 Wing was to undertake this task from Sargodha and Risalewala and cany out CAP missions to protect the movement of tanks 
to their launching area from any threat from the IAF. Second task he directedwas to start targeting the lines of communication between Pathankot 
and Kasur and further south during the day and night. As the Air Chief was briefing me on a very large map of Western India and Eastern 
Pakistan, he indicated the Indian annour had been reported assembling near Pathankot and Jalandhar and other railway stations further south. He 
mentioned that besides direct interdiction missions against the enemy concentrations, we would be given missions to destroy bridges, even culverts 
over large ravines to deny the enemy use of railway tracks lor transportation of its armour. 

“The CGS told me earlier today that the Indian armour was assembling in the area south of Pathankot around Mirtbal, you will be tasked with 
recce missions by Mirages immediately to locate the Indian concentration and these would later be targeted with bombing missions,” directed the 
C-in-C. “And by the way, there is just a remote chance that halfof'thc F-86s fromNo 18 Squadron may be required to move at a very short 
notice to Jacobabad, if we can muster adequate security and a good number of Ack-Ack guns. The Squadron Commander should be told to 
prepare in case of this unlikely contingency.” 

Then the Air Chief said, “Sajad, during my last visit to Sargodha, some of your pilots had seemed listless owing to lack of sufficient action As I 
had told you then that unless the army launches its main armour offensive, we had to consider preserving our aircraft strength and pilots for the 
tremendous task ahead. You can tell them that the moment is fast approaching, they will get more action than they could imagine, and hopefully 
they have been well rested.” Hie Air Chief left with the other senior officer in tow, while I ran-off to the helicopter pad and took off for Sargodha. 

Soon after landing, I went to No 5 Squadron and discovered that they had already received the tasking signal from base Ops for the bombing 
mission. The mission required No 5 Squadron to cany out attacks against Indian armour concentration from Pathankot running south, as had been 
suggested by Rahim Khan Hie formation was taking off just as I readied the ADA underground bunker. Hakimullah’s formation had found 
nothing at the railwaystation that was given to them as the enclave of armour assembly. Hakimullah was not given to aborting missions even when 
at a risk, so he headed south with his F alcons and ended up devastating a huge assembly of tanks at the Mukerian railway station in the process of 
being loaded on the trains. They offered the most lucrative and abundant targets and were left exploding and burning. 

In a lighter pilot’s mind, recon missions are the least exciting and they mockingly call these sorties ‘Kill ‘em with Film’. However, by 1971 the art 
of reconnaissance had become a sophisticated and dangerous undertaking. Very little has been written and said about the formidable task 
performed by Sqn Ldr (later Air Vice Mshl) Farooq Umar and Fit Lt Najeeb (Later Air MsM). Both of them flew some incredibly effective 
missions bringing back crucial information on battle damage by our air attacks and especially about the enemy armour concentrations and 
communication routes, in the north as well as south on the Rajasthan- Rahim Yar Klian axis. Their missions in the north were essentially to discover 
the Indian armour and its movement. Several times theywere hunted by the Indian figMers owing to the extremely dangerous and tell-tale profile 
flown by our valiant pilots. They were even subjected to Ack-Ack fire from Kathua bridge defences near Pathankot. Farooq Umar also came 
back with a huge hole from a bird hit at night. They survived these complex missions even though the army’s requirements were never ending. 

Farooq Umar discovered the deployment of the Indian annour across the River Sutlej and brought back photos of the Indian armour 
wcllcntrcnchcd and camouflaged west and south west of the Beas, waiting for Tikka’s II Coips to debouch. On receiving the information Yahya 
had cold feet and the coolness was transmitted to the over-rated Tikka Klian Surprisingly, Tikka did not want steel Mtting steel in a battle of the 
two tank divisions. My scant knowledge tells me that the role assigned to the Pakistan Amy was to debouch, assault and annex territory and 
destroy the enemy's defences as a part of the attack, and let the infantry scare the annexed territoiy, between and across Fcrozpur and Amritsar. 
Nothing of the sort happened because the Indians were given the opportunity to move then- forces from Jliansi, because so-called Tiger Niazi had 
already capitulated in East Pakistan. The moment for attack by No 1 Armoured Div was the hour the Indians transgressed across East Pakistan in 
the end of November. But there was no Rommel heading our cavalry men rearing to go. 

That evening I asked OC No 18 Squadron to meet me with 4- 5 of his sernor pilots after the daily film and mission de- brief I carried outtlie 
missions debrief and bad made it MM Alam’s responsibility to cany out cine assessment and comment upon the claims versus what the films had 
recorded. Standing at the bar, I told the OC Squadron that he was required to attack the railway line between Pathankot and Amritsar with four F- 
86s, 10 minutes apart anned with 2x1 000 lbs bombs. On healing this, he almost fell backwards saying that this would be an extremely dangerous 
mission for F-86s to take-offwitli2xl000 lbs bombs and lly in a dark right without any recovery aids available dining the war. I gave him a 
piercing look, because he had uttered these words in front of younger pilots from his squadron. 

I controlled my angst and turned to the remaining pilots and asked, “Who woMd like to volunteer for this mission that may have to be repeated’? 
Cecil’s ann shot up first, as I expected and so did Imtiaz’s and Taloot’s. I told them that I would fly the last aircraft to monitor the mission and 
advised them to plan together and draw tracks 10 degrees apart, either side of heading 080 from Sargodha. “This would give you the desired 
separation. The railway line is lairly visible if you navigate accurately on ground speed and time. For recovery, time yourselves accurately and once 
you’re five minutes away fromETA, ask ATC to give you 25% runway lights. There should be no difficulty and I will be in die air monitoring as I 
feel I should take-off last to assist in case of any emergency.” 

Turning my gpze at the Squadron Commander, I said, “I woMd like to see you tomorrow first tiling.” I had made up ny mind to bring his behaviour 
to die aftention of the Base Commander and request him to speak to the AC AS (Ops). I then proceeded to spend the next hour charting with die 
pilots indie mess. Just as I was getting out ofthe main entrance ofthe mess to go home, the Squadron Commander came jogging to me and said, 



“Sir, you don’t need to fly, I will take care of the mission given” and said he was sorry for Iris initial reaction. Being in the middle of war, 1 preferred 
to avoid unpleasantness and severity of action The missions were flown successfully without any untoward incident but with stimulating 
effectiveness. Puny but gqllant hntiaz had delivered a direct hit on a huge foel storage near the Kathua army logistic centre. Similarly the railway line 
between Patbankot and Dera Baba Nanak were hit for two nights. 

An Unpleasant Encounter 

While we were busy interdicting with Mirages and F-86s, our task to protect part of Tikka Khan’s tank division being loaded on trains was a 
major exercise and entailed enormous flying effort. It was code-named ‘Yellow Cab’ as one pair of CAP had to continue its surveillance of the rail 
trackand stations till the next took over. This exercise seemed to have great potential for a possible scrap with the enemy, especially between the 
Mirage and a Mig-2 1 . This was an obsession with our C-in-Cs who wanted an air combat between these two types of Mach-2 lighters. But none 
took place and ‘Yellow Cab’ ended without any encounters. 

During die war I was flying one and sometimes two missions eveiyday, generally one onanF-6 and the other on Mirage. By die endofwar, Iliad 
flown 20 operational missions on the two types, widi one on the F-86E, in Sliakargarh area. In all these efforts I had only one encounter, and that 
too was botched by me. One day, my pair was scrambled in Mirage- IHE with supersonic tanks, a perfect configuration for a dogfight. After being 
airborne, I contacted die SOC and was told to orbit 15 miles east of Sargodlia, at 15,000 it. I suddenly started healing a lot of commotion and 
discovered diat Risalewala bad come under heavy attack by Su-7s. I could recognise Wg Cdr Hashmi, Saad Hatmi and Sikander on the radio in a 
commotion, where bandits (enemy aircraft) were being reported left, right and centre. I switched to the second SOC frequency and asked die 
controller why he was holding me wasting fuel and why would he not give me an interception onto the exiting aircraft. I advised him drat I was not 
give me an interception onto the exiting aircraft. I advised him that I was 50 miles from Risalewala on their exit route. The controller told me to 
continue orbiting at my present position 

I could not believe why he was being so obdurate and not vectoring me onto the exiting aircraft. I did find the answer a couple of days later. But in 
diat situation, I was enraged and let die controller have it in the tone and words they were not unfamiliar with Yet with die same terse response, he 
instructed me to remain in orbit. I asked No 2 to change to a different frequency than the air defence and decided to head soudi-east towards Tam 
Taran at Mach- 1 , hoping to run into die exiting aircraft heading for Adampur or Hahvara. I was really desperate for an opportunity to get into a 
hassle will the enemy but we ended up on a wild goose chase without the cooperation of our radar. But the controller did call me on guard 
frequency to ask me my position as he bad lost us when we got below his pick-up range. I had kept silent and advised my wing man to ignore the 
transmission till we bad abandoned the chase. 

What happened die next day was not unexpected. Saeedullah Khan sent a signal (I am sure only to Sargodba) saying that pilots under SOC 
control must obey eveiy instruction strictly and exercise strict radio discipline. Pilots using other than die “SOP phraseology” would be proceeded 
against, orwords to diat effect. Hie Base Commander had talked to me on the phone from his Ops Room and asked what had happened die day 
before. I explained my frustration to him He asked me to see him in the Ops Room as soon I was free. It was late in the afternoon and as I 
entered the underground bunker, I saw Saeedullah Khan siding with the Base Commander. I saluted and asked die Base Commander why he 
wanted to see me. Instead, a stiff collared Saeedullah spoke very brusquely to me and told me that I was expected to set an example in air 
discipline. ‘Your radio transmissions yesterday were terrible.” I cut him short and asked, “Sir, were you monitoring the Risalewala air battle’? He 
chose not to answer but tried to cow me down further. I addressed the Base Commander and said, “Sir, you arc ny boss and I am die OC Flying 
of 33 Wing, not some under training pilot; you should deal with me personally and I will explain to you what really got me riled up. This is war, and 
we don’t want to feel wasted with die scant resources we have.” Having said that, I told him that 1 was scheduled to fly and stomped out of the 
bunker widiout responding to Air Vice Msbl Saeedullah Khan Ibis was not to be the end of Saeedullah Khan’s keen interest in ny flying 
behaviour. 

Battle for Sialkot 

The No 6 Division was tasked to take on die Indian armoured assault that was supported widi three inftmtry divisions. Hie Indian objective was to 
destroy the Pakistan arniour or defang it, capture Sliakargarh and go for Sialkot and Gujranwala- Wazirabad lines of communications. No 6 Div 
fought bloody batiles at Phillora, Zafarwal and once again a baftle for Chawinda. From the air, it was difficult to assimilate the gallantry of the men 
of 6 th Armoured Group and die 8 th Inlantiy Division However, it was gratifying to know that the CGS Lt Gen Gul Hassan paid accolades to the 
PAF’s spectacular perfomnance in saving Sialkot. hideed, without the massive air support from the PAF, in particular Sargodba, Risalewala and 
Peshawar, the defence of Sialkot may have been wriften in a different way. In fact, it was stated in so many words by the valiant commander's 
fighting a war widi grim detemiination and resolve, that the raging batiles of Phillora, Zafarwal, Chawinda from 1 2 th - 1 7 th December were won 
widi the highly commendable role of die PAF, in the destruction of enemy’s armour and support force. 

This fact is vital to grasp because after the war some of die chair- borne senior army staff officers (the navy’s inordinate comments about die PAF 
don’t even deserve a mention), drawing battle plans on shifting sand models, propagated that the PAF had Med to provide die expected support. 
In spite of die PAF doctrine to employ die PAF to provide full support to the army, especially the total commitment to support Gen Tikka ’s tank 
assault, at the precalculated risk of losing 100 pilots and aircraft (l/3 rd of the PAF), diese were odious comments and die PAF Chief took a strong 
exception to die irresponsible loose talk. No 33 Wing bad flown the maximum missions in support of No 6 Armoured Brigade and 8 Div and had 
made sacrifices in support of tiiis bloodiest tank battle, on the 1 5 th /1 6 th night, second to the tank battles during WW-II in North Africa and die 
allied assault against die German tank divisions before her defeat. All that had to be taken with a pinch of salt because we in the PAF knew how 
well we bad delivered splendidly to support most of die crucial land battles. This fact was acknowledged by none other dian the Pak Amy C-inC 
in a letter to the Air Chief dated 1 st January 1 972. He wrote: “I wish the army was in a position to exploit the excellent favourable air situation diat 
was made possible by your small yet bard hitting Air Force. . .” 



FromSargodba alone, nearly 200 missions were launched in the ZalarwalChawinda sector. I recall No 33 Wing launched around 50 to 60 
missions almost every day from 1 2- 1 5 th December. On 1 0 th December a huge amnio dump was destroyed by the Sabres at Akhnur, its fire glow 
visible for days, recalls Fig Off hntiaz Haider (later Air Vice MsM) who had led the mission On the 1 5 th and 1 6 th , we flew nearly 80 CAS 
missions against the Indian armour and took a heavy toll by destroying maximum tanks on that day of the war. Approximately 50 Indian tanks 
were destroyed in tire sector, especially in Samba- Dera Baba Nanak area. The F-6, despite its limitations, played havoc with Indian amnour with 
its high calibre 30 mm guns, the only effective weapon it could use against tanks. Tlie problem with the F-6 was its limited range, like the IAF Su- 
7. It had barely 1 0 minutes over the target area, which had invariably shifted in the 3-4 hours between the formation requesting for air support and 
the time it took for the army command to process it and request sent to COC. This was a limiting factor for the F-6 pilots, but not a single mission 
returned without rattling the enemy. In addition, the F-86s proved to be the saviours when the Indian armour launched its most fierce attack against 
the defenders. For the close support during the crucial land battles, the F-86s earned 1,000 lbs bombs instead of the standard 2.75 inch rockets, 
because the 2 . 75 inch HVAR were ineffective against the tank annour and required precise aiming and low pull out, exposing the pilot and 
machine to great hazard of abundant Ack- Ack supporting the annoured assault. Even though much criticized, the bombing profile kept the lighters 
out of small arms fire and psychologically relentless bombing lias a devastating effect on the morale and mobility of annour columns. 

The objective was well achieved as it brought the Indian assault to virtual halt dining the crucial battle for Sialkot. The 1 8 Div in tlie Rajasthan 
sector was mauled owing to tlie inordinate and pandemic planning by the GHQ to launch an offensive tar outside the reach of fighter aircraft and 
that too without consultations and warning to tlie PAF well in advance of the misadventure. As mentioned above, the air staff made tlie decision to 
use bombs instead of rockets owing to heavy deployment of Ack- Ack with the Indian annour that was already taking its tolL Also, tlie Mirages 
were not employed in CAS missions because tlie PAF could not atford to lose a 25 million dollar aircraft and especially its highly trained pilot, 
merely to destroy tanks and guns. The Mirages were used most effectively for interdiction missions, which meant destroying tlie enemy’s fighting 
potential at its base, deeper in enemy territory. There were some adverse comments about the use of bombs against tanks but thesecame from lack 
of good sense and little knowledge of tlie bigger picture. 

Some of these young as well as senior F-86 commanders made some foolish statements in this regard to the Hamood-ur-Rehman Commission, 
but during my deposition I made tlie Chief Justice wiser on employment of the air force in CAS. It became clear to me that the Chief Justice had 
been fed a lot of hog- wash about air operations and some pilots, especially the F-86 Squadron Commander, became over enthused in castigating 
his own service, while having shown less than courage during the war. It was manifest in the demeanour of the Chief Justice that he was asking to 
be told what he wanted to hear. Well, I not only did not oblige but gave a firm and befitting response to him by suggesting that just as his expertise 
was jurisprudence, mine was tactical air operations and told him that I would respect his supremacy in the legal profession and hoped that he 
would allow me to advise him on the tacts of the war and not conjectures. Simply stated, the PAF was achieving its tactical aim while keeping tlie 
pilot’s safety as supreme. Besides, nothing is more terrifying for the soldier than bombs tailing over his positions. The outcome of the main battle 
raging in tlie plains of tlie Punjab was inextricably linked to the prompt and enonnous CAS provided by the PAF which proved to be devastating 
for the enemy. The table at Appendix ‘E’ (comparison of PAF air support to the army in 1 965 and 1971) would eradicate any doubts about tlie 
quantum of air support provided. It would be instructive to know that Gen Musa has paid gargantuan tributes to the PAF for tlie support it 
provided during 1965 War. He did not care that tlie diverted air effort demolished the PAF’s cardinal mission 

Nonetheless, tlie comparison of tlie CAS effort in 1965, 641 missions in 22 days, which was inevitably less in quantum as well as in effect, with tlie 
missions provided in 1 97 1 , which were nearly 1 ,000, including recce missions in only 1 7 days, illustrated in the said tables provides tlie reader with 
tacts and figures for a conclusion to be drawn Hie effort details provided to the army during 1971 is placed as Appendix ‘F’. 

The Story of the Pakistan Air Force records over 900 missions flown in support of the Pak Army in the north and south. The PAF lost 
27aircraft to all causes in East and West Pakistan; 1 0 in air combat, as against 1 8 IAF fighters and 7 to enemy Ack- Ack. In addition, 7 aircraft 
were destroyed on the ground (which included the 1 RB-57 at Masroor and 6 F-86s lost at Murid in two different attacks). Two more aircraft 
were lost to combat related accidents. Consequently, the PAF losses inflicted upon the enemy were 2 !4 times its ownlosses. The Indians lost a 
total of 75 aircraft to all causes according to tlie Times of India’s official history of 1971 War. The Story of the Pakistan Air Force claims 37 
enemy aircraft shot in air combat and 1 7 to ground defences (Page 470). IAF lost 1 8 aircraft in air combat and 36 to our devastating Ack- Ack. 

On aggregate, the Indian history lias continued tlie loss of 75 aircraft of which 17 were due to operational accidents. This is a tribute both to tlie 
Indian historians as well as Air Cdre Kaiser TuM’s tally through excellent research For a 14 day war. this was a spectacular achievement; 

Sialkot, Kasur and towns east of Hyderabad were saved with the formidable support given by the PAF. This was frilly recognized and appreciated 
by the fighting men in tlie defence of Sialkot, Kasur and tlie southern frontiers. 

The PAF flew a total of 3,027 combat missions between 3 rd December and 1 7 th December. Hie IAF flew over 6,500 missions and lost 36 air 
crews agqinst 15 of our pilots and navigators, who embraced Shahadat (martyrdom). For an air force l/3 rd the size of its adversary, our 
performance was a remarkable feat and demolishes the nation-wide perception and propaganda that the PAF did not perform to tlie expectation 
of tlie nation It is sheer igjiorance and deserves the contempt of the men who (ought with their blood to defend their country. Looking back, I am 
grateful to God that we did not lose the 100 or so air crew as was predicted to support the much touted Tikka’s annour assault, had it been 
launched after all the dithering and procrastination Had it been launched in November just as the treacherous invasion of East Pakistan had begun, 
that would have been a different story. It is for the readers to judge as to how the PAF performed, as it was almost intact after flying over 3,000 
operational missions and was ready for tlie blitzkrieg by Tikka Khan’s II Corps. A paralyzed President and his inept coterie were waiting for the 
American Pacific fleet to stop the Indians. Yahya Khan successfully prevented a historic joint operation in the making which could have timed the 
tables and saved us from humiliation 

The Air Battles 

After our lighter offensive on tlie 3 rd afternoon by Mirages fromSargodba and F-86s froniPeshawar and night B-57 missions which had bombed 
practically every runway between Srinagar, Avantipura in the north, Agra and Ambala in the East and Sirsa to Utterlai in tlie south, tlie Indian 



reprisal came in relentless waves as the IAF opened their bonier offensive against our airfields and radar's. Fifteen IAF bombers raided Rafiqui 
Base, Sargodlia, Mianwali, Risalewala, Murid, Cbander and Masroor. According to an Indian commander, only a culvert at Masroor runway was 
hit, no other damage was claimed by the Indians themselves. Again at Masroor on the 5 th night a banger received a direct bit, where our precious 
Elinl RB-57 was parked, and was destroyed. IAF lost 2 Canberras on the night of 5/6 th December to our Ack-Ack at Sargodha and Masroor. 
One IAF Canberra was shot- down by Fit Lt Naeem Atta from a Mirage, yet another was shot on the 1 1 th by our Ack-Ack in the south. 

Watching the enemy bombing attacks at night from the ground was quite awesome. On the nights that I was at home and a bonier raid was 
announced by the eerie sound of sirens, I would take my 8 year old son, Adnan with my helmet on Iris head and I would take a sub-machine gun 
from my guard and help him hold that and point it at the sky, because he insisted that he was going to shoot down a bonier. My wife at the time 
would sit nervously in the comer of the large barker instead of her parent’s lovely home in Brussels. On a few occasions, the Commissioner and 
Iris wife were with us when the raids came; hoping it was safer to be at the base, considering the wayward bombing by tire IAF. I watched two 
spectacular performances by the enemy' raiders. One from a concrete pen as I was pre- flighting a Mirage lbr night ADA, when tire sirens started 
wailing, immediately lb llo wed by an Su-7 pulling- up from tire northern end of the runway. He came at deck level over the rarway, as the ground 
defences exploded everywhere in the sky. He pulled up at the end of the runway and made a tear drop and canre-in firr an attack. He hit the right 
side of tire rarway with dibber bombs leaving a massive crater. His performance was outstanding and gallant. The second time, I was sitting with 
tire Killer-Controller on top of the huge and high water tank on the north- Eastern side of runway 35. This time a Canberra almost repeated the 
same pattern as tire Su-7. He dropped Iris bombs on tire Eastern edge of the runway, rendering about 350 ft of runway out of use till early 
morning. I was infonrred by the ATC rarway inspection officer, that the bomb debris was all over the runway. I asked him to tell tire SATCO to 
have tire parallel taxi track checked thoroughly. With tire constraints of continuous attacks and poor lighting available to tire inspecting officer, he 
declared tire taxi track useable. Fit Lt Farooq Habib, a young officer fronrNo 5 Squadron, was allowed to scramble from tire taxi track. Hallway 
down tire taxiway, he picked up shrapnel and blew a tyre. He managed to control the aircraft and came to a halt almost at tire southern edge of tire 
taxiway. This was (to my mind) a Mirage and an outstanding pilot saved. 

Incidentally, it would be instructive lbr tire Indian historians to know that we did not lose a single Mirage during the 1971 War. Therefore, all 
claims of destroying or even damaging any Mirages have no veracity at all There was no dog fight between any Mirage and IAF aircraft. I and my 
wing man Fit Lt Zulfiqar chased two low-level exiting SU-7s, but missed them both even as we claimed one each An exiting IAF Su-7 was shot 
by Fit Lt Saleemuddin (later AVM) near Pathankot- Janrmu Road, from a Mirage fighter. His second quany, the lead Hunter, got away with some 
holes from Saleem’s gar attack. Another escaping Hunter was blown up by Fit Lt Safelar Mehnrood’s deadlyMirage gars while Hying through Iris 
own AckAck around Sakesar. However, a gallant fighter pilot SqdnLdr SaleenrBaig from Peshawar flying an F-86 fighter did shoot down an 
IAF Hunter on the 4 th of December in a dog fight near Peshawar, and demonstrated Iris deft air combat skill by downing a Gnat fighter over 
Srinagqr airfield on the 14 th of December. 

An avoidable disaster took place at Murid which had been activated to house half a squadron of F-86s. To activate Murid airfield was a poor 
decision It lacked radar cover and anti-aircraft defences were nrininral and ineffectual To make matter's worse, the satellite base with a 
detachment ofeight F-86s was commanded by a meek transport pilot (who later became an Air Marshal and VCAS) during PAF’s decline. On 
8 th December, PAF suffered a debilitating loss of 5 F-86s at Maid airfield. These aircrafts were apparently parked in the open, with a full load of 
bombs fertile next mission A 1 fruiter formation pulled up to see fiveF-86s on a platter. The lead Hunter shot a single F-86 parked in wide open 
space. As it blew up, there was a domino effect and the 4 aircraft parked next to each other were hit by the exploding bombs, which resulted in 
the destruction of all 5 aircraft. Yet there was also an epic of stunning courage by possibly the oldest colleague amongst us, Wg Cdr GA Khan, 
who dared to takeoff during the attack and saved an aircraft against terrible odds of being shot down in this vulnerable state. 

On 12 th December, we heard the sad news that my old friend Wg Cdr Mervyn Middlecoat, an outstanding professional and a gentleman, was 
shot down in an F- 1 04 by a Mig-2 1 and was reported to have ejected over water, but could not be rescued. Mervyn was much missed by all of 
us. We also heard that Sqdn Ldr AslamChoudluy and Fit Lt Fazal were shot down flying out of PAF base Peshawar. Such are the irreparable but 
unavoidable losses of war, made tragic only by the futility of misadventaes by inept leaders. 

On 13 th December (supposedly lucky for me being from the 13 th GD coa'se) I was scrambled about mid-day against enemy fighters attacking 
our ground positions east of Shakargarh. With Fit Lt Zulfiqar Shah on try wing, we were flying with supersonic tanks, which meant less feel but no 
speed limitation. We switched to the Sector Operations Centre (SOC) frequency and were directed to contact the Groaid Control Interception 
Unit (GCIU) located near Lahore. Fit Lt Farooq Haider, an outstanding air defence weapons controller (ADWC), was immediately identified by 
me owing to Iris familiar voice. He give us a northeasterly heading and kept us at 2,000 ft AGL in fell burner. Full after-burner use causes 
extremely high feel consarption thereby reduced endaance. About 12 minutes later, his target position reporting got closer and my adrenaline 
started pumping last. Target 1 1 o’clock, 20 miles. The next call was heading change to the left and bandit at 12 o’clock, 16 miles. 'Ibis meant we 
were two minutes away from intercept point. “12 o’clock, 10 miles, check your weapons” was Ins next transmission. “12 o’clock, 5 miles, leader, 
look out for two bandits slightly above you”. 

While he was transmitting I had contacted two enemy aircraft attacking oil' ground forces; one in a dive and the second positioning himself lor the 
next attack. I announced to the controller and for the benefit of ny wingman, “Roger, contact, the two bandits straight ahead.” Incidentally, we had 
come out of'burner once we were clocking around 550 Kts (Nautical Miles per Hoa'), so I called “Burner for No 2” and asked if he had contact. 
At the same time, I started a steep pull-up, which was ny first mistake. I should have stayed low and approached them from 6 o’clock. These 
were two Su- 7s on CAS mission judging from their flying profile. They spotted us almost immediately and broke hard left away from us. We were 
flying very last so there was no way for them to get away. Hiey abandoned their attack and were exiting at deck level in very wide battle 
formation, presenting two targets well spread out. 


Clearly, the IAF had leamt their lessons and were applying them as was evident from the way the two bandits were hugging the ground. They split 



as the No 2 turned right and put about 1 0,000 feet between the leader and himself I was compelled to split also by the smart move of the running 
bandit leader. I assigned the aircraft on the right to my wing man and told him that I was going for the aircraft on the left, telling him not to miss his 
target. 1 suddenly realized that my weapon selection was on missiles and there was no way to fire a missile at the target flying lower than me and 
barely 50 feet from the ground. To switch to guns I bad to reach behind on my left and had to glance inside to reach the lever; a deadly second or 
so which could be disastrous at such low-levels. Anyway, 1 looked in and switched to guns. I opened lire from about 3,000 ft, closing in at 
enormously high speed in full burner. My bullets landed a few feet off his right wing as I could see the dust from my ammo hitting the ground. 

1 heaved back pulling nearly 8 Gs to avoid an over shoot and half rolled on top of my quarry dining which I switched back to missiles, hoping he 
would pull up or even turn, giving me an opportunity to get below him and fire the missile. I had got level with the target and was feeling his jet- 
wash when I fired both missiles one after the other. Obviously, I could not follow up to see the inpact but seeing the first missile go straight I 
thought I might have impacted him I heaved ip again sharply to the left and when I was vertical I rolled over. 1 saw a cloud of dust on the edge of 
a village and there was no Su- 7 in sight. I took it that 1 had nailed him down. I called my wing man and asked bis position and status. He did not 
answer. I was in a left hand turn at about 4,000 ft AGL. I called him again but no response. I felt a piercing anxiety thinking he might have got into 
trouble with the Su-7 or something else may have happened. I hoped it was just radio lailure. I glanced inside to check my fuel state and was 
alarmed to see the fuel had run very low owing to constant use of aller-bumer. 

1 frantically called my wing man to turn back for base asking him to check his fuel and manage it appropriately. I had hoped that he could hear ire 
even if I could not get any response. As I turned west, I was quite astounded to see a big airfield complex right below me and saw some lighters 
moving on the taxi way. There was no mistaking this airfield. It was Pathankot and I suddenly discovered that we had come a long way, not 
realizing in the excitement of the situation Aware of the likely air environment I immediately descended to deck level with foil burner because I was 
sure there would be Mig-2 1 s in the area. At any other time, I would have looked for a hassle or even made a strafing pass on the airfield, but my 
foel state was extremely low and I bad to decide whether I could make it to Sargodba or divert to a satellite airfield. I contacted the CGI 
controller, who came back loud and clear despite the distance. He asked me for the score and I told him one Su-7 down, but no contact with my 
No 2, who was chasing the second aircraft. I then told him to look out for me in the direction of Pathankot and I pulled- ip steeply to 7,000-8,000 
ft and half rolled back to avoid being intercepted. 

All this time, I had been weaving hard right and left to check my 6 o’clock for any chaser. The GCI controller Farooq picked me ip before I could 
say “Boo” and gave ire 'pigeons to base’ (GCI terminology for a course to steer back to base). After about 4 minutes of (hang in burner 1 knew I 
was in Pakistani territory, but the foel was getting precariously low. I zoomed ip to 20,000 ft and throttled back for endurance flying. Meanwhile, I 
asked the controller to keep my 6 o’clock clear. The foel seemed to be vaporizing like I had never experienced before, but I estimated that I 
would arrive overhead with about 300-400 lbs, barely sufficient for a circuit and landingl made it back by the skin of my teeth The good news 
came as I heard No 2 asking for joining instructions in 5 minutes and also low on liieL I wondered why he had not remained on the GCI frequency, 
but that had to be found out later. After he landed, I asked him whit had happened. He said he could hear my transmissions, but for some reason, 

I could not hear his response. He said, he had shot at the No 2 and thought he had hit him. Ibis sounded doubtful to me. In the final analysis, we 
both had missed virtual sitting ducks. There was no excuse for the OC Flying Wing to hive missed such an opportunity. 

It was just bad judgment on my part. I have not lived that down even today, and feel bad about having claimed one destroyed. During the daily 
mission debrief I asked for my film to be shown first, as it was separate from the spool, which contained all the rest of the films, because I had 
instructed the ground crew to keep my films separate. The missile trajectory and impact is not recorded by the camera and therefore, only the gun 
attack was clearly recorded. Obviously, with hindsight, I am convinced that the mushroom of dust that I could see at the last position of the Su-7 
was in fact the huge dust raised from the inpact of two missiles and the earth surface being dry and dusty. In the heat of the moment, I mistook it 
for the aircraft hitting the ground. My gun attack was off the mark, even though a close call for the escaping Su-7. Had I put rny aiming point 7-8 
feet to the left, I could have got him the first time. Nonetheless, I called out to all the pilots gathered and commented, ‘Gentlemen, this is how not 
to shoot in air combat”. My next mission was the last mission of the war, which became a casually owing to a foolish error by a senior officer. It 
proved to be a catalyst for unrest amongst the patriotic cadres of the PAF. 

Crucial Mirage Mission Aborted 

On 1 7 th December, I was scrambled on ADA and flying an F-6, 1 headed towards Sbakargarh area. The attackers had probably been warned 
since we load to fly between 10,000 to 15,000 ft for fuel consideration What I did see was a dust haze completely covering the area east of 
Sbakargarh, the battle front. We bad lost another aircraft and the Squadron Commander, who was leading told me that the dust haze was so thick 
over the battle area that target recognition bad become impossible and our aircraft liad to circle overhead the expected target area exposing them 
to heavy enemy Ack-Ack fire. I hid myself observed the extremely low visibility in the area, where the battle was raging as the 8 th Armoured 
Brigade had launched its counter attack. I called the COC and spoke to Air Cdre Zulfiqar (later ACM) and told him about the prevailing 
conditions and the risk of losing aircraft without any returns. He said he would bring it to the C-in-C’s attention 

At about 1500 Hrs, the Base Commander called me to his Ops HQ, which he often did, whenever a special mission was received from COC. He 
banded me a signal, which tasked 4 Mirages with a foil load of bombs to attack the marshalling yard in the vicinity of Ferozpur. I charged off to No 
5 Squadron and saw Farooq Umar and some other pilots playing scrabble. As soon as I saw Hakimullab, I told him about the mission and 
suggested that Omar Farooq be detailed to lead the mission since he had been flying extremely demanding and dangerous recce missions during 
the day and night. Also the fact remained that he had not led a strike mission; this could be a good opportunity for him I also suggested that the 
mission be escorted and I would lead the pair. This was all agreed and an hour later, six of us were thundering down the runway, the front 4 
carrying 16,000 lbs bomb loads. I thought to myself that this was going to make spectacular fireworks. We proceeded low- level all the way, with 
try wing man and I keeping level about 200 ft on the right side of the formation. Tlie mission was proceeding precisely to seconds as planned and 
as expected of Farooq Umar. About four minutes away from the target, a thought occurred to me, and I told the leader that I am overtaking him 
and would pull up slightly before Iris formation 



What I bad intended to carry out was a strafing run agqinst the target to mark it for the bomb run. The leader answered in the affinnative and I 
pulled up to 2,000 fi to be able to see the target in tire. Just then, as Farooq’s four were about 2 minutes from pull-up, the deathly silence was 
broken by a highly unwelcome transmission from SOC, calling on 'Guard Charnel’, which cuts through all frequencies and could be heard by all 
aircraft irrespective of the frequencies one was using (except the enemy, which did not have UHF frequency). The controller uttered something 
which sounded like an expletive to me, “Sherdil leader, you arc to abandon the mission and return to base immediately.” 1 called back and asked, 
“Who says so, we are about to commence attack”. Hie next transmission came with an authoritative voice, which I recognized to be Air Cdre 
Saecdullah, “You are ordered to abandon mission by the C-in-C, do not pursue the attack”, or words to the effect. I felt a kind of rage, which I 
chose not to elucidate, but felt rotten as I asked Farooq Umar to turn around. He was equally sliattcrcd being so close to achieving devastating 
results, since a huge assembly of tanks, ammo vehicles and fiiel were reported to be transporting by train to the south, possibly to defend against 
Tikka Khan’s impending onslaught. 

Dejected, we returned and the four Mirages bad to land with all bombs, folly armed, a dangerous call Fortunately, eveiyone landed safety. I 
switched off the aircraft and dashed to the Ops Room to check with the Base Commander the reason for the recall Tlie Base Commander also 
bad been told by Saeedullah about the recall of all aircraft. I asked him why? He said that apparently I had informed the COC about the low 
visibility conditions in Sialkot sector to which the C-in-C bad ordered that no more CAS missions were to be flown in that sector. How could an 
Air Cdre of Saeedullah’ s experience and knowledge confuse CAS with a tactical interdiction mission and, especially when the problem existed 
specifically in the Sialkot sector, nearly 1 00 miles to the south? I called the COC and Wg Cdr Najeeb (brother of Gp Capt Jamal Khan) received 
my call and before I could open my mouth, he asked me “Sir. how did the mission go’? I was stunned to hear those words. I stammered and said, 
“What the hell are you talking about Najeeb, we were ordered to abort the mission just before pull-up by Saeedullah Khan, who told us that these 
were the C-in-C’s orders.” 

Najeeb heard me and was equally shattered. He said, “The C-in-C liad been monitoring your mission and had retired for a few minutes away from 
Iris chair and asked me to informhim of the results of the mission immediately as soon as we land.” I told him that he had better talk to Saeedullah 
Khanand said vociferously that the Air Commodore ought to be removed by the C-in-C, because he was causing serious damage to our morale in 
these critical times by Iris harrying attitude. I repeated our conversation to the Base Commander, whose round eyes almost fell-out of their sockets 
when he realized that we were recalled under a contrived pretext and he may be subjected to some answering bythe Chief I went off to the No 5 
Squadron bunker and found a group of technicians gathered who showed their rage and kid tears in their eyes because their pilots had returned 
with the bomb load. As I entered the barker, I saw all the pilots looking completely distraught and demoralized. I explained to them that the recall 
was false and contrived at the SOC, also float the C-in-C would be enraged as he load not given orders for the recall of the mission, it was meant 
only for CAS missions in Sialkot sector. This got floe pilots even more infuriated, but it was too late to rectify the situation 1 went off to the ADA 
hut to check if there were repercussions with the crew there. My fears were right; the airmen had gathered together and knew the Mirages load 
landed with their bombs. 

I felt strangely depressed and did not know how to explain to them the wrong action by a very senior officer. I tried to tell them that the war was 
just starting and we would Inshallcih cany out many such missions. Just then, one of the pilots on ADA came out of the barker and told me that 
tlie C-in-C wanted to speak to me; Iris PSO was holding the line. I ran down and took the call Najeeb told me that the Chief was extremely upset 
and wanted to talk to me. The C-in-C came on with a burst that shook me from head to toe, saying ‘How could you be so stupid to not know that 
tlie recall was for operations in Sialkot sector. I will replace you if you repeat such an unacceptable mistake.” I tried to explain my own conduct, 
that 1 questioned tlie controller explicitly as to who was ordering the recall 1 was told that it was Air Cdre Saeedullah, who forsome odd reason, 
seemed to have been in the Air Defence Operations room Ibis did not cut any ice with the C-in-C and he said that nobody was authorised to 
override Iris orders and that I had been tasked with this mission at the highest level What was there for me to say to a very angry C-in-C? I 
thought discretion and silence was tlie only way. So I took the battering with a prayer that he would get to find out the real culprit, which was 
definitely not me. I believe that the same evening, Saeedullah Khan was ordered not to interfere any more in fighter operations. Also, I learnt that 
tlie C-in-C asked tlie ACAS (O) if the mission could be relaunched. After some quick calculation he was advised that it would be too dark to 
pick-up any target. In frustration tlie mission was finally abandoned. 

The repercussions of this abort became tlie catalyst for a later unrest amongst the airmen and the problem needed addressing. The Base 
Commander put me up to lace tlie anguish and discontent of the men One NCO asked me, “Sir, who was the bastard who had called offthe 
bombing of Ferozpa?” I tried to cool him down and told him to watch his lingo but that only (Luther fuelled the enraged men I had to leave to 
avoid exacerbating the volatile atmosphere. Such were the follies of some senior commanders during both these wars. These mistakes were 
repeated for one reason alone - that no truth commission was instituted to ferret out the facts and palish the guilty. 

I flew six missions on Mirages and F-6s after tlie missed opportunity on 1 3 th Dec, hoping to get another chance of air interception ba was not 
lucky enough Earlier on the same day, after I landed from the F-6 ADA mission, I was told to call my residence. This was the first time that ny 
wife had tried to contact me during the war. It turned out that the Commissioner Mohsin and Iris wife had asked us for a lunch at their house. I told 
her to go ahead and I would come later. I joined the guests at the Commissioner’s House at about 1330 Hrs and foaid several friends standing on 
tlie high terrace of tlie Commissioner’s home. I received a very warm welcome since it had been nearly a week that 1 had met any one owing to 
tlie intensity of operations. Soon after lunch was over, I begged the hosts’ pennission to leave and get back to the airfield. Hie Commissioner 
made a strange remark, “Sajad, stick aroaid for a while, since voiu' wife is going to play bridge and in any case the war is almost ended because 
yoa President doesn’t have tlie gauption to fight anymore.” 1 told him, “Wait and see as the war is just starting.” He laughed and said, “We’re 
waiting to hear tlie General beg for a ceasefire.” 

When I got back and received the Ferozpa mission later in the afternoon, I thought to myself that the Commissioner was being veiy pessimistic. 
For all intents and purposes, I was absolutely certain that the mission of bombing the marshalling yard at Ferozpa was a siren amioaicing Tikka 
Khan’s blitzkrieg. I was wrong and the Commissioner had one up on me. Pakistan’s shaken President decided to hold back Tikka Khan’s assault 
across India and implored for a ceasefire, in spite of fervent pleading by Air Mshl Rahim Khan and Iris battlefield generals to let the armoa break- 



out. Hie rest is the tragic history of the 1971 War, which was lost at the strategic level owing to the cowardice, incompetence and moral turpitude 
of one general and his cabal 


14 

SHAMEFUL CAPITULATION AND THE AFTERMATH 

East Pakistan had become Bangladesh and most of our honourable soldiers, officers and civilians who were willing to die for Pakistan bad been 
vanquished with the attending humiliation, because Lt Gen Niazi was deficit in courage, and had suffered moral and professional paralysis. The 
virtual governor, Lt Gen Rao Fannan, was terrified of the Mukti Bahinis. Both had reportedly beseeched for a ceasefire through the US Counsel in 
Dhaka with indecent haste. In West Pakistan many had sacrificed their precious lives in botched operations or were waiting with their arniour in 
Cbanga Manga forest for orders to debouch, but all they did was to wait till the bitter end. The nation was dazed and demoralized but had no 
knowledge of why and how it all happened. 

Even though the anred forces had fought with git and determination, and were prepared for even bigger sacrifices, they felt distraught by the 
ineptitude of their top commanders and were undeservedly humiliated by ignorant citizens who were incited by sell-seeking politicians and 
bureaucrats. They wanted to capitalize on the debacle to shill the onus and finda scapegoat in the armed forces without distinction between the 
brave and the cowardly. The denigration goes on unabated without any one having the coinage to clear' up the haze and accord dignity and honour 
to those who deserved it. Exactly like the veil placed over the 1965 War; the 1971 War has been kept under wraps to protect the culprits and the 
holy cows, both civil and military. A future war will have even more dire consequences if the veil is not lilted from the blunders of these two wars. 

On the other end of the spectrum, the PAF leadership and their' operational units had waited more angrily rather than anxiously for the anuoured 
breakout by Gen Tikka Khan’s No 1 Armoured Division even at the pre- calculated risk and the probability of losing one third of their operational 
aircraft and the pilots. Tragically, that never happened when it should have. At any rate, it was lucky not to have been launched when it had run 
past the opportune time frame and this saved the lives of gallant men Yet, the wholesale condemnation by all and sundry of the fighting men 
became a perpetual slight and was exploited by the politicians heartlessly. In the East, some incompetent generalscommanding the troops and 
another who served as an advisor to the Governor East Pakistan, brought shame to their' troops by capitulating in indecent haste and brought 
undeserved disgrace to the name of the anned forces for all times to come. 

On the conduct of the air war of 1 97 1 , 1 would passionately deplore the perception and propaganda that the air' force did not perfomr as well as 
during 1965. Since I was in command of the major element of the tactical fighter squadrons (try command comprised the entire force of Mirage- 
Ill, F-104 and three F-6 Squadrons as well as anF-86E Squadron attached with Sargodlia), I would say incontrovertibly that the plans and 
performance of the PAF were superb and indisputably better than in 1965; a lact little known or understood by the nation This contention will 
become evident to discerning readers as the statistics are reproduced here including the recently released official figures of IAF losses by the Indian 
government. 

Unlike the realistic planning and execution by the PAF, planning at the highest tiers of the national and army leadership, including the President and 
the GHQ, was intrinsically flawed, to say the least. Not launching the punch of the amy, the No 1 Anuoured Coips, and the senseless assault by 
an unprepared force without air cover against Ramgarh in the south (hoping to capture Jaisalmer in a blitzkrieg) was an amazing blunder which 
caused incalculable loss of precious lives and equipment. Yahya Khan acted as though the script of the ignominious finale of the operational plan 
bad been writtenby the enemy and not GHQ. 

The PAF flew 1,000 missions in direct support ofthe army, a 50% higher rate than in this role in 1965. Appendix ‘E’ carries a mission breakdown 
of the 1965 and 1971 Wars. Some ofthe most dangerous missions were flown by Farooq Umar and Najeeb to photo recce for the army to 
determinethe position and movement of the Indian armour and its likely area of main thrust. That these pilots survived the Ack-Ack, deadly guided 
missiles and were sitting ducks for the Indian interceptors, was worthy of the highest recognition But despite all the air support to protect the 
anuoured assault in the Punjab with colossal attrition upon PAF’s relatively scanty resources, the leadership had cold feet when the moment of 
truth arrived on November 24, 1971 as the Indian invasion of East Pakistan began. 

What is known to very few if at all, was that in the West Yahya Khan had the unique disposition of a 1 :1 ratio between the Indian and Pakistan 
amy; a comparison of forces never imaginable given the perennial Indian preponderance in manpower and resources. That was a defining moment 
in history when the army could have given the enemy a pasting to be remembered. Air MsM RahimKban s imploring with General Yahya went 
unheeded, as did the appeals by the fighting Generals who wanted Tikka Khan to break-out to capture a big chunk of the enemy territory as a 
resounding reprisal for the enemy’s treachery against East Pakistan 1 

No 14 Squadron Gladiators Come Home 

It was a great emotional moment for many and especially for me, to see the boys from my former command of the unit in Dhaka come to West 
Pakistan Hiey had arrived with just the clothes they were wearing, Living left behind all their personal possessions. The Air Chief immediately 
ordered the base to provide unifonus for all the pilots and re-equip them with Hying gear. Soon they began to settle down, but I sensed a kind of 
uncomfortable relationship between the pilots and the Squadron Commander. 

A month or more down the line, I tried to scratch Dilawar’s mind to find out if ny feeling was conect. He was hesitant and told me that he would 
discuss the matter another time because everybody from N o 1 4 Squadron was still in a state of disillusionment about what happened in 1 97 1 . 1 let 
the matter slide until one day the OC No 14 Squadron called me on the intercom and asked ifbe could see me. I told him to come right away. 



What happened in the next five minutes only confirmed my doubts about the tension that permeated the squadron. Without elaborating our 
conversation, the OC No 14 Squadron implored meto post him out, “Sir, please get me out of here, I request an immediate posting.” 1 was taken 
aback a bit, but the tone and tenor of his request left nothing to the imagination. On the lace of it, he had lost the confidence of his pilots after the 
incident when PQ Mehdi and Khalil were shot down and Iris failure to lead the Squadron during the intense war. I discussed the matter with the 
Base Commander and recommended that under the c ircumstances and to avoid a serious situation, the OC Squadron should be posted elsewhere. 
The Base Commander agreed and said that he would discuss the matter with the Air Secretary and try to gpt a replacement. 

Coup Spells End Of Yahya Khan 

Soon after the 1971 debacle, given the way Yahya Khan had handled the war, there was serious malcontent in the amy and the airforce. The 
services felt humiliated for not having been properly afforded the opportunity to show their mettle. The first murmurings started at the division 
stationed at Mangla. A brilliant Brigadier, FB Ali, joined by his comrades Alim Atridi, Iqbal Mehdi Shah and other like-minded patriotic soldiers 
felt the sting of defeat most severely and held Gen Yahya responsible for the undoing of Pakistan, but more so, for the humiliation brought to the 
armed forces. They decided to get through to Gen Gul Hassan who was the Chief of General Staff (CGS) at GHQ. They asked Gen Gul Hassan 
to ask the President to step down and hand over the government to the politicians who liad won the elections in West Pakistan 

1 The Story of the Pakistan Air Force , 1988. Page 447. 

It is a long episode and I don’t want to delve into the events which took place, but suffice to say that Lt Gen Gift Hassan soon found out that the 
call was serious and there could be a mutiny on his hands if he did not move fast enough to ebb the situation He called Air Mshl Rahim Khan and 
explained the situation developing at the Mangla Garrison The Brigadiers ted warned that they would sever all communications with GHQ (which 
in fact was done immediately and no calls were allowed in even by the President or Gen Peerzada (President Yahya’s Chief of Staff), a despised 
intriguer, who was widely disliked in the anw for his machinations. The Brigadiers ted threatened that they would march onto the Presidency and 
arrest die President and his cabal if Yahya did not resigji instantly. 

Now as the drama unfolded, it appeared that die GOC of the division and the 6 Annoured Coips, Commander Lt Gen Karim (Bachoo), whose 
loyalty to Pakistan ted been suspect during the war, were not included in die plan because bodi were considered to be sympathetic to the 
establishment and tiius a threat to the coup makers. Even though Bachoo Karim tired to nm with die hare and hunt with die hounds, FB Ali did not 
trust ton and asked that he hand over his command to ton which Bachoo Karim declined. He was placed under house arrest by FB Ali, Col 
Aleem Afridi and the others, as was the GOC . Gen Gul Hassan and Raton Khan went to see the President and made him aware of the 
developments at Mangla and expressed dieir fear that the situation could turn very ugly and threaten West Pakistan if Yahya tried to confront the 
dissenting senior officers, warning him of a bloody coup if he resisted. Now Yahya and his minions were totally incommunicado with their general 
officers at Mangla and were sitting in sheer terror of the division marching onto the President’s abode. Gen Peerzada tried to get the SSG 
commandos to carry out an air assault on the Mangla HQs and arrest FB Ali and his colleagues. The order was refused and reasons were given 
why it was not possible. 

Yahya finally agreed to tend over power, asking the visiting Air Chief and the CGS as to who would like to take-over, thinking that one of the two 
would be the contender. Nay, he was wrong He was told that it ted to be ZA Bhutto whose party ted won the elections. Yahya said that he ted 
feared as much and told them to get Bhutto back from the UN. Bhutto ted been busy playing his own game at the UN with his bellicose pitch and 
tearing up the Polish Resolution asking for ceasefire (though he was much admired by Pakistanis for his macho larking about). That Bhutto did not 
want the ceasefire when it was on the anvil is an enigma, because ted the Polish Resolution been passed swiftly, the UN would have compelled a 
ceasefire and the humiliation of surrender could have been averted. 

After Y ahya Khan abdicated, Rahim Khan asked Bhutto to return immediately. Bhutto was reticent to return when it was conveyed to ton that 
Yahya Khan ted agreed to abdicate in his favour. Finally, as Raton Khan narrated the entire episode to me in Spain, the two Chiefs got hold of 
Mustafa Khar, Bhutto’s then confidant, and convinced ton to re- assure Bhutto that his fears of being arrested were unfounded and that they were 
serious in their undertaking The rest is history, notwithstanding my personal gratefulness to Mr Bhutto for having been fair to me when I was 
witch-hunted and framed in a conspiracy and later haunted by the Stohinshah of Iran. 

ZA Bhutto ruled with an iron fist; he achieved many milestones in the social, political and international arenas, but the nationalizing of banks, 
industiy, businesses and even schools and other institutions damaged the business incentive and investment by Pakistani entrepreneurs and 
denudedthe economic base. Ultimate power or the quest for it corrupts and finally destroys. 

Police on the Rampage 

One day, I received a call from Afcal Agfia, the Chief Secretary of Punjab and a very gracious friend, who treated me like a younger brother. He 
asked me if I ted received instructions to show force in the Frontier and the Punjab as the police ted rebelled and taken up arms against the 
administration I told him that we ted never been given such a task before and I ted received no such instructions, adding that in any case the Base 
Commander would be the one to know about such an action He suggested that I should get some aircrafts ready as Mr Bhutto may be speaking 
with the C-in-C any moment now for a show of force. I respectfully told ton that I would only be able to get the aircraft ready once the Base 
Commander ordered me. Hie orders never came but something was not right. There was a conspiracy to involve the armed forces in a 
confrontation with the police with the suspected intent to degrade the former in public esteem 

The rebellion was quelled amazingly fast after the two Chiefs refused to get involved in the law and order situation which was allegedly contrived 
by some lowly politicians. None the less, their refusal to carry out the orders of ZAB cost them dearly. Soon thereafter another significant incident 
took place which got my antennas up. A few weeks later, I was in Karachi and ran into Rail Munir, the wealthy scion of the Hysons Group, and a 
staunch and committed supporter of ZAB. Rafi’s demeanour was generally very unpredictable after he ted imbibed a few which meant after 9 pm 


till dawn (I believe he is on the wagon now, good for him). He protected ZAB more than he would his own lather and was very aggressive 
towards ZAB’s critics. I recalled Rail’s ire one afternoon at the Intercontinental Karachi, the days Bhutto was a persona non- grata in Pakistan 
during Ayub Khan’s repressive rule. Hiere was a book store in the lobby and Raft and I were walking past when he spotted the book Friends not 
Masters . Raft turned and picked up the book and asked the sales person to charge it to his account. Then he flung the book up to hit the ceiling 
and it splashed down, after which Raft started kicking the book from one end of the long lobby to the other with expletives that cannot be repeated 
for courtesy to the readers. Such was Rail Munir’s loyalty to ZAB! I being a witness was also reported and was warned about my association with 
ZAB’ s friends. I didn’t pay any heed because I was not politically associated with ZAB and definitely not fond of Ayub Khan owing to the 
reputation of his sons. 

That evening in Karachi, it was still early when I met Rail Munir. Always pleasant and lull of affection he was a bit sullen when we met. But a little 
later he came to where I was sitting and blurted out to me, “Hey Sajad, who the hell does RahimKhan think he is, telling the boss man (ZAB) how 
to run his personal life concerning ... (a particular lady ZAB had been associated with)”. I said, “Raft, don’t act out of your class with me. You 
know that I respect ZAB’s intellect and his commitment to his fiiends and at the same time I have unswerving loyalty to my chief; besides they are 
good friends and 1 had heard it from ZAB’s mouth that Rahim Khan was his only tested friend. So let us not get between the elephants.” He 
argued a bit and I returned feeling apprehensive that things were not right between the two titans. 

What amazed me was that Rail had knowledge of such an intimate dialogue between ZAB and Rahim Khan. What I learnt many years later from 
Air Mshl Rahim Khan in Madrid (and reiterated by Mrs Rahim Khan most recently in 2007) was that Begum Bhutto had visited the Air House at 
that point in time and implored Rahim Khan, for being Bhutto’s trusted friend, to speak with her husband about his nocturnal soirees with a lady 
from Dhaka. Begum Bhutto told the Air Chief that her husband would take his office work to the house of the lady and stayed there most nights. 
People were talking and she felt humiliated. Rahim Khan was a good Samaritan and felt that his loyally as a friend placed a moral responsibility on 
him to advise Bhutto to desist from an activity which had become a scandal, even though he was the President and Martial Law Administrator. 

The Air Chief suggested to Bhutto that his allair with the known lady was becoming a nutter of concern all around and suggested that he use 
extreme discretion as the national morale was frail after the war and the loss of East Pakistan fins apparently happened on two different 
occasions. Air Mshl Rahim Khan told me that he had advised ZAB in all sincerity as a fiiend since no one else wanted to bell the cat. On the first 
occasion, Bhutto curtly told him, “Rahim, you’ve done your bit; there is no need to over step the limits.” It was these innocuous incidents which 
sent Bhutto into a rage. According to Gen Gul Hassan, ZA Bhutto had also started interfering in the army policies which was unacceptable to Gul 
Hassan who was no one’s toady and like Rahim Khan, a proud soldier. 

It was the last day of February, a leap year and it was a Friday, when at about 1100 Hrs, I was called and told by the Base Commander tliat the 
Air Chief wanted to see me immediately. 1 asked him if I was in trouble, he said not to his knowledge, but to get to AHQ as quickly as a Mirage 
could get me there. I tookoffin a sleek Mirage and dashed to Peshawar. Interestingly, I stayed in after burner and landed at Peshawar in 15 
minutes, nothing could have been fester than tliat. At the Air Chief s Secretariat I was met by Air Cdre TS Jan, who (I think) was the Secretary 
Air Board. He took me to his office and as I sat down, TS Jan told me that the Chief was busy and that I would be called in by his ADC shortly. 
Over a cup of tea, we chatted generally about the war with reference to his visit to Sargodha accompanying the international press (about 10-15 
foreign correspondents). Hiere were two rather comely female reporters in the gimp who were monopolized by TS Jan who considered himself a 
ladies man. I joked about him not letting the girls mix with the fighter jockeys. 

He changed the subject and asked me if I had read the latest Time magazine and what it said about the Air Chiefs comments about the GHQ flop 
in the 1 97 1 War. I replied in the negative. He said Time magazine had quoted the Air Chief as saying that the army had feiled in its prime task of 
launching its anuoured division, and instead had chosen the desert where no air cover was possible, or words to the effect. Uien TS commented, 
“Well Haider, you know it was war and we had a lot of foreign news media day in and day out, one could have said anything in the heat of the 
moment, besides, the GHQ had botched the plans.” He had unmistakably implied that such remarks may well have been made in the presence of 
the correspondents but it was not a big deal and besides it was a feet. 

While we were dialling his intercomrang and he told me tliat I had been summoned by the Air Chief I entered and saluted the C-in-C. He asked 
me to sit down in the alcove sofe, where he was himself seated. After some preliminaries he said, “Sajad, I want you to go on national TV and 
explain the conduct of the air war conducted from Sargodha. There has been some frivolouscriticism emanating from the army and the navy about 
the PAF feiling to support them, especially in the desert assault on Ramgarh, and I want you to put the record straight about the problems of 
effectively operating tliat fer from Sargodha.” He said tliat he had spoken to Aslam A/har, the Managing Director of Pakistan Television (PTV), 
who would be calling to interview me on the national hookup. I felt a slight tremble inside, not quite grasping why he had chosen me for such a high 
profile job, when other people such as Air Vice Mshl Saeedullah or TS Jan had their gift of the gab and crisp intonation. My only experience with 
TV had been the brief interviews with the BBC and ABC comespondents at Peshawar and Sargodha dining the 1 965 and 1 97 1 Wars. I asked 
him haltingly, “Sir, what would I be expected to say, especially about the operations in the south’? He frowned with lfis bushy eye brows lowering 
over his piercing eyes and said, ‘You should not need any briefing on how the PAF performed during the war; say what the truth is and say it 
vociferously, especially your capability to provide cover in Ramgarh and Jaisafrner Theatre.” 

He directed me to immediately get in touch with Air Cdre Bill Latif about the details of air support operations for the army and navy in the south. 

He then called Air Cdre TS Jan on the intercom and asked him to come and brief him about the Time magazine stoiy and referred to the calls from 
the President (ZA Bhutto). As TS Jan walked in, the Chief asked him, “What is this about the Time magazine quoting me about criticizing the 
anry? Hie President is throwing a fit and wants an explanation.” As he placed the opened and marked page of the magazine on the table in front of 
Air Mshl Rahim Khan, TS Jan said something to my utter astonishment. He said, “Sir, I have no idea who could have made such a derogatory 
statement against the anry and the report seems to be some mischief or a misinterpretation.” I almost choked at the honid U-tum TS Jan had 
suddenly made, telling the Air Chief something diametrically opposite to what he had just told me in his own office, about utterances being made in 
the heat of war. 



I thought to myself that is how empires crumble, when loyally is flaunted beneath a visage of self interest. The C-in-C directed TS Jan to organise 
my interview with Mr Aslam Azhar immediately, emphasizing that it must be aired within 24 hours. I recall later speaking with Aslam Azhar from 
TS Jan’s office after we had left the C-in-C. Aslam Azhar told me that he would be interviewing me the day alter and that 1 should plan to meet 
him in Rawalpindi at lunch time where he would chat with me about the event. 1 was quite nervous at the prospect. As it turned out, the interview 
did not take place, because the day after my visit with the C-in-C, we heard the news at a lunch in Sargodba that Air Chicl had been banished 
along with the Amy Chief by ZAB. 

ft soon became common knowledge that trouble between ZAB and the two chiels had stalled brewing when they had refused to use show of 
force to quell the police nutiny in Punjab and NWFP. Bhutto was livid for being turned down by his subordinates, forgetting that they were in feet 
being loyal to him by keeping the armed forces in the barracks. What Bhutto did to satisfy his ego became his own nemesis. Had he chosen the 
sensible and pragmatic course, he may still have lived and Pakistan would not have had to suffer ignominy at the hands of the hypocritical and evil 
dictator Zia ul Haq. Bhutto chose his own hangjnan ft would be interesting to rewind those moments and recapture the sequence of events. 

Sword of Damocles Falls 

Air Cdre Mickey O’Brian’s brother, Charles O’Brian was posted at Sargodha as Excise and Taxation Officer. Charles and his wife frequently 
invited Gp Capt Rehmat Khan, his wife Anna and me for Sunday beer sessions and Anglo cuisine. Commissioner Mobsin and his wife were also 
mostly present. One Sunday, when we were invited for lunch, and were sitting on the lawn on a beautiful summer day, Charles’ wife came rushing 
out of the house and nearly screamed, ‘The TV just announced that Bhutto has sacked the Air Force and Army Chiefs, saying that there was no 
place for Bonapartism aider his rule”. My heart sank and 1 felt the blood gushing to my head. We all ran inside but the commentator had moved 
on 1 immediately called the Base Commander and asked him if he had heard any bad news. He replied in the affirmative, sounding anxious and 
said that Air Msbl Rahim Khan had been replaced by Air Vice Mshl Zafer Cbaudhry, adding “That does not auger well for you, 1 wish you safe 
landing young man” 

Later that afternoon 1 called on the Base Commander and brain- stormed the metamorphosis that had unexpectedly overtaken the country. Before 
taking his leave, 1 asked his pennission to go to Peshawar the next morning, to visit the Air House and find out what had happened. He answered 
in the affirmative, saying that he would also visit in a day or two. In the evening I started receiving calls from all over the country from worried well 
wishers, friends and family who had known Air Vice Mshl Zaiar Chaudhry’s unprovoked ire for me. I told themnot to worry as I had no axe to 
grind with him and as a chief of service I hoped he would rise above his personal likes and dislikes. The night seemed long and full of anxious 
thoughts; I kept thinking about Rahim Khan and recalled the scene when I lrad heard ZAB shower accolades on Rahim Khan as a tested fiiend 
and a venerable Air Chief The next day being Monday, a maintenance day, gave me the freedom to leave when I liked without worrying about the 
units’ flying. 

After landing at Peshawar, I was driven to the Officers’ Mess. I made a bee line for the bar and let the driver go. I met some old friends and 
colleague who were having a drink at the bar. I asked my old buddy if I could borrow his car to visit the air house and call on Mrs Rahim Khan 
later in the afternoon He said, “Yar, the Air House is crawling with agencies and sleuths and I don’t want to get involved because they will track 
the car to me.” Disillusioned, I walked to the Air House which was about a mile away. As I approached the gate, there was a bunch of intelligence 
hounds who stopped me and checked my identity before letting me through. I entered the Air House and being femiliar with the geography I 
headed for the drawing room I ted barely taken stock of the room where I ted last seen ZAB with Rahim Khan when suddenly Begum Rahim 
Khan appeared along with Mavis GA Khan (wife ofmy colleague, the one who took- off during the attack on Murid). Mrs Rahim Khan said, 
“Sajad, you shouldn’t have come because you will surely be marked and reported, although I was certain that you’ll be the first to visit me.” 2 

I said that she need not worry about me because I could handle the problem and asked about the Air Marshal’s situation She said he ted spoken 
with her and was well and hoped that he would be back in a day. I felt a lingering sense of apprehension because she did not soaid convincing. I 
chose not to probe further as she asked me to come and sit down I stayed for about half an hour and retailed to the Mess. The manner in which 
tlie two Chiels were removed has been much dramatized in recent days by a fonner Governor and Chief Minister of Paijab. This gentleman has 
claimed that Bhutto threw files in front of the two Chiefs, infening that they were trying to over- throw him and impose Martial Law. N o one in 
Pakistan with miniscule common sense can believe this canard. Bhutto ted himself chosen to continue Martial Law; besides, it is jocular to claim 
that these two Chiefs were planning to overthrow the man they ted installed. That was the first time in the history of this beleaguered country that 
two powerful heads of the armed forces ted implored a politicalleader (Bhutto ted been elected) to come back and establish civilian supremacy. 
Why would they want to do some filing so foolish as to remove him? 

1 knew both Chiels closely. Rahim Khan and Gul Hassan were not vindictive or madly ambitious people and would have supported Bhutto through 
their tenaes as pillars of strength What could have stopped these two from taking over the governance from General Y ahya themselves instead of 
insisting that Bhutto return and form a democratic polity in the country?Both of them were exceedingly sincere to Bhutto . The truth is that Bhutto 
got carried away by file delusion of power and eventually paid an unnecessarily heavy price with his life. The refusal by the two Chiefs to come to 
file aid of civil power, was die most admirable and courageous decision, an expression of their respect for democratic dispensation They ted told 
Bhutto that he ted nauerous state forces other than the defence forces to control a minor localized insurrection by an extremely disorganized 
police force. How could any one with a sane mind send a hi- tech Mirage to temorize a bunch of village idiots in police aiiform? The two Chiels 
were, in sincerity, asserting the supremacy of civilian rule, folly understanding that the defence forces should never be used in situations until they 
threaten file integrity of the country. They were clear that the aimed forces were meant only to be used to intercede against a real threat to die 
country’ s survival from internal or external enemy; but if their power was used senselessly, it would lose its deterrent effect, as well respect. 
Obviously, ZAB was not in file mood for strategic synthesis but wanted to assert his power and send a message that nobody should dare express 
dissent against his decisions. 

2 An Extraordinary Life , memoirs of Princess Mehrunissa of Rampur. 


During the night I spent at Peshawar, my mind was buzzing with macabre thoughts about the tilings to come, considering my history with the new 
incumbent Air Chief Although these thoughts were none too pleasant, I was a lighter as well as a survivor. I wanted to be in control of my life, 
instead of being its victim 1 had no qualms or fears about taking challenges head-on; this was my wont. I returned to Sargodba the next morning 
after checking with Mrs Rahim Khan about the status of the Air Marshal. She had been waiting to hear from him One day, soon after my visit to 
the Air House, all the senior commanders ofthe PAF were summoned to AHQ on the 3 rd or 4 th March, 1972. Hie purpose ofthe summons was 
to attend the new Chiefs address. I tried to wriggle out of it but the Base Commander advised that I should not anticipate what was to come and 
get my right foot out, assuring me that my professional competence would counter any negativism by the new leadership. I thought he was right and 
1 had to adopt a wait and see attitude. 

All the commanders bad gathered at the AHQ Auditorium and the new Chief took to the podium and made a superb opening speech, laced with 
humility, intending to inftise confidence amongst those who had been victims of his egotistic nature and unprovoked dislikes and equally inexplicable 
fondness for weasels in the years gone by. I took his sincerity and humility at lace value and heaved a sigh of relief believing that as Chief of the air 
force he might get over his bang-ups and idiosyncrasies. At the end, he invited questions from those present. No one was surprised when his pet 
officer and a known lackey stood tip and parroted praise about the much anticipated metamorphosis in the PAF under his command. He was in his 
element as he made suggestions regarding the weaknesses of the PAF and their solutions. 

PAF in the Eye of a Storm 

Air Msbl Zaiar Chaudhry was soon tearing through the sky, heading towards AHQ Peshawar for the ftilfilment of his dream of many years ago. 
What mist have seized his mind in those horn's was impossible to guess but the inpact on the PAF operational command, barring Iris close kin, the 
timid ofthe 1965 War and Iris coterie, was one of misgivings. People wondered if Zaiar Chaudhry would rise above his spite for confident and 
upfront professionals who called a spade a spade when the occasion demanded. Tlie answer to those trepidations came loud and clear in rather a 
short period. 

The Air Chief bad recalled Air Cdre Saeedullah from Washington DC (posted as Air Attache) to strengthen bis power base. Most people were 
thrilled at the small mercy that Air Cdre Kliaqan Abbasi, who was operating as deputy to Zaiar Chaudhry in the PIA, had been left behind to 
complete his hatchet j ob on the PIA and Hie PAF had been spared his induction in the hierarchy. Unfortunately, the sense of relief was tembly 
short lived, unhappily for many. The PAF bad already been smartening from the aftermath of the 1971 debacle and was hardly in the mood or 
state of morale to withstand Hie reputation Air Msbl Zaiar Chaudhry and his close associates bad earned in the PIA Hie air force was too fragile 
and some what chaotic from the after effects ofthe war and the command change. Hie delicate situation needed mature and prudent handling to 
stem the despondency penneating Hie service. The only way forward that seemed possible was with tangible and positive professional activity to 
elevate Hie service morale. Unfortunately, quite the opposite happened. 

The annual exercise of Hie Pakistan Day fly-past was last approaching after the command changed. Hiis very simple exercise became an ominous 
watershed with serious consequences for Hie entire PAF. Hiis was a routine annual exercise, which entailed a fly-past of about 1 00 jet fighters and 
trainers. The aircraft which participated were from different bases in the north and used to take-off from their home base and the rendezvous was 
fixed about 20 miles in line with Hie path of Hie fly-past, so as to anive in front of the dais occupied by the President and other dignitaries, as well 
as the three Oriels. Hie timing and coordination between aircraft of different types with different speeds required meticulous planning. Hiis was 
particularly so because the leader of Hie entire fly-past would have to synchronize his arrival in front of the spectators precisely as the last column 
of Hie parade bad marched passed Hie grand stand. In order to coordinate the precise timing of the events on the ground, a fly-past control was 
established at the parade ground manned by a senior commander from a fighter command. Several rehearsals were carried out with just the 
leaders of each fonnation practicing Hie rendezvous and for the leader to anive at the predetermined precise timing. 

Everything went well until Hie final dress rehearsal. In order to cater to a contingency, where a leader’s aircraft became unserviceable, Hie deputy 
leader would take over and lead through the exercise. I decided tint the final rehearsal by the Sargodba contingent should be led by Wg Cdr 
Hakirrullah, commanding the Mirage Squadron. Consequently, I positioned myself at the Mobile Control at the beginning of runway to monitor 
take-ofls of about 40 aircraft. After all aircraft took-off safely, and turned out of circuit, I drove off to the Air Traffic Control (ATC) and waited 
for their return, not knowing that there was mayhem in Hie air. On the day of that final rehearsal, an ugly situation developed as Hie leader, in this 
case not surprisingly, Air Mshl Zaiar Chaudhry, arrived over the parade ground on time and pulled up to cany out vertical rolls. 

Ironically, the fly-past control was manned by Gp Capt Arslrad. who happened to be Air Mshl Zaiar Chaudhry’s brother-in-law. As he blazed 
past and pulled up for a vertical roll. Gp Capt Arshad unwittingly called and said, “Excellent timing leader, superb vertical rolls.” His innocent 
transmission seemed to have triggered a drain reaction The rest ofthe story was narrated to me by Wg Cdr Hakimullab, which shell-shocked me 
at the reprehensible behaviour of Hie pilots and I hoped none fi'omNo 33 Wing were involved. 

Before I narrate Hie ugjy incident, I want to recall how tire Air Chief confronted nre that day. I was monitoring the recovery of tire aircraft from tire 
ATC since it was a massive recovery and landing. As soon as the last section had landed, I went back to nry office and was about to ask 
Hakirrullah to come over and de-brief me, when the ATC informed me on the intercom that the CAS had also landed at Sargodba. I was 
surprised to hear that, because tire drill was for the Mirage pilots to % the Mirages to Peshawar and after the Air Chief landed back at Peshawar, 
tire pilot would bring the Mirage back. So something was not right. I decided to wait for a few minutes till the CAS had left tire base, if that was his 
intention Suddenly, I saw a car with tire CAS’s flag pull-up in front of my office, with the Base Commander following 1 moved out of nry chair 
and decided to leave my hat behind, a naughty thing to do. Hre CAS climbed up the steps to nry office with Gulli Haider (God bless Iris soul) in the 
tow, stomred into nry office and before I could say good afternoon, he canre at me like a banshee, ‘OK, Nosy (not affectionately as friends called 
nre for nry proboscis, but in a demeaning tone), supposing you tell nre what was that disgraceful behaviour in the air”. 


I was in my foil flying regalia and he took it that I was flying in the fly-past. Hiis was the third time in my career that he had confronted nre for a 
wrong cause and I told him so on Iris lace, “Sir, this is the third time hr my service under your command that you have presumed that I was flying. I 



was not living and you should know that I do not understand what you are talking about.” Instead of asking me, he looked at my Base 
Commander and asked, “GhulamHaider was he not living?” He replied in the negative, conferring I was monitoring the No 33 Wing aircraft flying 
from the ATC. He turned to me, looking strangely pallid with his eyes sparking. 

He asked me sternly, “Why weren’t you flying 1 ? I answered, “Sir, it is my prerogative and choice when to fly; today I was simulating thatshould 
my aircraft go unserviceable after take-off Hakimullah should lead the No 33 Wing.” He looked shattered upon discovering that 1 was not in the 
air. He almost hissed at me and said, “Find these cowards who are a disgrace to the PAF after the way they misbehaved on the radio.” I snapped 
back and said, “Sir, there are three bases taking part in this exercise, why are you suspecting the 33 Wing for the misbehaviour about which I am 
ignorant so far'? He said, “You had better get these names to me within 24 hours, dial's all” He stomped out of my office and I was too dazed to 
even go to his car and see him off The two cars drove away swiftly and I went straight to No 5 Squadron and asked Hakimullah what had 
happened in the air. 

He said there were disgraceful radio cat- calls and abuses hurled at the CAS just because Gp Capt Arsbad had called and said excellent timing and 
perfect vertical roll After that the radio indiscipline continued till the CAS called to say, “Shut up, you idiots, otherwise I’ll shoot you down”. This 
really caused the pent-up volcano of frustration to erupt into an ugly blast of expletives directed at the highest authority in the PAF. Now that’s the 
way almost everyone described this ugly incident but I could not figure out why tire Air Chidhad taken the bait. Why could he not discern the 
distress of the tactical force seeking expression with such profanity? He should have kept his cool at the very start and it would not have snow 
balled. All of us commanders would have identified tire culprits in the fullness of time. But in the event that there were too many participants in the 
reprehensible episode, the Air Chief should have considered the option to resign and save tire service, since the large numbers involved signalled 
tire loss of confidence of the lighting force in their new Chief of Air Staff But that was not the wont of Air Marshal Zalar Chaudlny, he could never 
be wrong. I was told that after tire Chiefs enraged retort to the initial call, the transmissions by the culprits had become vulgarly abusive. 

I asked the three Squadron Commanders if they could recognize any of the voices, even though these were cat-calls. They replied in the negative. I 
told them to try and speak with their pilots and tell them that suchconduct was tantamount to cowardice and if they came up and admitted their 
tomfoolery, it would be an act of admirable courage. Later on, I met the Base Commander and told him that it was not lair for the CAS to attack 
me in tire maimer he had, and said that he should have defended me as a commander. He was not amused at my comments and told me to simmer 
down, because CAS’s angst was justified, even though I had nothing to do with it. He suggested that I try to investigate by talking to the pilots and 
identifying if there were any miscreants from this wing. I told him that I would get on it the first thing the next morning. One could sense a gloom 
pemreating all over the air force after the fly-past was over. There was a transfonuation in the attitude of the PAF leadership and their campaign to 
target pilots considered renegades became vicious, with me in the eye of the storm 

It was most unfortunate, because Air Msbl Zalar Cbaudhry had not even settled in, when this shocking episode took place. This reaction of tire 
fighter pilots in reality was the manifestation of their disillusionment in the PAF soon after Air Mshl Zalar Chaudhry took over. Senior commanders, 
whoenjoyed the respect and confidence of pilots for leading from the front, had been placed in the target sights of the PAF hierarchy. The resulting 
explosion was looked upon as a conspiracy against the CAS. 

I came to know about it from tire top level defence intelligence agency in June 1 973 . A spectre of terror was unleashed through tire intelligence 
agencies under a servile and frail minded Director of Intelligence, who was thrilled to be serving the CAS in tire ‘self destruction plan’ . 

Indisputably, it was the worst witch-hunt in PAF’s history. When all hell seemed to be breaking loose, the Air Chief played a desperate card which 
was caught in mid air as it were, by the sombre advice of Air Cdre Zulfiqar who had been appointed Base Commander Sargodba. The Air Chief 
decided to wire-tape fighter aircraft at Sargodha and Peshawar, excluding PAF Masroor for some inexplicable reason. He also hired a speech 
analyst to snare the culprits of tire fly-past fiasco. To top it all, Air Mshl Zalar Chaudhry asked Air Cdre Khaqan Abbasi to return to AHQ as 
AC AS (Ops) after he had sorted out the PIA and left it battered. 3 

I have not been able to ascertain the precise dates of tire movements of senior air staff but Air Cdre (promoted as Air Vice Mshl) Saeedullah had 
already joined earlier and was appointed as the Vice Chief When Air Cdre Khaqan Abbasi landed, the stage was set for operation ‘Get tire 
dissidents’. Ure AHQ priorities were totally contorted and confused. As mentioned above, the CAS had ordered that all fighter and training 
aircraft be fitted with tape recorders; allegedly, a ventriloquist was hired from England, who was to interpret the recordings of the fly-past rehearsal 
and with the tape-recordings from tire aircraft tapes, identify those involved in the cat-calls mischief It would be pertinent to mention that the entire 
episode of radio transmissions during tire fly- past rehearsal day had been recorded by Clraklala ATC as perroutine. Incidentally, the transcripts 
were gotten hold of by tire Inter Services Intelligence (ISI) and shown to President ZAB. 

In two recent interviews with an old honest soul, Wg Cdr MS Khan, a well re^rded and professionally respected signals officer, I was told about 
some provocative activities that took place at AHQ after tire fly-past incident. He told me that a team had been constituted to investigate the ugfy 
radio indiscipline and if necessary, to interrogate tire suspects. MS Khan was given the project to install 40 tape recorders mostly in Sargodha 
based fighters and the work was to be top secret, so that the pilots were not conscious of the tape installation. However, according to MS Khan 
he had only installed four tapes when Air Cdre Zulfiqar (Air Cdre Zulfiqar had replaced Gulli Haider as Base Commander immediately after the 
fly-past) prevailed upon the Air Chief not to proceed with this controversial project, promising him that he would find out if any officers from 
Sargodha were involved in the incident. 

Looking Back , by Brig Mian Hameed-ud-Din, Page 232. 

Zulfiqar was successful in his undertaking owing to the respect and confidence he enjoyed. Wg Cdr Sibtain was a highly controversial person from 
the electronic intelligence directorate and joined the inner circle of the Air Chief for his expertise in snooping and eavesdropping. MS Khan said 
that he was not invited to most of the secret meetings between the CAS and Sibtain However, during one meeting MS recalled that Sibtain was 
asked about the progress of his investigations in his presence. Sibtain had replied that he would soon nab the culprits. He was to play a much 
bigger role in the ftiture as the electronic spy master and the lynehpin in the new crusade of witch-hunting by the PAF leadership. 


15 

BEGINNING OF THE END 


After two weeks of eerie disquiet, one fine morning I got the news that Air Cdre (later Air Chief Marshal) Zulfiqar Ali Khan had been appointed 
Base Commander Sargodba. This was a cause for celebration Not because Air Cdre Gulli Haider was posted out, but because Zulfiqar was one 
of the most outstanding commanders in the PAF; the proverbial officer and a gentleman I received a call from him the same evening and he 
jokingly told ire to put on my best behaviour as he was coming to Sargodba soon A few days later, Air Cdre Zulfiqar asked me if I would pick 
him up from Lahore in the communication aircraft based at Sargodba. Tlie next morning, I took pennission from Ghulam Haider and picked up Air 
Cdre and Begum Zulfiqar from Lahore. 

Air Cdre Zulfiqar’ s arrival brought about a serene and tranquilatmospbere in Sargodba which had been crackling with tension until then Mutual 
confidence between the personnel and the commander was revived almost instantly. One spectacular demonstration of the level of confidence and 
respect he enjoyed, was the response to Iris address given to the pilots of No 33 Wing at my request with reference to the radio indiscipline by 
pilots during the fly-past rehearsal in the previous month He told them that fighter pilots were the hope of this nation and a symbol of pride. Hie 
behaviour reported to him was not commensurate with the dignity of their profession. He told them that he expected the officers to accept their 
mistake and that he would ensure that disciplinary action would be left to him and not to AHQ. 

Three pilots raised their hands in an amazing expression of the impact of simple words uttered by the Base Commander. For me, it was a defining 
moment because I witnessed poor behaviour transformed into courage. This was to me, the proverbial quality of' leadership. Air Cdre Zulfiqar kept 
Iris word and took summary action against those who had come out in the open However, they also said that they had not indulged in any verbal 
expletives, but bad merely whistled and chirped. This meant that a lot more pilots from other bases were involved in this ugly episode. Nonetheless, 
the entire matter when seen critically meant a storm building up in the PAF and die thunder could be heard. The ominous indicators were pointing 
at an explosion sooner or later. 

I was told by a highly placed general who was extremely concerned about the malcontent in the PAF that the Chief' of Air Stall'liad been 
confronted by Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto (ZAB) after he bad seen the transcripts of the tape recorded at the Cbaklala base Air Traffic Control ZAB had 
warned the Air Chief of the thunder in the PAF and bad opined that Zalar Chaudhry may well hive lost the confidence of those under Iris 
command in a short period. To this warning and the feet that it had been brought to the notice of the Prime minister, Air Mshl Zalar Cbaudlny was 
said to liavc assured ZA Bhutto that he liad not brought the incident to Iris attention because there were just a handlul of miscreants who hid 
committed the act of indiscipline and that he was going to bring them to book soon. Undoubtedly, the CAS was on the back foot and owing to his 
insecurity, became more vindictive and brutal to nail down his detractor's and critics. 

The entire energies of the air staff were being wasted on who was saying whit about him and his air officer's and the chief snoops were ready and 
obliging, getting the Air Chief even more riled up. The PAF’s operational plans and other critical areas that needed urgent attention as a 
consequence of the war and the loss of Bengali personnel were put on the back burner. Air Mshl Zalar Chaudhry instead, gathered Kliaqan 
Abbasi and Saeedullah around him to tackle the situation. A servile non-entity, Air Cdre Waheed Mufti as the Director of Air Intelligence 
completed the deck. Air Mshl Zalar Chaudhry made flawed decisions because his ego got the better of him The command of the service took a 
back seat and vendetta became Iris top priority. Resultanlly, he made the fetal decision to have his team begin a witch hunt as their primary 
objective to identify the dissenters and crucify them 

In the days ahead, there was a fire power demonstration to be earned out at Jamrud range in December 1972, for the new head of state ZAB and 
Iris state guest, the President of the UAE (ZAB was scheduled to visit Sargodba and address all the personnel and have lunch at our Mess). On 
instructions from the Base Commander, I organized three Squadrons for the demonstration; a formation aerobatics team of 4 F-6s; 4 Mirages to 
cany out dive bombing and a single Mirage for solo low-level aerobatics. I decided to take the last item and stalled practice immediately. On the 
3 rd day after I landed, I saw the Base Commander’s car approaching my aircraft. As I climbed down the ladder and greeted him, I was surprised 
to see my young son Adnan accompanying him Zulfiqar said, “Well young man, that was an impressive show but I would prefer if you led the 
formation aerobatics team because of its complexity and your vast experience in formation aerobatics.” I was slightly disappointed but with ‘Agha’ 
Zulfiqar (as I called him), I would never take cudgels. I asked my son to get into my car but Agba Zulfiqar told him to stay with him Even at that 
young age, Adnan knew Iris preferences and happily went along with him on a ride of the airfield and gave me a detailed account of his joy ride. 

I asked Hakimullah to assign one oflris best jockeys for the solo aerobatics. His obvious choice was Fit Lt Arif Manzoor who was an exceptional 
lighter pilot. Much to eveiyone’s chagrin the Chief of Air Staff Zalar Chaudhry told Air Cdre Zulfiqar that he (the Air Chief) would be performing 
the solo aerobatics. Hiis caused disappointment in No 33 Wing and yet another reason to cause uncalled for provocation Anyhow, we went 
ahead with our preparations. 

ZAB at Sargodha - Fate Conspires 

The Air Chief took the solo aerobatics on the Mirage for himself depriving Arif Manzoor who liad looked forward to this day. For a Chief to steal 
the lime light from a young pilot, just to make points with ZAB, did not go well with any of the young participants. He was able to satisfy his ego by 
doing some manoeuvres on the horizon, because the cloud base was not conducive for looping manoeuvres. That took the steam out of an 
aerobatics display, especially formation aerobatics, where four people are within a couple of feet from each other in intricate manoeuvres. Hie 
Mirages managed to do the bombing by modifying their profile and the F- 6s from Rafiqui also did an impressive display of their marksmanship in 
strafing attacks. 



By the tine my formation got into their cockpits, it was drizzling and threatening to get worse. Anyhow, I started up and asked the tower about the 
cloud base over Janrud range. It was not at all a happy situation, because most of our manoeuvres were in the vertical plane. I told the ATC to get 
a message to the display control that formation aerobatics would be meaningless in the prevailing weather. The CAS called on the radio and asked 
that we take-off By the time we were on the runway the airfield was declared below minimum weather conditions for take-off and our mission bad 
to be aborted. An hour later the weather had improved enough for the President’s Falcon to take-off I, along with another Mirage pilot, hurriedly 
took-off before the Falcon and landed at Sargodba before it arrived. 

It would be relevant to mention the seating plan for the President’s lunch Although a little out of place here, it lias a vital bearing on the attending 
events. The Base Commander bad called me a few days before the display and looking red in the lace, shoved a paper across his table, saying 
“Can you imagine that the seating plan for the President’s lunch after the Fire Power Demonstration has to come from AHQ. This is utter 
nonsense! I am the Base Commander here and it should be my prerogative to figure out how to host the event.” Still ftrious, he asked if I had 
noticed that my name did not appear on the seating plan 

The President arrived and addressed the base personnel He was extremely eloquent about what was expected of the PAF. His resounding speech 
made a profound impact on all of us. After the event, he drove off to the Officers’ Mess and we followed in our cal's. The President was 
accompanied by Hafeez Pirzada and Mustala Khar, both his close associates and well known to me. In the mess ante- room, the President was 
surrounded by young fighter pilots, who were in awe of the man Air Mshl Zalar Cbaudhry, Air Vice Mshl Sacedullah, Air Cdre Khaqan Abbasi 
and Air Cdre Zulfiqar were flanking the President. I was standing with Hafeez Pirzada and Mustala Khar. At that moment, the Chief of the Air 
Staff informed the President that lunch was ready. Slowly ZAB stalled moving towards the dining hall, which was a distance away and as he came 
directly in front of us, he turned his head possibly towards Pirzada or Khar and spotted me between the two. He stopped suddenly and beckoning 
me towards him, said with great affection, ‘Hyder (he pronounced my name as Hy-der), how are you’? I said, “Sir, I am veiy fine,” with a glitter in 
my eyes that he had remembered me. “What are you doing here in Sargodba; I see a lot of stripes on your sleeve,” he asked. I answered, “Sir, I 
am the Officer Commanding of the Fighter Wing” He asked me if I was flying in the display. I explained to him the unfortunate situation that had 
developed owing to the weather. He then asked me, “Do you recall the last time we met it was on my birthday and yours too. Why haven’t you 
come to see me’? I mumbled something about him being busy with allairs of the state and did not consider it prudent to disturb him He said, “No, 
you must come sometime.” 

All this was heard by the pilots surrounding him, to the delight of Air Cdre Zulfiqar and to the chagrin of the Air Chief standing near him He then 
turned around and walked on followed by the CAS and VC AS as well as our Base Commander. He stopped again as he saw a couple of his 
party men from the Sargodba area, one I knew to be a lawyer by the name of Cbeema. As Mustala and Pirzada moved behind ZAB, they said, 
“Let’s go Haider.” I told them, “I amnot invited. It’s only the top level who will be breaking bread with you”. They were quite surprised at my 
reply but walked away. While the President was talking with the politicians, I saw Air Cdre Zulfiqar rushing towards me. As he came near me he 
said, “Come on Haider, the CAS lias told me that you should join us at lunch.” For the first time since I had known Zulfiqar Ali Khan, I rebelled 
and said, “Sir, 1 am not given to after thoughts, I may be allowed to stay back.” He said, “Sajad this is not a time for arguing it is an opportunity 
you should not miss, now come along let’s go.” He caught me by my wrist and I followed him obediently, to avoid a scene as the young pilots 
were watching. 

The visit was soon over and we were back to work but 1 was still in the eye of the storm Presumably, there was a post-mortem of the President’s 
demonstration of lamiliarity with me during the lunch at the Mess in Sargodba. They felt checkmated and decided to go for plan-B as I called it, 
and I soon found myself being halted. From Jaie 1972 onwards, the following events took place. Tlie words scripted below came from a man of 
unimpeachable integrity, Air Cdre Zulfiqar, the Base Commander. The other incidents were my personal experience. 

Machinations against Me 

The Base Commander bad gone to attend the monthly operational preparedness meeting. He nanated his experience to me when he returned. He 
said that after the meeting he was walking towards the Air Secretary’s office when he met Air Vice Mshl Saeedullah Khan in the CAS office 
block. Saeedullah beckoned Zulfiqar and chatted about Sargodha in general As Zulfiqar asked Iris leave, Saeedullah said, “By the way Zulfi, how 
is that bastard behaving?” Zulfiqar was not used to such insolence and asked him to whom was he referring. “Nosy Haider, of course, he needs to 
be reigned in” This was the second time Saeedullah had used the expletive against me, totally uncalled for and unprovoked. 

Air Mshl Rahim Khan, while still the C-in-C bad instituted a new tradition of presenting Squadron Coloas to units which had performed 
exceptionally well in war. No 19 and No 5 Squadrons were the first to be presented these colon's - No 19 Squadron for its mmatched 
performance during attack on the Indian columns at Wagha and the devastating strike against Patbankot airfield during the 1965 War, and No 5 
for its role in Chhanb and air defence of Sargodba during the 1965 War. As OC Flying Wing I received the colon in an impressive ceremony, 
which was attended by Air Vice Mshl Saeedullah Khan instead. The event was widely covered by all the important newspapers. 

One day, I received a letter directly addressed to me by the CAS, Air Mshl Zalar Chaudhry. It had my photo attached to the letter in which I was 
photographed while receiving the Squadron Colons, hi his letter, instead of endearments or a well-done, the CAS admonished me for supporting 
a hair-cut mbecoming of a commander. Some other equally ridiculous lines were written just to put me down. I could not believe that a service 
Chief would address an OC Flying Wing about his choice of hair-cut! I showed the letter to the Base Commander, who did not consider it worthy 
of any comment, except, “Well Sajad, there you are, watch out for yon neck!” 

A few days later, the PSO to the CAS Wg Cdr Kamal who bad served aider me in No 11 Squadron in its fonnative years, arrived at my office 
to say hello and to catch-up with on past association I smelt a rat and give him my frill attention, waiting for him to end Iris hyperbole. I went on 
the offensive and asked him if he knew about the letter that had come from the Chiefs Secretariat. He feigned ignorance and asked me “Which 
letter’? I pulled the letter from my drawer and putting it in front of him asked if his boss had nothing important to do than to address letters 
castigating an officer not serving directly aider him. He pretended to read it as though for the first time, which was a joke because nothing from the 



CAS went anywhere without the (Personal Staff Officer) PSO’s knowledge. He looked at me smilingly and said, “Wei sir, the CAS gets irritated 
with appearance and uniform discipline.” Not wanting to prolong Iris visit, I picked up the letter, folded it and tore it into pieces. Throwing it in my 
waste paper basket while looking straight in his eyes, I said, “Kama!, we go a long way back, but this is crass pettiness and you can tell your Chief' 
not to expect a response of remorse or apology. It would be best to re-address it to the Base Commander.” He looked somewhat apologetic but 
Iris clever mind nxist have been revving at very high RPM. Reporting my insubordination would be another feather in Iris hat foil of many precious 
feathers. 

Some days later, I had gone for sports in the evening and from there, 1 drove- off to the ADA hut to chat with tire Mirage pilots, who manned tire 
ADA from dusk to dawn, when the next lot of F-6 pilots replaced them After half an hour or so, I called my home to check on my son Adnan, 
since he was always alone without me. He told me, “Daddy, Uncle Zulfiqar is looking for you and wants you to see him at his residence.” I left 
immediately, wondering what was up next. As I entered the Base Commander’s residence, Agha Jee met me at the door. He looked very sombre 
and serious as he ushered me towards his drawing room As I entered, I saw Begunr Zulfiqar sitting in a sola to the right with a tea trolley standing 
near her, as always with several knick-knacks. Agha Jee asked me to sit down and if I would like a cup of tea. I said, ‘Thank you sir; is everything 
alright’? 

BegumZulfiqar answered my question and said, “No, for you nothing is going right.” It was then that I noticed that her eyes were red. She then 
turned towards her husband and said, ‘Tell him what Khaqansaid to you about him” Presumably, KbaqanAbbasi bad just visited them I was 
perplexed as to why Kbaqan Abbasi’s visit would produce so much anguish in her. Soon enough I found out. I was told that Khaqan Abbasi 
especially flew into Sargodba to come and ask Zulfiqar as to why he was protecting me so strongly when the CAS did not approve of me 1 .He 
had cautioned Zulfiqar that he was putting his own good image on the line with the CAS. Zulfiqar had told him that a special report to be written by 
a fonner Base Commander three months after he (Zulfiqar) had given Haider a good annual report stinks of intrigue against the OC Flying Wing, 
whom he considered a good officer and commander. 

BegumZulfiqar interrupted him and told Zulfiqar, ‘Tell him about the Staff College story and breaking Sajad’s teeth” Zulfiqar was a bit agitated 
and pensive, obviously upset by the audacity of Khaqan’ s visit. BegumZulfiqar again inteijected saying Abbasi told Zulfi, “Tusi barre bhole ho 
(you are a simpleton), just raise a special report on this chap because the Air Chief wants him out of the PAF ; we will knock Nosy Haider’ s teeth 
out anyway, so why do you want to lose your good stead with the Chief?” Zulfiqar had reminded Khaqan Abbasi “Khaqan, was I a simpleton 
when I rescued you and your career at file Staff College, when I was an instructor and you had been blamed for plagiarism in an ‘Exercise 
Solution?” Thereafter, Zulfiqar told me that they were closing- in on me with all guns tiling, but did not suggest what I should do to get out of their 
line of fire. 

1 The matter pertained to the annual report which I had been asked to submit to AHQ for reassessment by try previous commander Air Cdre Haider but Zulfiqar had 
intervened and stopped it. 

After Air Mshl RabimKban’s departure, the paradigms of conduct by the officers at the summit had changed within months. Hie new leadership 
had a different agenda to pursue and the inner circle comprised the Air Chief (CAS), his Vice Chief (VCAS Saeedullah Khan), ACAS-0 
(Khaqan Abbasi) and the Director of Air Intelligence, Mufti Another one in the inner circle was the Air Secretary Gp Capt Aslam, reputed to be 
amongst the favourites. He was basically a decent fellow, but his survival as a medically de- categorised pilot depended upon his unremitting loyalty 
to the Air Chief in canying out the hatchet jobs he was tasked with Air Mshl Zafer Chaudhry suffered a major delusion - he believed that since he 
was chosen by ZAB, he was invincible. As he went higher in rank, it was clear to many that he always held in contempt the aggressive, strong 
willed and confident pilots whose self esteem was more important titan making a good impression on seniors and looking for choice postings and 
promotions. Yet, owing to his split personality Zalar Chaudhry’s demeanour outside the service with civilians, especially with powerful bureaucrats, 
was extraordinarily polite and charming. People outside the PAF could never believe that Zalar Chaudhry was capable of being vicious to his 
contemporaries and particularly those under his command who did not M in line with Iris perceived specifications of a gentleman officer. 

Air Mshl Rahim Khan, in Iris typical good heartedness had sent these three, Zalar Chaudhry, Saeedullah and Khaqan Abbasi and some others to 
Jordan and the PIA, to stave-off intrigues within the PAF. He could have retired them and rid the PAF of lurking danger. The problems for this 
team started from the beginning due to their inherent prejudice against the decorated fighter and bomber pilots who had performed well during the 
1965 War. 

Predictably, the next missile fired at me came in the shape of instructions from AHQ ordering Air Cdre Zulfiqar to raise a special report on me. 
Evidently, Khaqan Abbasi, after his visit to Air Cdre Zulfiqar at Sargodhahad connived and convinced the CAS that Zulfiqar instead of Ghulam 
Haider should be asked to raise a special report on me. Air Cdre Zulfiqar did as asked, but it arrived with the effect of a cruise missile in answer to 
their ballistic missile. One day Zulfiqar - called me to his office and spoke me, “Sajad, something new has come up and I feel it is my responsibility to 
make you aware of the developments about your future. If you don’t agree with my perception of your endangered foture and my recommended 
course of action then you are on your own from here on” His sombre tone had foreboding connotations, and I could sense his own turmoil. 

He told me about the special report he had been asked to raiseon me and said that he had written exactly how he had judged my performance 
during these few months and if he had found me foiling, he would have said so, without any hesitation “Therefore, the report that I have written is 
going to defuse their plans to go for you in any professional context. So, as a consequence of my report, they can do nothing to you, if they accept 
it as I have written, but that is not likely to happen, since it would be received with attending rant and rave. I do not know what they will do next,” 
he warned. ‘You are up against a mountain and hitting your head against it is not going to hurt the mountain, but you will be in dire straits until the 
day the hammer will come down on yon My considered advice to you would be to get out unscathed and I will try and get a nonnal retirement for 
yon” 

I became emotionally charged and asked him what was my crime? If I had committed none, which was the case, why should I whimper out from 
the service to which I had given my life and soul and proven my worth? I said respectfully to Air Cdre Zulfiqar that I had fought bigger battles and 


was ready to take on the mountain head-on He looked at me rue fully and said, “If you hid done some thing wrong, it would be I who would take 
action, but that is not the issue with the CAS, he just wants you out of the PAF. In my judgment taking them ( the high command) on would be 
suicidal, but it’s your life and certainty your prerogative, I can only give my best advice.” 

Ail Endless Witch Hunt 

With all the machinations and witch-hunting, my only catharsis was to keep flying in the day and have four Scotches in the evening instead of the 
usual two or three. No more than a week after the encounter I was summoned by the Base Commander in the morning just as I was stepping out 
towards No 5 Squadron for a Mirage sortie. I asked the Base Commander’s PA iff could come after the mission, he quipped back saying, “No 
sir, it is urgent and you have to see him immediately.” By this time I had become immune to unsavoury news but despite that mind- set I felt anxious 
about what was in store for me this time. I entered and saluted the Base Commander. Without uttering a word he picked up a long signal message 
from Iris tray and pushed it across asking me to see the good news. It was a postings signal with a score of innocuous postings ofjunior officers 
and some senior till I came upon the name Air Cdre Zulliqar Ali Khan, posted as Commandant of PAF Academy, Risalpur. 

I was stunned with the realization that he load been posted out after a mere 8 months stint in Sargodba; and to top it my batch mate Jamal A Khan 
bad been posted in Iris place. What the hell is going on here was the question in my mind as I looked up at him with sheer agony, feeling 
responsible for this unjust decision by Air Msbl Zalar Chaudhry. Zulliqar pursed his lips typically when lie was angry and told me to keep reading 
as there were more surprises imbedded in the long and harmless looking signal. As I browsed down, I saw my name and I may well have been 
posted to hell directly: Gp Capt Sajad Haider posted as Director Flight Safety (under ACAS-Ops, Kbaqan Abbasi), to replace Gp Capt 
Khursbid Mirza, who, wonder of wonders, was posted as Director of Plans (never having flown a fighter or bonier in war and with only a brief 
command of a fighter squadron). I looked up with a huge question mark on my lace. That is when Zulliqar told me some harsh truths. 

Zulliqar told me that it was time I knew some harsh facts which he had not revealed earlier because he could shield me from unfair basiling I was 
appalled when he told me that for some months the CAS had instructed him that I was not to be allowed to leave Sargodba on leave or weekends. 
Ibis meant that I was placed under virtual base arrest by AHQ. The reason he gave to Zulliqar was that it had been reported to him that I was 
involved in a brawl at the Rawalpindi hitercontinental Hotel’s club and that I had thrown a plate at some person Ibis was absolutely incorrect, 
because the Base Commander checked to see when I had last visited Rawalpindi I had only been to Rawalpindi once in the morning to drop-olf 
try wife when we had decided to part company. These were the only few hours I had spent leaving my wife at Col Ismail Khan’s residence before 
flying the small communication aircraft back the same afternoon Before that my last hip to Command Operations Centre bad been during the war. 
That too because I had been asked by the C-in-C to meet the IAF POWs held at the PAF recruiting centre on the Mali Since then, I bad no 
interest or reason to go to Rawalpindi as I did not have any friends or relatives there. Such were the incredible lies told by the Air Chief and Iris 
team 

Air Cdre Zulliqar also told me, to my utter surprise, that I had been under surveillance by the Field Intelligence Unit (FIU) around the clock ever 
since the changes at the PAF’s top command (much later Zulfiqar told me that both of us hid been under surveillance and our telephones tapped). 

I was appalled to hear this but refrained from further discussion on the senseless behaviour of such senior level officers. He once again offered that 
he would get me an early retirement iff agreed with Iris suggestion to avoid a bigger catastrophe which he felt certain was on the anvil 

For the second time in a week I replied, “Sir, I have served my country and the PAF with total commitment, dedication and pride. I have many 
faults and weaknesses like any human being and will never claim to be a pure and wholly innocent creature. But as far as my conduct as an officer 
and commander is concerned I have done nothing wrong, I have not embarrassed ny service by irresponsible acts or moral turpitude. Sir, they are 
accusing me of being a "renegade Haider’ without an iota of evidence of wrong doing on my part except to contort stories and twist them Please 
ask them to charge me with the smallest misconduct and if I am found guilty, then they can punish me. Their frustration stems from the fact they 
have nothing against me. Sir, 1 am not going to be bullied by them and I will take them head-on” 

Once again he listened to me with a pained expression, because he was imagining the worst for me. At the end of my passionate plea, I requested 
the Base Commander to give me a few days off because I wanted to consult ny father and seek Iris guidance, while I folly appreciated and 
respected his recommendation He knew he bad specific instructions not to letme leave Sargodba, which was a reprehensible and an illegal order. 
He told me to go ahead and take whatever time I needed, since the posting was totake effect a few weeks later. I told him that 1 would pack up 
ny few belongings right away and move to Peshawar on time to enter the Coliseum and face the toothless lions. I told him that I would leave ny 
contact with his PA. 

I called ny father at Quetta and spoke with him about ny predicament and Zulfiqar’ s advice to take a retirement. He asked me if I had any 
misgivings about facing the threat. I replied in the negative and assured him that it was a consequence of sheer envy and vindictiveness. My lather 
paused and said, ‘Then you must fight on and we will pray for your absolution from Allah even though you have not committed any grave 
indiscipline”. His words were divinely guided and I felt a surge of energy which acted like a tranquilizer. Akbar Bugti hid visited ny father a few 
days after ny call and ny lather had narrated ny desolation to Akbar Bugti, who was like a son to him Akbar Bugti told him that Bhutto had been 
trying to meet him about the govemorship/chief minister- ship of Baluchistan, which be was not inclined to accept as he did not trust ZAB but added 
that he knew that he would get to meet him sooner or later. He assured ny father that this would be the first issue he would discuss with him when 
they met. 

Meanwhile, I asked Zulfiqar Ali Khan for a weeks leave to go to Karachi and meet ny friend Ali Afiidi for some catharsis from all the tension 
obtaining in the work environment and also to consult with him on ny future course of action. On the last day of ny leave I was contacted by my 
office from Sargodha, and infomned that I had been invited to a dinner for the President of Pakistan at the Punjab Governor House two days later. 

I cannot recall the date, but the news came as a wisp of fresh breeze in the sultry atmosphere. That same day, the news spread like wild fire that 
Nawab Akbar Khan Bugti bad accepted the Governorship of Baluchistan. Ali thought this was Divine intervention and helped me get a seat on 
PIA to Lahore the same afternoon. We tried to connect the events and felt that Akbar Bugti night have spoken to ZAB as he bad promised. That 



timed out to be true. 


As soon as I reached Lahore I called my father to inform him about the invitation to the Governor House. He said that this was a good portent and 

1 should call Akbar Bugti and thank him and that he also wanted to speak with him about his recent appointment. I contacted Akbar Bugti the next 
morning after his residence gave me the telephone number at Governor House, Quetta. He was in the conference room at that time and his staff 
officer took my telephone number and said that they would connect me as soon as he got back to his office. Within an hour, I got a call from the 
Baluchistan Governor House. Akbar Bugti told me he had already mentioned to my lather that morning that the first thing he discussed with ZAB 
was my situation, to which ZAB told him that he knew me (pronouncing my name as Hy-der) and in lact had met me at Sargodha not so long ago, 
and that I should have spoken to him about the problems at that time. Akbar Bugti said that ZAB had assured him that he would take up the matter 
with the Air Chief very soon 

By the time I arrived at the Punjab Governor House, I was oozing with confidence, hoping that the stormmay well recede with Akbar Bugti’s 
intervention, especially because I had done no wrong and was being witch hunted for no rhyme or reason Hiere was a lot of brass and top elite in 
the big Durbar Hall as I entered the Governor House congregation venue. The first person I recognized as he walked towards me was Rafi Raza, 
one of ZAB’ s most trusted proteges who was well known to me. He took me by the annand steered me away from the gentry present in the 
Durbar Hall and told me, ‘Hey Nosy, your problems are going to be over; the boss (ZAB) sent for the Air Chief this afternoon and gave him 
something to think about; he will lay-off you and stop harassing you”. I suggested to Rafi Raza that the best solution would be to send me on a 
posting abroad for few years so that I could stay out of the Air Chiefs gun sight. Rafi told me that I should not worry, a solution would be found 
for me soon even though the Air Chief was veiy distraught when the Boss asked him why he had not carried out the instructions of Mr Aziz 
Ahmed, Minister of State for Defence, when he was told to post you away from AHQ in a suitable command position He said that the “Air Chief 
tried to belly ache about his authority being undennined by the interference of MOD, but he was told to post you out to an appropriate post”. 

Words cannot describe my sense of relief at hearing this, but not without a lingering feeling that as long as I was within shooting distance of the Air 
Chief it was not going to be ftm As we stood talking, Mustafe Khar, Governor at that time, also entered the hall and made a bee-line for Rafi Raza 
where we were standing. As he came close, he addressed me and said, “Bhai, aap ki mushkil khatam ho jaye gi, big boss ne Zafer Cbaudhry 
ko sakhti se memo kia hai ke aap ko tung na karey, laikin baat filhal apne paas hi rakhy’e, Rafi Raza aur mein bhi wahan moujood thay 
(Y our problems are over but keep it to yourself that the big boss has sternly told Zafer Chaudhry, in the presence of Rafi Raza and me, to stop 
harassing you)”. This was a double whammy as fer as my state of mind was concerned, yet the lurking thought of going back to AHQ was even 
more chilling. The real bonanza came when ZAB made his entrance. He had walked to the middle of the hall and was instantly surrounded by the 
guests. About 10 minutes later, he spotted me in the fer comer and called out loudly, ‘Hy-der, come here”. I briskly walked towards him and 
greeted him in the military convention He said, ‘Hy-der, Akbar Bugti spoke to me about your problem. Why didn’t you tell me about the goings- 
on? 1 especially asked you at Sargodha to come and see me.” And then he said something that remains wedged in the recesses of my mind. He 
lifted his right arm up, and pointing at me he said ‘Hyder, as long as I’m the President of Pakistan, nobody can raisea finger at you; and yes, I have 
spoken to your Air Chief You should go back and don’t worry, no hann will be allowed to come to you”. 

Amongst the ladies surrounding the President, one I suspected, might have been the wife of the Intelligence Chief Mufti Air Mshl AzimDaudpota I 2 
, my colleague and a friend reminded me in October 2006 that he was standing right behind President Bhutto at that moment and remembered the 
incident exactly as narrated here. The news apparently travelled back at lightning speed. 

A few minutes after this encounter, dinner was announced and every one moved to the dinner table and that is where I spotted Air Cdre Zulfiqar in 
the fer comer; I dashed up to him and excitedly asked him if he knew what had happened. He was at a distance from where he could not witness 
ZAB’ s exhortation but could see him talking to me. He asked me what ZAB had said. As everybody was moving towards the long buffet table, I 
quickly recounted what had happened. He jovially asked if I had seen the Director of Air Intelligence (DAI) amongst the guests. I said no, and 
asked, “Is he here, sir?” He replied in the affirmative and nodded towards the table and said there he was on the fer end of the table. I could see 
the hunch backed figure of the DAI. I said, “Sir, for sure he knows what the President has said and must be suffering discomfiture and is restless to 
get back to report to his Chief because now it occurs to me that the woman I noticed standing with ZAB when he addressed me was Mufti’s 
wife”. I thought to myself that even though the CAS had been instructed personally by ZAB, the feet that he had made it known to me publicly, 
would hit the PAF like a sledge hammer. Undoubtedly there would be a strong reaction The Base Commander asked me to get back to Sargodha 
the next morning and meet him in his office. 

2 In 2006, Omar Daudpota had an air force re-union for his father. During the evening, taking a trip down memory lane, AM Daudpota mentioned to me that he was 
standing right behind ZA Bhutto and heard every word he had uttered. 


This incident characterized ZAB outside the labyrinth of politics. He must have had compassion for the underdog A version of this episode is 
narrated by Air Mshl Zafer Chaudhry in his book Kitch Din Aur Saal Air Force Ke Sath . However, his version is pure fiction and belies the 
truth Both Mustafe Khar and Rafi Raza are still around and living testimony to the real event. In his book Zafer Chaudhry’ s narrative about 
meeting Bhutto at the Governor House and the story about being told by Aziz Ahmed to post a particular officer out from AHQ was this author. 3 

I realty could not eat as I had lost my appetite in the excitement of the sensational happenings that evening. The protocol demanded that all the 

guests must remain until ZAB and the Governor had left the Durbar Hall I drove back to Sargodha early the next morning and arrived at the Base 
Commander’s office at 1 000 Hrs. He was not present in the office when I arrived and his PA asked me to take a seat because the Base 
Commander had gone for flying but should be back any minute. I told him that I would go back to my office and that he should call me as soon as 

the Base Commander was back, unless I met himin33 Wing. After half an hour I got a call from the PA, who said that the Base Commander 
wanted me in Iris office rig) it away. I drove to his office immediately, entered and saluted him He had his usual smile, “So young man, you think 
you’ve won the battle?” 


“I amnot too sure”, I told him and expressed my apprehension about my future at AHQ. He said philosophically, ‘You have only won a battle, but 
you have to be prepared for the war; don’t let your guard down even for a minute because now they will definitely go all out to manipulate a 
situation and chase you like a wounded predator”. I left Iris office wondering what late had in store for me, but my feith in Divine justice was strong 
and intact. I still had some days to report to my new posting, so I busied myself flying as much as 1 could, (caring the worst that this may be my last 
chance to be on active Hying. At the end of January, the Wing gave me a ferewell and presented me with a very nice silver box. 1 made a 
passionate ferewell speech and advised every one present that there are good times and not such good times. Ibis was a time of greater test for 
them than any war. I suggested they stand fest and concentrate only on their profession and keep their personal lives happy and peaceful. Nothing 
is permanent in life except change and that is nature’s way of putting us mortals through trials and tribulations. 1 said a sad goodbye to Sargodba, 
where 1 had fought the war and lived a foil, enjoyable life until the Sword of Damocles hung over my head. 

1 arrived at Peshawar in February 1973 and stayed in the Officers’ Mess before finding residence in University Town The objective of living so fer 
away from the AHQ was to keep as fer away from the DAI, Mufti, and his sleuths, who in any case would be hounding me, but at least they 
would have to travel a long way and be conspicuous on the deserted roads of University Town 1 spent some days trying to grasp the requirements 
of staff work with the help of Wg Cdr NA Khan, an outstanding officer and a gentleman, along with the technical officers posted in the directorate. 
1 told NA Khan that we must change the paradigms of flight safety concepts and make it a meaningful exercise. 1 thought for hours about how to 
effect changes, because Flight Safety Directorate had become a mere statistical entity, only visible during the inter- base flight safety reviews. It 
suddenly caught my attention that the manner in which an accident was investigated by the Accident Investigation Board (ALB) was intimidating 
The defect that 1 discerned was that an accident was probed with the primary focus of apportioning blame to the pilot. This had created a lurking 
fear in the minds of pilots to an extent that when the aircraft developed a serious malfunction in the air and an instant decision had to be made as to 
the handling of the emergency, the pilot’ s mind was invaded by the fear of the ALB. I decided to make a resolute effort to bring about a change in 
the psyche of the pilots, ft was a major task and would need a policy change at the highest level 

3 Kutch Din Aur Saal Air Force Ke Sath by Air Mshl Zafar Chaudhry. 

1 sent up the final draft to the ACAS (Ops) Kbaqan Abbasi and had also marked the file for the CAS, with detailed comments about pilots 
suffering anxiety of investigation and the inevitable blame instead of handling the emergency to their best ability. 1 had recommended that the 
Directorate of Flight Safety be allowed to check on selective accident inquiries to cany out a study of how to restore the confidence of pilots in the 
A1B. Happily, when the file came back, 1 noticed that the ACAS (Ops) had made no remarks, except “Seen” and initialled it. But it was a pleasant 
surprise to see comments in green ink in the margin by the CAS; these were encouraging remarks, as well as the approval for the accident 
investigation synopsis and the suggestion for including an Urdu version in the pamphlet. 1 had drawn the attention of my superiors to one of the 
articles written by me, which focused on ‘Pilot’s psyche in an emergency and the role ofthe ALB”. L asked NA Khan to make a summary ofall 
incidents and accidents, in which the onus of blame had been placed on the pilot in the last six months. 

When a pilot was blamed for an accident, it made a damaging impact on his career as well as depriving him of his Green Endorsement, which was 
a kind ofreward from the C-in-C/CAS for flying every 500 accident-free hours. I had the proud privilege ofhaving 5 Green endorsements and the 
6 th one was on the way. Also during my command of No 19 Squadron as well as No 33 Wing, we had virtually accident free years. We won the 
Flight Safety Trophy during my command. Much more than all this, during the 1 965 War, we had flown 57 1 operational missions without the loss 
of a pilot or an aircraft. This was the only squadron that had such a unique distinction Consequently, L Kid practically lived with the widest 
spectrum of flight safety and had developed a philosophy that a high grade mission accomplishment had to be planned with a finely tuned balance 
between operational mission optimization and flight safety, without comprising either aspect. 

One fine morning, sometime after my arrival, 1 was asked by the Personal Staff Officer (PSO) to the Chief of Air Staff (CAS) to come to his office 
at 1300 Hrs. Every body knew that Air Mshl Zafer Chaudhry Kid gone through a painful operation for the removal of his piles, so 1 wondered ifhe 
was already in the office so soon after the episode. Sure he was there but not in the chair behind his desk. Instead, I saw him in a chair reclining 
almost 30 degrees from the horizontal with a wheeled briefing stand across his chair, with some papers on it. He started by saying (words to the 
effect, considering the time elapsed), “Haider, you have a good record as a fighter pilot and there should be no reason why you should not occupy 
that chair (pointing at Iris desk and meaning Iris chair). However, there are things that you ought to know that need to be rectified if you want to 
make a career of the air force. Your idiosyncrasies and your lifestyle are incompatible with the service traditions of sobriety and decorum There 
should be no need for an officer of your rank and status to seek redress through political channels. The service provides with a clear prerogative to 
address your grievances to your superiors and you can raise the level right to the highest authority, if you are not redressed”. 

At this moment, I knew I had never laced such hypocrisy before. He went on with his admonishing pep- talk for long enough that Iris mouthwent 
dry and he had to take sips of water several times from the glass in front of him At that moment, I almost felt empathy for him as a Chief dealing 
witffi non-entity Group Captain and becoming dry in his mouth as he tried to run me down. Clearly, he lacked conviction in what he was accusing 
me off because all of it came at the behest of ACAS (Ops) Khaqan Abbasi from snoops working for or in tandem with the frail- minded Director 
of Intelligence. Special mention was deserved by the telecom snoop who was a debauch and pathologically corrupt person and had been assigped 
to monitor all the perceived detractors ofthe Air Chief and Khaqan Abbasi 

The Air Chiefs thrust was about my social behaviour and his main attack was about me having too many civilian friends and that my interaction 
with these friends was more than with my PAF colleagues. He also censured me for my influence on the young pilots and too much freedom and 
laxity on discipline of those under my command. Also my manner of dressing and fondness for haute-couture was un-service like. His nest serious 
complaint came from what he described as my over confidence and arrogance, especially when dealing with the senior officers. My mind was 
churning lice a turbine wheel at 100% power and was hying to decide whether to respond and how to respond when he finished. It seemed like an 
eternity as he went on and on listing my failings and the reports he had been receiving for years. Finally, when his invective ended, he asked me 
looking some what tired “Do you have anything to say”? 


First I thought of saying nothing but that would not be me, pussy looting out. My riposte was short and crisp, “Sir, it is strange to hear that my 
grievances could be redressed through the proper channels. You should know that all escape routes have been shut for me. Air Cdre Ghulam 
Flaider was pressurized by the VCAS to change his assessment given to me in my P-57 (Annual Confidential Report) in the end of January this 
year, prior to his posting to AHQ. He was censured severely for recommending me for the gallantry award of a second Sitara-e- Jurat. Surety, he 
being a simple Simon had little choice but to oblige. Then, it was the ACAS (Ops) who hied to brow- beat my Base Commander to give me an 
adverse report. Fortunately, Air Cdre Zulfiqar could not be coerced and I believe that the special report about me was against the AHQ’s 
expectations. All these events have made me think which authority could I expect justice from when my VCAS refers to me as a bastard and 
ACAS (Ops) travels to Sargodba to intimidate my Base Commander into wilting an adverse report on me and threatens to break my teeth for 
being critical of high command? Uiere was no hope of defending my dignity and career, except to approach the highest authority, the Defence 
Minister, who happens to be the President olPakistaa It was a Hobson’s choice for me. That’ s all I have to say, sir”. 

He seemed riled at my response and said, ‘Haider, have no illusions about yourself I can throw you out of the air force in 24 hours if I so decide”. 
I grimaced and said, “So be it sir. Respectfiilty, may I have your pennission to leave”. He responded, ‘Yes, you may go” (meaning, “Get the hell 
out of my sight”). All this time I had not a clue that I was supposed to have been posted out of AHQ by the orders of Mr Aziz Ahmed. 

I returned to my office dispirited for the first time, but not in despair. I called Wg Cdr NA Khan and shared with him my experience with the CAS. 
He sounded his concern and asked, “What exactly do they have against you, because what you just told me is largely hearsay and even then does 
not constitute any offence”. I told him that the most serious criticism by the CAS was about my life style, and criticism of senior officers. In lact, 
what was bugging them was that the President had intervened and they felt hapless for the time being, until they could bring a major charge against 
me, which even the President would not be able to waive-offi I was always psychic and sometimes it terrified me, when I saw my premonitions 
come true. 

I decided to try' my best at rryjob and get on with what I was meant to do. NA Khan had prepared a summary of the accidents and incidents, 
where pilots were blamed. Alter a detailed synopsis, I picked on one accident, in which one of the finest PAF pilots, Fit Lt Tariq Habib bad been 
blamed for retracting his nosegear as he was about to taxi out in an F-86. Something was not right about the narrative of the investigation and I 
decided to ask for the investigation file from the AIB, which was headed by Wg Cdr MS Baig who had been our engineering officer during the 
Attacker days, in No 11 Squadron; Wg Cdr Mubariz was the pilot on Baig’s team Tlie investigation was successfully completed in a week and 
sure enough it was a technical malfunction, not Tariq Habib’s lault. We started to prepare a summary and by the next morning it had been sent to 
the attention of ACAS (Ops) as well as the CAS. I had sent a file to the ACAS (Ops) with a request that I may be allowed to visit bases and 
check the flight safety aspects during a major air exercise, which was scheduled for next week and almost the entire Ops branch was leaving 
AHQ. The ACAS (O) refused my request out right and curtly remarked, “Stay here and do your job, you have done enough flying”. So I let it go 
at that. 

Then one day NA Khan came to discuss some issue with me when he asked me if I had heard the comments made by some one in AHQ about 
the Tariq Habib case. I answered in the negative. He said that a rumour was doing the rounds that by probing into Tariq Habib’s accident, I was 
trying to instigate the pilot community agqinst the policies of the Air Staff for the calloushandling of aircraft investigations which are aimed at always 
blaming the pilots. I just looked at him and thought to myself that damned if I do it, and damned if I don’t. 

A Vulgar Threat 

Soon after the newly conceptualized flight safety pamphlet had been printed and circulated, I was called in by the ACAS (Ops) Kliaqan AbbasL I 
thought he was going to comment on the ideas floated by me about flight safety. I was overly optimistic. As I entered his office he started lecturing 
me about good behaviour, and did not ask me to take a chair, like I was being tried on a charge. He told me that it was a great opportunity for me 
to prove my worth as Director Flight Safety since I was the most experienced fighter pilot who was current on all fighters. He wasn’t fooling me 
with his hypocritical hyperbole. I took him head on saying, “Sir, it would strike any fair commander in the PAF as odd to post an officer in the 
most combat sensitive assignment as the Director of Plans, who is the least experienced in operational flying. Iras not even qualified for the Fighter 
Leaders Course and has little to boast about Iris perfomrance during war and Iras commanded a Squadron only as a carrot given out by a 
sympathetic boss. How can I accept that my experience makes me suitable for a Flight Safety appointment while the other, who hasn’t seen the 
cockpit of a fighter or bomber aircraft during tire two wars, is qualified to make future war plans for the PAF?” My tone was bitter and sarcastic. 

He became himself very swiftly and said, “As long as you are in nry Directorate you had better keep your mouth shut and do what you are told 
or”, he made a gesture with his right forefinger slicing across his tongue; meaning that if I did not heed Iris warning, ny tongue would be severed. 
Continuing Iris salvo he warned, “It is time and an opportunity for you to clean your slate and start afresh”. Tire monrent he paused, 1 shot back at 
him, “Sir, it is your slate that needs cleaning, mine has been pristine clear and I have served the PAF with my life”. Someone should have been 
there to see Iris expression; he could have strangled me if he had the physical or the moral strength. 

I did not despair and rather derived some extra courage from the encounter and felt that nry honour and dignity must stay on top of ny priorities in 
life. I was not going to be brow-beaten by a man who was held in contempt for his forked tongue by the majority in the PAF fighler/bomber force. 
He dismissed me by saying, “I think you will never learn”. I returned to ny office and sat down to reflect upon the uncalled for confrontation 
perpetratedby this vituperative and vindictive person I wondered why he had opened the Pandora’s Box, especially after tire CAS had already 
given me a piece of Iris mind. Evidently, tire high command had been receiving information about the severe criticism that echoed in the AHQ in the 
mornings and at ny house in tire evenings. Wlrat they did not lactor into their plans for nre was the simple lact that what goes around comes around 
like a boomerang. 


16 



ATTOCK CONSPIRACY 


One day early morning, I was called by Gp Capt NA Klian and was advised to report directly to the PAF cinema tell lor an important address. I 
was puzzled to say the least, because this was a very unusual kind of a venue. When I arrived at the cinema hall, I met MM Alam first and asked 
ten if he knew what was going on He told me that something big ted happened but he had not been able to put his finger on it. We both walked 
into the tell and he went off in one direction and 1 in another to occupy a seat. At the assigned time, Air Vice MsM Rab N awaz, the AC AS 
(Admin) addressed the gathering. He disclosed that a conspiracy to overthrow the elected and legitimate government of Pakistan ted been 
unearthed and several arrests have been made from within the PAF besides other services. He informed us that several other officers may be 
called in for the investigation of this serious event but only those who were directly' or indirectly involved would be detained. 

He gave us some more details but the news hit eveiyone like a bludgeon At the end of this sensational disclosure, Air Vice Mshl Nawaz asked if 
anybody ted questions. There were not many because eveiyone seemed quite shaken and apprehensive. Only Alam and myself asked a question 
or rather, expressed our apprehension We both asked that since there had been lot of witch-hunting in the PAF recently, this may well be used to 
frame those not involved, especially those who ted differences with the air force leadership. Air Vice Mshl Nawaz assured us that no victimization 
would be done and that the investigations would be very thorough and above board. Nobody needed to wony about this major happening as long 
as there was no involvement. Everybody returned to their place of work pretty shaken up. 

As I entered the AHQ I saw my batch- mate Air Cdre Arshad in the veranda looking veiy busy and anxious. Walking up to him I asked Arshad 
what the hell was going on He gave ire a very wishy-washy answer but did tell me that some of the senior lot from Sargodha Base ted been 
involved in the dangerous conspiracy. I asked him who they were, but he excused himself saying he ted to go to Shorkot and Sargodha on a 
mission Soonl found out that he was assigned the job to collect the suspected officers and bring item to AHQ. That day seemed like doomsday 
at AHQ. The hierarchy was busy celebrating in an eerie way, for this was then- opportunity to sort out all the sceptics and critics of their repressive 
leadership, who ted caused them sleepless nights. 

In tire next few days, lamiliar names started to pop-up. Wg Cdr Hasten and Sqn Ldr Ghaus were the first two areested, blind folded and taken to 
Attack Fort. Gp Capt Sikandar, a good officer, was also blindfolded and brought fromKaracffi. It was a chilling realization for many, except tire 
ones who were in tire inner circle. Slowly, many other officers stalled disappearing from tlrcir place of work and did not return home either. There 
was mayhem, tire like of which nobody could have imagined, hi the coming weeks nearly 1 00 officers were taken to interrogation centres and 
some unusual methods were applied to extract information. The list was so blatant and appalling because it contained the names of tire very best in 
tire PAF . MM Alam, Azim Daudpota, Arif Manzoor (brought in from Damascus, I think) and Arif Iqbal were taken for interrogation, their self 1 
esteem tom to pieces. Since none of tire officer class ted imagined being in such a quandary, they were not prepared for the psychological and 
physical indigirities they were subjected to. Only hardened criminals could withstand such techniques of investigation and extraction of confessions. 
Finally, about 14 plus were committed to solitary confinement preceding their confessions extracted under duress and the lowest form of black- 
mail These confessions were a prelude to the summary of evidence for charges to be flamed against the accused prior to tire Court- MartiaL 

Many in the country felt a sense of doom and gloom but particularly the kith and kin of the accused officers who felt helpless because of the gave 
circumstances of tire case. What became the biggest casualty even from the very beginning, was the mutual trust between officers of tire anned 
forces, an indispensable ingredient for esprit de corps. Every one felt like a potential suspect, in terror of being arrested. Our closest comrades in 
ann also became overly cautious because the criterion for arrest was laneifuL All that the needed was even a single contact between 1 lashmi and 
Ghaus and any colleague they met, after the conspiracy was unearthed months earlier. The numbers multiplied over the months. A more sensible 
and halfway patriotic leadership could have nipped tire problem the moment the names of Wg Cdr Hashmi and Sqn Ldr Ghaus were made known 
by the ISI. The image and well earned reputation of the entire service should have been protected but it was turned into a vicious vendetta by the 
AHQ team at tire alter ego of personal prestige. In addition, the leadership may have thought that it was a devil given opportunity to prove their 
loyalty to the Prime Minister and prove to ten that the few miscreants involved in denigrating the Air Chief during the March fly-past were the real 
culprits in planning a coup against Bhutto. 

In several cases, even close relations, not to speak of life time friends, stayed away from those arrested and did not want to be identified with 
them Hie conspiracy was directed against ZAB and his cabinet members who ted come to power as a populist party after the horrendous years 
of Martial Law. The existence of the coup was reported by the Amy Chief Gen Tikka Khan, a Bhutto disciple. This was Zalar Chaudhry’s 
defining moment. 

I was, to say the least, terribly concerned keeping in view the events of recent weeks. There was a colossal metamorphosis in the PAF and mutual 
mistrust and intrigue spawned like weed. If memory serves me right, the conspiracy had been unearthed in the month of March but only the Amy 
Chief Gen Tikka Khan and the ISI Chief Gen Ghulam Jillani Khan were aware of it. Tlie PAF leadership was made aware after most of the 
suspects from the amy ted been arrested. I came to know later that the CAS was informed about this conspiracy with the involvement of only 
two officers at that time. During the trial we learnt many tilings, which I prefer to include here to keep the sequence rather than to go into deeper 
details of the ensuing Court- MartiaL 

The CAS ordered the perpetually nervous Gp Capt Mufti to start surveying everyone who ted been contacted by Ghaus and Hasten. Although 
tlie operation started as early as March it was kept top secret and no arrests were made. As already mentioned, their unholy objective was to 
bring eveiyone into the net who ted been on their black list. Indeed, this was a long list. Sqn Ldr Ghaus was a C- 1 30 Captain, therefore his duties 
took ten to every base in Pakistan and at times even abroad, where PAF contingents were assigned to different Arab countries. Ghaus ted many 
friends and course mates and the fool that he was, when he was on the C- 1 30 round- robin sorties between the bases, he went out of his way to 
meet all tlie disgruntled pilots at all the fighter bases of Pakistan. He was being trailed in the air and on the ground by Mufti’s organisation Hie 
same was true of Hashmi as revealed during tlie CourtMartiaL These officers had been contacted by the master-minds of the conspiracy, Brig FB 
Ali and Col Aleem Aftkfi, both considered to be outstanding officers and ted been instrumental in Yabya Khan’s removaL 



Bhutto, instead of appreciating their cardinal role in the removal of a dictator and bringing him in, made them targets and removed from the service. 
Soon they had become disillusioned with ZAB’s modus operand i and attempted a coup d’etat. Besides several young army officers they recruited 
I lashnii and Gliaus from the PAF and encouraged them to widen their net to include highly reliable and dependable detractors of the Government 
and those critical of Bhutto’s policies. A large part of the PAF operational command, especially the nid- level officer's, bad no truck with the 
government per se but harboured serious grudges against the Air Chief and his cabal and thus became susceptible to luring by Gbaus and HaslrmL 
They merely wanted a change in the PAF high command. 

In feet, the target of the master minds was Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto and his cabinet including the Governor's and Chief Ministers. Consequently, the PAF 
involvement with the main conspirators was limited to Gliaus andHashni; the remainders were essentially afier the PAF leadership. Meanwhile, a 
long list was being compiled by the Director of Air Intelligence (Wabeed Mufii) of officers being contacted by ffashmi and Gbaus. The latter had 
flown to Jeddah and reportedly also to Tripoli. Both countries had huge contingents of PAF officers serving as advisor's. Fie made it a point to 
discuss the details of “something big” happening soon and tried to seduce the officers he was able to contact to join in the affair, which he imagined 
to be a revolution Some of these accused were definitely involved in the conspiracy, and their motivation lorjoining tine renegade army group of 
conspirators was neither Bhutto nor the PAF leadership, but they saw little foture in the PAF through the professional ladder, so they chose to ride 
high on a blimp, not realising it could burst easily. For them this was a short-cut to reach the top echelons. 

It should be understood that the general morale of the PAF had been shattered by the wrong priorities of the high command soon afier the ugly 
event of misbehaviour during the Pakistan Day fly-past. Many officersdid not care about the higher political vistas of the masterminds; they only 
wanted to see a change in the top leadership of the PAF. This, therefore, became the soil belly of the PAF. A dark shadow seemed to permeate 
the hearts and minds of this gallant air force owing to the vengefiil witch-hunting by a handful at the top. Tlie consequences became debilitating 
because the opportunity was exploited for personal gain by the Air Chief and his cronies. Air Mshl Zafer Cbaudhry told an angry President, “You 
see sir, didn’t I tell you that there were a few miscreants and I will sort them out.” These words were noted by the President and written in his own 
hand writing on a file with the ISI, which Iliad seen with my own eyes. It pains me to once again bring the PAF’s official history (1988) into focus, 
which in its wisdom shifted tlie entire blame on tlie DAI who was just a quisling and following orders. Hie book ignores all tlie infinnities committed 
by the CAS, his Vice Chief and tlie main instigator, Kliaqan Abbasi 

Mufti was too insignificant and an officer with shaky credentials to bear' the burden of such a colossal event. I believe that neither Zalar Cbaudhry 
nor Saeedullah had the capacity for such high intrigue as became evident, which left only Kliaqan Abbasi folly capable and competent to create a 
spider’s web around his own operational service, jeopardizing the sterling reputation of the PAF. AHQ had become a cesspit of high intrigue 
disguised under the euphemism of “we need to save tlie PAF’s reputation” There was little time or energy devoted to the daunting challenges and 
deficiencies in the operational effectiveness caused by the ominous post- 1971 War events. Hie airmen had rebelled at Drigh Road, Manipur, 
Korangi and elsewhere. Hie catalyst of their disobedience and refosal to eat then' meals had been the recall of the Ferozpur Mirage strike by 
Saeedullah Khan, which snowballed into a serious mutinous situation Hie morale of the officers had been shattered owing to the general sense of 
mayhem which pervaded tlie PAF. 

Within the next two weeks, a spectre of terror was let loose mercilessly with such vengeance and terrible consequences that even our arch enemy 
could not have inflicted this upon tlie PAF. When I heard tlie name of Wg Cdr M Sikander (once my OC Flying Wing and an outstanding fighter 
pilot and an officer with great presence) being arrested, I immediately told people that this was the beginning of a virtual genocide of gallant fighter 
pilots, most ofthem with Sitara-e- Jurats pinned on their chests. Sikander bad been a victim of AC AS (Ops) vituperative targeting for a longtime 
and everybody in tlie PAF knew that just because Sikander could stand his ground and look them in the eye, he bad become their prey. He was 
given the most demeaning posting of being in- charge of air guard establishment at PAF detachment Mali'. These air guards flew on PIA flights to 
deter hijacking. He was bashed about for no valid reason and that put his back against the wall just like me. This is how they turned perfectly good 
and sane people into dangerous renegades. 

In all 40 officers, mostly lighter pilots, many from Sargodha and especially the ones suspected of cat-calls dining the previous year’s fly-past were 
arrested like dangerous criminals, manacled, blind- folded and humiliatingly dragged into transports and shoved on aircraft to be brought to 
Peshawar. Hie old block at tlie Peshawar Officers’ Mess was cleared to put each suspect in oneroom, considering that not even a court of iiquiry 
or summary of evidence bad been held. This was a reprehensible way to treat officers, most of whom proved to be innocent. One ofthem became 
an Air Marshal later in tlie PAF and some made it to the rank of Air Commodore. Harsh methods were used and air force officers put in charge of 
tlie investigations. Two particular officers, one from the air force commandos, a reprehensible character called Sqn Ldr CA Waheed (alias 
‘Kukkar’, meaning a rooster), became tlie blue-eyed boy of the leadership; the other was the afore-nientioned spook from electronic intelligence, 
whose whole life bad been spent snooping on service officers and debauchery in his free time. He made millions through graft and kick-backs 
during a certain period when the PAF purchased electronic intelligence and counter measure equipments from an Italian electronic company called 
Electronica and two used Falcons to carry tlie equipment. 

Like blood- hounds, these two were given carte-blanche to use any methods to extract confessions from the amested officers and if they could not 
get any, then they were to cook-up confessions in tlie office of the DAI and use any terrifying method to obtain the signatures of the incarcerated 
officers. One lias to understand tlie psyche of tlie arrested officers; they lived a life of glory and were not hardened criminals, who could resist tlie 
tactics of these two animals in PAF uniform One particular incident became known to nie and the others one day. CA Waheed and his associate 
bad taken Sikander blind- folded andbandcuffed with a long chain, to a house where pilots like Sqn Ldr Pervez (fonner ADC to Air Mshl Rahim 
Khan), and some others were being detained. They bad been asked to write then' confessions and confirm then' meeting with Gliaus and Hashmi 
with intent to conspire, advising them if they did not, they would be subjected to the treatment which they would witness later that afternoon 

This house was a barrack- like structure with rooms next to each other and a long veranda with a gravel driveway. At the promised time, they 
brought Gp Capt Sikander blind- folded. The long end of tlie chain was held by CAWaheed, who manipulated it in a way that Sikander tripped 
over a projection and fell Waheed dragged him within tlie view of the young officers, watching from little holes in their covered window panes. It 



mist tei vc been a terrifying scene to see their former OC Flying Wing with a Sitara-e- Jurat, being heated so disgracefully by a third-rate officer. 
Obviously, the tactic worked and the confessions were signed alter modifications by the DAI under the instructions of Khaqan Abbasi to ensure 
that the confessions were coiroborativc. All these were typed at the DATs office on PAF stationary and by his typists (I received this information 
from the horse’s mouth and it was this disclosure, which became an instrument for the defence lawyers and the straw that broke the camel’s back). 
Talking about Sikander, I am reminded of one morning sometime earlier; he had peeped into my office at AHQ and stood chatting for a few 
minutes. Fie was livid with Khaqan Abbasi and the CAS for humiliating him and told me that 1 was lucky to still be in the mainstream and that one 
day he would teach Khaqan Abbasi a lesson. Unfortunately for him, he became the hunted and Abbasi the hunter. 

Some weeks later, I was almost catapulted out of my cliair one morning when tlx; AC'AS (Ops) called me on the intercom and said, “Haider, I 
think you need a break, I want you to go for the Mirage ferry to France and bring back 4 aircraft. You can go to Sargodba and do a check ride 
and some instrument flying, TACAN let-downs because the weather in Europe and en route can get very murky.” I could not help but say, “Sir, 
are you serious orpulling my leg”, considering he had tried to give me a drubbing not long ago and bad reiused to let me visit bases during the 
exercise just recently. He said, “I am serious but if you don’t feel like going, then tell me.” I wouldn’t have missed the opportunity for anything. It 
was April when I went to Sargodba and my log book reflects two instrument flying missions, a check- ride and one night strike on Rafiqui Base. 
Tariq Habib was one of the pilots selected to go with me, which pleased me because I had a lot of respect for his professional competence. We 
arrived at Bordeaux in France onboard a C- 130, which was our support aircraft. The ferry went well except that I was to discover later the real 
reason for getting me out of Pakistan for a little while to wire-up my house when I was away. 

Botched Frame-Up 

Upon return I was appalled to discover through my friends in the ISI that while I was away my house had been bugged and cautioned that 1 should 
be careful as the Air Chief and his team were after my blood to involve me in the conspiracy come hell or high water. Great news, I thought. There 
comes a time in one’s life when you are against a bard rock and deep blue sea and only Divine intervention can rescue you. So that is how I 
conditioned myself for the worst case scenario to be the fell guy. Meanwhile, life bad to go on and with all the trimmings but without the trepidation 
of being hounded. The arrests had been completed (so I thought), and some of the best officers and fighter pilots and commanders bad been 
rounded-up, including several flown in from the Middle- East, where they were on exchange postings. We heard that their confessions werebeing 
extracted with terrible provocations and intimidation as well as torture. 

Legally, the confessions were required to be recorded by a magistrate in his office and declared voluntary by him and then stamped to validate the 
confession It may sound preposterous, but a magistrate was brought from the tribal belt, where he was working under a political agent who in turn 
was a subordinate to my friend Omar Khan Afiidi, the Interior Secretary for the N WFP. The magistrate had been purportedly given a commitment 
personally by the CAS that he would be rewarded if he cooperated without any resistance with the DAI, Sibtain and Waheed and other 
investigators. It was this magistrate who under direct provocation from the CAS, yet against all moral ethics, agreed to sign all the confessions 
without questioning their validity and confonnity with the law. For this heinous collusion he was provided an air-conditioned office at Badaber with 
all the facilities. 

The very first evening after the arrests were made, Lt Col Sarwar (1 am not sure of the name), in charge of the ISI safe-house at Pesteiwar, sent a 
message from the DG ISI for me through one of his officers Arbab Fateh, who was my friend. The message he conveyed was that the DG wanted 
me to feel relaxed because all the intelligence agencies and the ISI knew that I had no involvement of any kind with the conspiracy. This was a 
tremendous relief for me because the vile behaviour of the leadership towards me, as well as their recent history of gunning for me, bad caused 
apprehensions in my mind. lifts was to be a chance of their life time to flume me in this conspiracy and kill all the birds with one stone since the 
conspirators bad planned to over throw ZAB and his government. 

After I heard about Sikander’ s anguish, it fuelled my rage and I became vociferous in condemning the leadership openly and especially in front of 
their ignoble coteries. I made a resolve that I was going to disregard niceties and make known the disgraceful conduct of CA Waheed and the 
other snoop, if I ran into them. As though someone up there was hearing me, one morning I went to see Saad Hattift (who bad served with me as 
Flight Commander in No 1 9 Squadron at Mauripur and was a good friend) in the Ops Directorate, to give vent to my rage and anguish As I 
entered his office, I almost did not believe my eyes. Waheed and lfis intelligence snoop were in Saad’s office. As they saw me, they stood up and 
greeted me. 1 did not acknowledge their greeting, instead I addressed Saad Hatmi and said, “Saad, did you hear what the investigating bastards 
did to Sikander by dragging him with a chain? You know I want them to know that one day, I will make shoes out of their putrid hide.” 

At that point, CA Waheed spoke in such a humble tone that if I did not know him, I would have thought him to be a Buddhist priest. He swore 
that what I bad heard was not exactly true, but that they had a job assigned by the CAS and they were performing it as properly as they could. Still 
not looking at him, I told Saad that when somebody commits a heinous crime at the behest of his benefector, he is even worse for obeying illegal 
orders. Saad looked visibly uncomfortable with my outburst so I marched out and returned to my office. I had invited Air Cdre Zulfiqar in the 
morning to have dinner with me that evening. He had consented to travel from Risalpur. The ambiance was veiy charged and abuses were hurled 
at the appropriate level of the PAF hierarchy. That evening, Arbab Fateh told me to watch out for two things, one that the rooms in my house had 
been wire-tapped during the time I was away in France, saying that ‘The veiy purpose of sending you away was to wire- up your place, especially 
with no one but an old cook in the house”. Mine being an open house, any friend could drive-in and make themselves comfortable. He said that the 
second thing was about a fruit seller on my street, who watched over the house and reported all activities to DAI. He also told ire not to wony, 
because “We are keeping an eye on all of them.” After dinner when Zulfiqar Ali Khan was leaving, he suggested that the next week-end, I should 
come to Risalpur and have lunch with them 

In the ensuing week the situation became nastier and I could sense the heat. As had been planned during the dinner at my home, I drove to 
Risalpur on Saturday noon time to meet Air Cdre Zulfiqar. I arrived at Risalpur in hall' an hour and drove straight into the Commandant’s 
Residence, where I was greeted by the sprightly Sbireen, the only daughter of the couple. Begum Zulfiqar came and sat with me in the drawing 
room saying that Agha Jee (Zulfiqar) would be corning in shortly. We sat and chatted about the deteriorating situation in the PAF, she sharing the 



burden of her husband’s sense of apprehension and disillusionment with the leadership. Moments later Zulfiqar anived, and greeted me with his 
usual affection, ‘Young man, are you in or out of trouble’? I suggested in a whisper that we should move to the lawn. He took the cue and we 
walked out. As we walked into Iris spacious lawn 1 cautioned him that his telephone and bouse were bugged as were mine, so it was better to talk 
in the open 1 had never seen him look so distraught and his opener startled me: “Well, young man I am seriously considering resigning from the 
PAF while honour is on my side.” He added that he bad some feelers that they were hying to involve him in the ongoing hunt. I was visibly 
perturbed to hear about his intention He was an absolute gentleman and an outstanding commander; for him to feel hunted was really the last straw 
and 1 knew something bad to give. 

It must have sounded jocular to him when I seriously told him, “Sir, you should be drinking and planning how to run the PAF because I have a 
strong gut feeling that soon something good will come out of this imbroglio.” I then told him that if I could get to Lahore, I could mobilize the 
support of Alzal Agba (Chief Secretary Punjab and a great gentleman), and Mustaia Khar to get me an audience with ZAB. Zulfiqar offered that I 
take a Harvard fromRisalpur that afternoon as long as I didn’t crash it and come back the next day. I was excited at the suggestion and requested 
that he give me a quick OJT (Onthe Job Training) on the Harvard as it had been a very long time since I bad flown this aircraft. Sbireen Zulfiqar 
came miming toward us and said lunch was ready. I requested Zulfiqar’ s penmission to call a friend in Lahore to ask him to pick ire up from the 
PAF base. He told ire to go ahead and ask the operator to connect me, but to be careful about what I said. After lunch Air Cdre Zulfiqar drove 
me to the airfield and gave me a short brief on the WW-I1 Harvard aircraft. 

Soon I was heading for Lahore, travelling down memoiy lane. I recalled my formative cadet days at Risalpur and the training on the Harvard. 

Upon landing, I noticed that the person marshalling ire in was a senior technician Irom tlx: maintenance wing Sargodba. I wondered what he was 
doing at this non- flying base. As I alighted from the aircraft, he came forward and helped me down Then he stood back and saluted ire with a 
somewhat anxious demeanour. As I started walking towards the air movement section, I asked him what a Mach- 2 fighter technician was doing at 
Lahore. He said, “Sir, I had serious iamily problems, which compelled me to get posted here on compassionate grounds.” Uien he abruptly asked 
me to stop and said, “Sir, we are very concerned about you, because the Field Intelligence Unit people have been waiting for you to arrive.” I was 
stunned by this revelation wondering how in hell they could have found out that I was coming from Risalpur in a Harvard. Presumably, I was aider 
surveillance more effectively than any sworn enemy. They had lost then' marbles for sa'e. 

After ZAB’s intervention they obviously had become desperate and considered the conspiracy a window of opportunity to frame me and destroy 
my credibility and haniliate me. They had underestimated the power of Divine intervention however. Meanwhile, there was more shock coming to 
me, as the Sergeant nearly knocked nx 1 otfmy feet when he said, “Sir, they even said that Gp Capt Haider might be escaping to India, which 
sounded very shocking to us because you are oa national hero and how can these people think such tilings about yon” I felt a rage searing 
through my veins and was ready to kill some one. I asked who were these people, and where were they waiting? He said that one of them was a 
tall corporal wearing white shalwar kameez , but the other one had gone somewhere. Tlie blood was mshing to my head as I stepped out and 
entered the room to sign the aircraft serviceability fonn Sure enough, I saw the tall man identified by the Sergeant standing at the end of the 
veranda pretending not to notice me. I shouted, “Corporal, come here.” He seemed taken aback at me addressing him as Corporal He walked to 
me and stood to attention I said, ‘You are one of Mufti’s spies fromFIU’? He stammered, “No dir, I just came to meet a friend.” He lied blatantly 
just like his director would have. I told him, ‘You call that Gp Capt Mufti now and tell him that I only kill the enemy and amnot a coward to find 
refuge with them Also tell him that his big bosses at AHQ are the ones that are likely to run to India. Tell him that the next time I see one of his 
intelligence dogs spying on me, I will break his legs and dispatch him by bus to AHQ.” The man’s hands were trembling as he saluted me in 
shalwar kameez which is against the correct protocol, when not in uniform. 

My friend Jebangir Malik was there to receive ire and we drove to Nawabzada Nausbad Ali Khan’s house. When we reached the house, my 
hostess Jabeen, who had adopted ire as her brother, said to me with anxiety writ all over her lace, “ Bhai , kya ho raha hai, do ghanton se koi 
banda phone karta hai, aur poochta hai ke Gp Capt Haider pahunch gave hain, aurphirjab maine kaha ke abhi to nahi pahunche, 
laikin kon baat kar raha hai, to woh phone band kar deta hai, koi char baar phone kar chukka hai (Brother, what’s up, an anonymous 
caller lias been calling for the last couple of hours, asking if Gp Capt Haider lias arrived. I told him that he has not arrived and when I asked who ’ s 
calling, he dropped the call He has called 4 times)”. I felt the kind of anger that words would Mto describe. I said, “I will see these jackals, don’t 
worry.” I called the Parjab House and finally got to speak with Mustaia Khar, who told me that he was badly caught up in a political situation and 
there were several people with him He asked me to come to the Governor House andthat his ADC would look after ire till he was free. 

I arrived at the Governor House at around 1 900 Hrs and the guards had been informed about my arrival as one of them took the seat next to my 
driver and guided him towards the main building porch, where an army Captain was waiting to receive me. An hour later as the clock struck 8 
o’clock, the ADC said that there seemed to be a logjam in the discussions going on with some politicians and offered me a drink. I accepted the 
oiler with some relief It was about 10 o’clock and I was getting weary when I decided that I should leave because the ADC soaided frustrated at 
tlie unending session between the Governor and his visitors. I thanked tlie ADC and asked him to apologize to the Governor and ask him to please 
arrange the appointment with Mr Bhutto as quickly as possible, because things had taken a worse turn after the President’s intervention with the 
PAF. I told the ADC that Mustaia Khar would aiderstand the gravity of my message as soon as he passed it on to him. He had meticulously 
noted down every word I said and assaed me that once he had spoken with the Governor, he would get in touch with me. 

Thereafter, even though pretty late, I drove to Chief Secretary Alzal Agha’s residence in the GOR (Government Officers’ Residences). Aglia 
Sahib was also a very kind and considerate friend. He received me with his usual warmth and poa'ed me a drink before I sat down He asked me 
how come I was in Lahore. I told him about my abortive trip to the Governor House and the purpose of try visit. He assaed me that he would be 
meeting tlie Governor first tiling next morning and he would make certainthat Mustaia speaks with ZAB. The next morning a call did come from the 
Governor House but after I bad left for the airfield. I returned to Risalpa' by mid-day, thanked Aglia Jee (Air Cdre Zulfiqar) and updated him on 
my visit. I agtin implored him not to make any hasty decisions and instead asked him to make good use of this time to make plans on how to mil 
tlie airforce. My optimism was so ill-timed and soaided utterly ridiculous, sending Aglia Jee into a fit of laughter. He saw me off and 1 remember 
him waving as I turned out of his gate. As soon as I got home I had a message to contact the Chief Secretary, Punjab. Through Alzal Agjia I came 



to know that he bad spoken to Governor Kliar, who had already spoken to the President and had passed my serious apprehensions of being 
incriminated and framed by the Air Chief and Iris team 

On Monday morning, 1 called my deputy, Wg Cdr NA Khan in my office and told him, “N A Khan, in case one line day you see my hat on 
tliatliling rack and I ammissing for too long, 1 want you to infonn these people and send telegrams as laid-out in this paper.” I pushed a folded 
paper towards him I could see a shadow come over his lace and his eyes smartening as he unfolded the paper and asked, “Sir, but why? 1 don’t 
think that they can stoop to victimize you without cause.” I told him to relax and that this was just a precaution in an emergency and not any threat 
that 1 had received directly. He left my office looking distraught. As soon as he was out, I called the DAI on the intercom and asked him if I could 
see him right away. ‘Oh please, come right away Haider, I will have some teaready for you”. I did not have to say this but 1 was never a hypocrite, 
so I told him that once I have spoken to him, he may not oiler me that cup of tea. He said, “Come, come, drop-in and let’s talk.” I marched off to 
Iris office and was received by an apprehensive looking DAI. Once I sat down, he again asked me if I liked regular or green tea. I told him it was 
not necessary and I would not take much of his precious time to tell him how angered and outraged I was at the tactics of his Directorate to have 
me chased around by his two penny sleuths, harassing my friends in Lahore and barking filth that I would by to escape to India. 

Continuing my outrage, I said, ‘Op Capt Mufti, if I ever catch another one like your minion at the Lahore air movement section, I will physically 
break his legs and dispatch him to AHQ without crutches. Then don’t blame me for assault because it would be a case of self defence to 
safeguard my dignity.” Alter my outpouring, I stared at the little hunched back Gp Capt and waited for his reaction Then he reached down and 
pulled Iris drawer out; instead of pulling a . 3 8 revolver which for a second I thought he was going to do, he lilted a bottle of Valium- 1 0 (a very 
strong sedative) and whimpered, “You know, Haider, I’m surviving on this tranquilizer to keep my sanity intact.” He continued in a weak and 
weary tenor, “Haider, I swear to you, I don’t know who is chising who at tiffs time. Please believe me that I’ve not asked anyone to 
keepsurveillance on you.” At that moment I wondered how one could deal with a person who could lie so blatantly. So I got up and fired my last 
shot, ‘If your Chief thinks that I’m guilty of a crime, tell him to investigate me, but ifbe has no proof tell him to lay offme! As tar as escaping to 
India is concerned, it’s your bosses who will soon need to do that, I only know how to fight them” With thatlast salvo, I marched out with my fists 
and teeth clenched and returned to my office. 

Gestapo at My Door 

I had barely sat down in my chair, my heart pounding from the encounter, when my secretary told me that Gp Capt MS Baig, the Director of Air 
Investigation Board (AIB), wanted to see me along with Wg Cdr Mubariz regarding an urgent matter. I told them to come right away because I 
was going to leave in the next few minutes. Hie two arrived within 5 minutes, and sat down rather sheepishly in the chairs in front of my desk. Baig 
bad a long history with me from the Attacker Squadron days at PAF Station, Drigh Road as PAF Base Faisal was then called. Mubariz had been 
with No 20 Reconnaissance Flight throughout Iris flying years. Baig opened the dialogue by imploring me not to pursue the proposal I had sent to 
the Air Chief through the AC AS (Ops) Kbaqan Abbasi, about Tariq Habib’s ‘nose wheel collapsing incident’. Mubariz looked on quite me fully as 
I replied, “Baig this is a matter of restoring pilot confidence to handle emergencies. However, if you feel strongly and are confident that you have 
been correct in your findings, then you folks should have no problem taking a stand with the CAS. If you are proven right I will tender my apology, 
if you can’t, then you will know that there is accountability for all” 

Baig said, ‘You know we are both about to proceed on postings abroad; I’m going to France and Mubariz to Saudi Arabia.” I said, ‘However, 
should you want to revise your decisions and not blame the pilots unjustly in all the cases our Directorate is reviewing send it to me in writing I will 
try to ease my stance”. By this time, I suspected that they must have got the infonnation through the AC AS (Ops). As we were talking suddenly I 
noticed that Mubariz turned pale as he looked at the door to my office, which was located slightly behind me and I could not see what had caused 
him to look vexed. As I looked back my heart missed a beat at the ominous sight. I saw Kbaqan Abbasi, holding up the ‘chick’ (a curtain made 
from weed to protect one from heat) on my door. Mufii and the contemptible character C A Waheed (Zaiar Cbaudhry had assigned him the task 
of investigating the accused in the conspiracy case owing to Waheed’s repugnant reputation), were flanking him “Ok Haider, this is it. Come on, 
it’s time to move. You are placed under close arrest. Waheed will escort you away for some questioning” Now I knew why Mubariz had turned 
pale. I got up deliberately and slowly, walked to pick-up my hat and stared in the eyes of the Machiavellian Kbaqan Abbasi. who looked back 
venomously as I approached him Destiny had come calling not just for me, butfor all of them standing in the doorway. 

This was not a total surprise but considering that the DG ISI had explicitly said that I had nothing to wony about, my arrest was a serious 
foreboding. I felt sure that the high command bad decided to frame me in the coip d’etat. Also, many thoughts stalled buzzing in my mind about 
how ugly the leadership could make it for me. I just looked at Kbaqan Abbasi and especially Mufii, wanting to use some expletives to tell them that 
they were tying cowards, but the bravado in me had taken a back seat for those perilous moments. As we approached the vehicle, I was appalled 
to see the unsavoury Wg Cdr Sibtain known as the ‘Master Snoop’ for his devious electronic intelligence against PAF officers. He got out of the 
car with a chuckle and said some conciliatory words, which I chose to ignore and just sat down in the rear seat. I told CA Waheed that I was 
confident that I would not be returning home soon, therefore, I would like to go to my house and lock it up. He readily agreed and drove me to 
University Town Anwar Khan Afiidi had already come and gone. I put my toilet and shaving kit and a change of clothes in a plastic bag and 
asked him to drive me to Anwar Khan Afiidi’ s house so that I could leave the keys with him I was driven to the address as I directed the driver. 
Anwar always napped in the afternoon I entered Iris house and knocked on Iris door which startled him as he sawme looking anxious, to say the 
least, with Waheed in tow. 

Thereafter, I was driven to RoomNo 2 in the old block at the Officers’ Mess, declared a sub-detention centre. The Air Chief and Iris group could 
not have chosen more unethical and unscrupulous characters from lire PAF for this hatchet job. They were sure to perfonnto high command’s 
expectations. Wliat Zaiar Chaudlny and Khaqan Abbasi forgot to lactor-in to this destruction of the PAF’s sterling reputation was the hand of 
Allah They left me in ny room with a bright naked bulb glowing from the hanging wire and a bed with a pillow and a blanket. All the window 
panes had been covered onboth sides with pasted newspapers to prevent light from coming in. After they left, I sat down on the bed and try 
tormented heart screamed, ‘God why have you ordained me to this purgatory?” 



I shall never forget the sense of desolation because my mind could not grasp any options out of my predicament in those agonizing moments. The 
PAF high command load cast ire in a trap where no one could rescue me except Divine justice. I imagined the worst because I realized that they 
would resort to any methods to frame ire in this conspiracy. If successful, Zaiar Chaudhry would have proved to ZAB that I was a traitor to tire 
countiy and disloyal to him, thereby effectively neutralizing any options that 1 may have had. Those moments of one’s life are not easy to pen down 
because there was a colossal storm that penreated tire mind and my vision was b lined. Time is the proverbial healer and memory lades away, 
especially when it is bitter as it was. Only those who have suffered the purgatory of isolation in solitary confinement, in circumstance where all legal 
and just courses are denied, can sense my desolation That was when I recall, I reached out to God Almighty and said aloud, “Ya Allah, what have 
I done to deserve this. You know all the secrets of hearts and minds.” That precise moment reminded of somebody’s quotation, “When I was on 
top of tire mountain. I did not turn to God and ask him why me was I at the top.” It is only in one’s utter desolation that your entire being cries out 
and screams for Divine intervention 

In that dark and eerie room, I knew that I bad been deposited there and rendered completely incommunicado with the outside world. What I did 
not know then was if Wg Cdr NA Khan had taken tire actions I had assigned to him I had no idea if my parents had received the telegram I had 
written and given to my deputy that very morning. I also bad no way to tell that thetwo interrogators were trying to get tire magistrate to get an 
involuntary confession from me. Soon enough I came to know what was ahead when there was knock on the door and Waheed and Sibtain 
entered my room At that moment a strange kind of feeling captured my mind, “Don’t cave in to intimidation” It was my lather’s voice and I felt an 
amazing metamorphosis from the frailty that bad encapsulated me moments earlier. I was asked to accompany them for a confessional statement. 

Frankly speaking, I did not know tire significance of a confessional statement under these particular circumstances, even though I was familiar with 
tire tenn because of my basic knowledge of PAF law. I asked the duo what confession they were talking about. Sibtain said, “Sir, it is just a 
statement that you had some elementary notion that a group was planning something and that you load reported your apprehensions to Air Cdre 
Zulfiqar Ali Khan”. In spite of tire situation I was in, when I heard Zulfiqaf s name and the suggestion that if I did what these Gestapo rats were 
saying, that it would end my predicament immediately, I went wild for a few minutes and said, “Both of you are little midgets and be sure that I will 
be out sooner than you think; and then I will make life such hell for you that both of you would wish that you were not bom Air Cdre Zulfiqar is 
tire most honourable officer in tire PAF and will be tire man to lead it one day soon; lay offhim Your suggestion to implicate him for my personal 
safety is despicable. You don’t know me I will protect Zulfiqar Sahib with the last drop of my blood”. They looked at each other and left tire room 
and bolted it from the outside but returned after some 15 minutes. 

This time Waheed said that I have to accompany them to a magistrate, who was waiting for my statement and suggested that if I made a wise 
decision, 1 would be a free man. I was driven to the outskirts of Peshawar on Warsak Road. About one mile down the road, they parked tire car 
and Waheed reminded me again, “Sir, please don’t tiy any iiinny stuff in front of the magistrate, just state what we have advised.” I told him to get 
lost saying that I wasnot like any of their bloody bosses. He gave ire the fish eye and left for the house, about 1 00 yards off tire main road. We 
mist have waited for about 15 minutes where after Gestapo Waheed returned alone. As he got to the car, he told Sibtain, "Woh to kahin chala 
gya hai, turn ne to kaha tha ke woh gharpe rahe ga, ab us ko kahan dhoondhain (He has gone away somewhere, you said he will be at 
home, now where should we find him)”. Sibtain suggested that they should go to the MI Directorate and get the statement typed and signed 
anyway and he would get it signed by the magistrate when he returned. I figured that they were desperately looking for tire magistrate. 

I came to know much later that the magistrate bad deliberately disappeared and the next day, he told them that he had signed all tire confessions 
but he would not do it in tire case of Gp Capt Haider. This I came to learn later from my friend, who was a senior bureaucrat with the N WFP 
government. The magistrate bad gotten wind about my close relationships with the Governor from his provincial secretaries in the government. As 
told to me by my friend, much after the case bad ended, the magistrate load travelled back to see his political agent in the tribal belt and bad broken 
down in front of him and confessed that the PAF’s Chief had compelled him to sign confessions which were not voluntary and in most cases, he 
load not even seen tire faces of the officers. I am not sure what happened after that but the first time I laid my eyes on the magistrate was after tire 
Court-Martial load begun 

Anxious and nervous, they took me to AHQ and Waheed went to the Directorate of Air Intelligence, but presumably, as I gathered from tire 
whispers between tire two, the DAI load not agreed with CA Waheed about taking my statement in Iris office to be typed by his PA. This was tire 
method they used in all their other cases. Then I was merely conjecturing but as I write this, I came to know this for a tact because Mufti knew 
very well that my arrest load been made on the orders of tire Air Chief for my intransigence and severe criticism of the Air Chief and not for any 
role in the conspiracy. Mufti mist have feared that their machinations to bring charges a^inst me would not stick and he did not want to take a 
chance with procedural infinnity in my case. In any case, he also knew very well tint if he managed successfully to frame me in the conspiracy, tire 
inevitable disclosure by me to the court that my statement was recorded in the DATs office or even AHQ would be veiy damaging for their case. 

Solitary Confinement 

I was brought back to my room and left there. It was well after dusk that a knock on my door got me out of my disturbed stupor and I sprang up 
in my bed. Hie bolt outside opened and I saw Sqn Ldr Zuzarte, the flight surgeon, also a very fine human being He approached my bed and 
asked how I felt and if I needed any medication I said, “Doc, what the hell is going on here? I have no idea about any conspiracy, so why ami 
being put through this ordeal?” He looked extremely apologetic and replied, “Sir, I am not pennitted to talk to you about any matter except health 
problems. I am extremely sorry sir.” I told him I understood his disposition and that I did not need any medication He left me quietly and bolted 
the door outside. At 8 pm, there was another knock and the bolt opened. The mess waiter Sheikha with his white beard and perpetual smile bad 
been my lavourite. He was carrying a tray with dinner but Iris effusive smile had been wiped away from Iris face. Again, as I tried to get a word 
with him, he said to me in Pushto that he had been given a veiy stem warning not to talk, bring or take any messages. 

As he left, my mind went back to the book Papillion , the famous book about a man kept in solitary confinement in a cave somewhere on the 
French Isles. I was in solitary confinement and that was a sure tiling. At about 1 0 pm, I heard a lot of noise in the veranda, somebody was 
screaming andhurling abuses and calling Waheed and Sibtain foul names. I recognized the voice. It was Sattar Choudhry (Gbarramto friends, for 



his superficially put on accent). He was allegedly related to Mufti and I wondered when and how he was arrested. Later on, as we were released 
from solitary confinement for a few hours during the summary of evidence, I asked Sattar what had happened a few nights ago, when I had heard 
him yelling He told me, ‘Those bastards CA Waheed and Sibtain had liandcufled me and were blind- folding me when I started yelling at them”. 

He said they took him on a drive for several hours to terrorize him in order to extract a confession from him 

Before I was arrested, I knew that 40 or more officers were interrogated including MM Alarn, Afiab Alani 1 lakimullah and some were even 
brought back from Libya and Jeddah like the consummate professional Arif Manzoor. They were terrorized in a psychological sense, given the 
choice between a Court-Martial and becoming approvers. To become an approver against one’s own comrades was a matter of shame. Some 
officers frornNo 33 Wing were promised incentives, if they agreed to give evidence against me. I learnt that no one agreed. Finally, 14 officers 
were targeted for summary of evidence followed by a Court-Martial I think my exhortation to CA Waheed in Saad Hatmi’s office earlier lb llo wed 
by my candid discourse with the DAI, finally spilt the CAS ’ s cup of patience and thence the arrest. I must have Men asleep past midnight from the 
mental latigue rather than physical torment. 

At about 0230 Hrs, I woke up startled, my heart pounding, as I heard an explosion in the conplete darkness near my door. Waheed had kicked 
bard on the door to create a terror effect as he walked in with Sibtain in tow. As he put the room light on, I observed that he had a sheaf of A-4 
sized papers in his hand. I said, “What do you mean by this obnoxious behaviour?” He said, “Sir, I’m very sony, I completely forgot that you were 
in this room, I thought it was another accused”. I knew the bastard was lying but there was not much I could or wanted to do but to accept their 
misbehaviour. He said, “Sir, you can walk out of here tomorrow if you write on these papers which I will leave behind for you. They recount 
everything that happened at Sargodba and later on at Peshawar as well as the purpose of your visits to Karachi and Lahore in the past months.” I 
said, “Waheed, the only tilings that 1 recall of relevance is that I was enraged and used strong language against Zaiar Cbaudhry, Saeedullah and 
Kliaqan Abbasi owing to their witch-hunt to expel me from the PAF.” 

He said, “Sir, we have several reels of the recordings of conversations between you, Air Cdre Zulfiqar and your civilian friends for the entire 
period you were at Sargodba and later at Peshawar. Just write all that you recall having said with reference to the CAS, and Air Cdre Abbasi; also 
state the tilings you shared with Air Cdre Zulfiqar when you heard there was some conspiracy cooking. Since you passed the information to your 
superior officer your responsibility ends there and I think you will be set free if you write the whole truth.” I snarled at him and said, “You thick 
skin, first you tried to influence me to utter this nonsense in front of a magistrate, now you seemedto have forgotten what I told you about the 
devotion 1 have for Air Cdre Zulfiqar. I tell you again that one day soon, he will be the Chief and then you will regret all these Nazi tactics. So 
don’t even think for a second that 1 will so much as even mention Zulfiqar Sahib’s name even if they hang me. Aside from this, you mean to tell me 
that your boss and his cronies at the top want to read the vile expletives I used for them? Someone lias to be veiy sick to hear himself being 
abused; why don’t you replay the Sargodha tapes you told me about and play them loud because I meant every word I said.” 

I could not believe that the high command bad made a case of myarrest on such flimsy grounds. ‘However, you leave enough papers with me, and 
1 will write the stoiy of Zaiar Cbaudhry and myself” I told him He asked me to have it finished and ready by noon the next day. I said I would tiy. 
Then they left me till the next afternoon It became apparent that their attempt at the confession had stood on its head and now they wanted some 
hot stulf for the Chief to read and get into a rage. I leamt much later that the high command had been holding conferences, which were Haider- 
specific on how to get the noose around my neck. Hie major decision was whether they could include me in the summary of evidence. As stated 
earlier, this summary is a prelude to a Court-Martial because the basis of charges against the accused officers are purportedto have been 
established beyond doubt. The contents ofthis summary become the basis ofthe Court-Martial The Cliiefhad the choice of ordering either just a 
Court-Martial (CM) or in more serious cases the General Court-Martial (GCM). If the commission of an offence is tantamount to mutiny, sedition 
or treason then the service chief lias to get clearance from the head of the state for a Field General Court-Martial (FGCM). Hie last option is 
extremely serious, and lias to be completed within a very short period of days. The accused persons are only allowed ‘Triends ofthe accused,” 
which means an officer ofthe PAF and legal assistance restricted to PAF personnel. Such an option has never been exercised to the best of my 
knowledge, because the punishment by a Field Court General Martial is either death by a firing squad or life imprisonment. The accused really 
does not have a chance to defend himself leave alone acquit himself 

The next afternoon, the two agent provocateurs of the CAS anived and I handed over approximately 24 written pages, which covered all the 
incidents from the mid-fifties, the incident of cross-fi