Nearly half-a-century after shooting down an Indian civil aircraft under orders during the 1965 war with India, a Pakistan Air Force pilot has sent a condolence message to the daughter of the pilot of the aircraft he downed.
Qais Hussain, a flying officer during the 1965 war, made this gesture via email, expressing his condolences. The email is addressed to Farida Singh, daughter of the IAF pilot Jahangir "Jangoo" Engineer, one of the famous Engineer brothers in the force.
The email, with the subject line "Condolence", dated Friday, Aug 5, 2011, is copied to Naushad Patel and Jagan Pillarisetti, the Indian contacts who helped Hussain reach out to the bereaved family. Hussain forwarded the email to a group email for Pakistan Air Force colleagues, saying, "Most of you would recall that I had shot down an Indian civil aircraft after being scrambled from Mauripur in 1965 War."
Referring to an April 2011 article by Air Cdre Kaiser Tufail ("The Gujarat Beechcraft Incident - 1965 War", which gives details of the incident, he says it was Naveed Riaz, the Lahore-based businessman and aviation enthusiast, who helped him get in touch with the Indian contacts through whom he then managed to reach Jahangir Engineer's daughter.
Hussain wrote to Farida Singh, "The incident happened 46 years back but it is as fresh in my mind as if it had happened yesterday. The aircraft flown by your father had drifted off course by many a mile and in his search for the destination, he had been going up and down in the border area of Rann of Katchh for quite some time and it made our radar controllers uncomfortable.
"I happened to be strapped up in my aircraft along with another pilot (my leader) in his, on two minutes take-off alert. We were scrambled but I had to take off alone, and with help from my radar controller, intercepted your father's aircraft which was considered to be on a recce mission to open a new war front. I caught sight of him at 3000' and made a pass so close that I could read his markings and the number of the aircraft. Your father spotted my presence immediately and he started climbing and waggling his wings seeking mercy.
"Instead of firing at him at first sight, I relayed to my controller that I had intercepted an eight-seat transport aircraft (guessing by the four side windows) and wanted further instructions to deal with it. At the same time, I was hoping that I would be called back without firing a shot. There was a lapse of 3 to 4 long minutes before I was given clear orders to shoot the aircraft.
"After the shooting, I had a sense of achievement and satisfaction that I had completed my mission and destroyed any recce data that might have been collected to open a new war front. I landed back at Mauripur, Karachi, with my fuel tanks bone dry and was greeted by my seniors and other squadron colleagues. Later that evening, All India Radio announced the names of the occupants who had lost their lives in that aircraft...
"Mrs Singh, I have chosen to go into this detail to tell you that it all happened in the line of duty and it was not governed by the concept that 'everything is fair in love and war', the way it has been portrayed by the Indian media due to lack of information. I did not play foul and went by the rules of business but the unfortunate loss of precious lives, no matter how it happens, hurts each human and I am no exception. I feel sorry for you, your family and the other seven families who lost their dearest ones.
"I hope and pray that you and your family stay well"
"My best regards...