When Squadron Leaders Shabbir Alam Siddiqui (pilot) and Aslam Qureshi (navigator) did not return from their third bombing mission on the night of September 6, 1965, details regarding their fateful mission remained obscure for decades.
Consequently, they were declared missing in action by the Pakistan Air Force (PAF) and never decorated for their valiant service. Their wives, Shahnaz Alam and Parveen Qureshi, both new mothers in their early twenties at the time, lived with an anguishing lack of disclosure.
It took Shahnaz more than 40 years of undying love and relentless determination to uncover facts about her loving husband’s fate. She was finally able to draw attention of the Indian Air Force (IAF) in 2006 through help from Air Commodore (retired) Najeeb Khan, himself a decorated war veteran and a colleague of the lost officers.
In a historic gesture, then IAF Chief Shashi Tyagi responded compassionately and ordered exclusive research into the fate of this dauntless crew. He officially invited Shahnaz to India and informed her that the PAF B-57 bomber from Mauripur (Masroor) Base in Karachi had reached over its target Jamnagar Airfield shortly before dawn on September 7, 1965. After dropping two bombs it was in circuit to drop the remaining load when it was hit by anti-aircraft (AA) fire and crashed. The pilot and navigator were killed on impact and buried in nearby fields.
IAF revelations therefore cleared the various misconceptions regarding this fateful mission, which had accumulated over the decades. PVS Jagan Mohan, renowned Indian military historian and author of the highly-acclaimed book The India-Pakistan Air War of 1965, points out that, “The impression about this B-57 crashing into the sea en route was incorrect as the IAF had claimed shooting down the bomber in 1965. It seems due to the atmosphere of hostilities and distrust, the PAF may not have believed the IAF claim.”
Further research into Indian accounts of the war revealed that this crew had bombed the enemy airfield at a very critical time, when aircraft of the Indian Navy Air Squadron were preparing for a massive raid against PAF bases at dawn on September 7. Their daring mission annihilated the planned Indian assault.
Rear Admiral Satyindra Singh of the Indian Navy states in his book Blue Water – Indian Navy 1961-1965 that, “Had the eight aircraft at Jamnagar bombed the ‘seeing-eye’ of the PAF air defence establishment at Badin, the war would have been over much quicker…”
Five years after these crucial revelations from India, their families are hopeful that the President and PAF chief will at last honour these unsung national heroes.
“My family and I have never sought any financial reward that accompanies a decoration. All I have longed for nearly 50 years is the gallantry award acknowledging my husband’s valour and sacrifice alongside celebrated war heroes of 1965,” says Shahnaz.
There are numerous examples of delayed gallantry awards the world over. Squadron Leader AB Devayya of IAF, who was lost in aerial combat over Sargodha in 1965, was decorated with a posthumous Maha Vir Chakra during the 1980s when details of his last mission were revealed over two decades later. In May this year, US President Barack Obama awarded the Medal of Honour to families of two soldiers killed in 1951 during the Korean War.
Another example is of Sipahi Maqbool Hussain of Pakistan army who was taken as a prisoner of war by the Indian army in 1965 and tortured for decades. When released few years ago, he managed to reach his regiment where his amazing saga was revealed and he was awarded the Sitara-e-Jurat.
Parveen requests authorities to also try and bring the remains of these officers home, so they can be buried in their own soil. A cited example is that of Mati-ur-Rahman, the Bengali pilot who was killed while attempting to hijack Pilot Officer Rashid Minhas’ aircraft in 1971. His remains were excavated from a graveyard at Masroor Base and handed over in 2006. Rahman is a recipient of Bir Sreshtho, Bangladesh’s highest military award.
Extracted from Express Tribune’s website: http://tribune.com.pk/story/248981/unsung-heroes-fate-of-lost-paf-aviators-uncovered/
More about the incident (taken from http://www.paklinks.com/gs/military-and-strategic-issues/295982-defence-day-6-september-2008-the-glory-of-sqn-ldr-shabbir-alam-siddiqui-shaheed.html)
Friends and the family of Sqn Ldr Alam Siddiqui relate that he was an extremely energetic and patriotic individual. 6 feet tall and a mountaineer by hobby he was the kind who keep looking or challenges. He always used to pray to be able to deliver his best for service to Pakistan whenever need arises and often used to wish to be able to offer the ultimate sacrifice for the Pakistan which he had seen gaining independence during his student days. He had seen the sacrifices and hardships that had been faced in order to gain freedom and Pakistan. And he was sure he would never think twice if he was needed to play a crucial role for Pakistan’s security.
He had initially been commissioned into PAF in 1954 as a navigator, but being in love with flying he convinced the PAF Chief AM Asghar Khan to allow him to return to the PAF College Risalpur as a commissioned officer to get re-trained as a fighter pilot. He remains the first officer in PAF history to have achieved this distinction.
On 6 September 1965 he left home in the morning after being informed of the war. He and his companions waited impatiently for orders to pounce at the enemy. By noon after FM Ayub Khan’s blood warming and motivating speech they received orders to strike India’s Jamnagar Airfield at dusk, in order to neutralize the threat to Southern parts of Pakistan from India’s air base just 258 Miles from Karachi.
6 bombers flew at dusk and delivered a surprise attack successfully and returned. Sqn Ldr Alam Siddiqui was one of the bombers in the team. After return it was decided that the bombers would continue to bomb the airfield through out the night in a bombing ‘shuttle service’ of sorts. Only this time each B-57 bomber would fly as a single attacker.
Sqn Ldr Alam Siddiqui went on his second mission at about 2200 Hrs with his navigator Sqn Ldr Aslam Qureshi. They returned by midnight safely with after carrying out their duty and completing the mission.
Sqn Ldr Aslam Qureshi
By this time both must have been extremely tired, and Sqn Ldr Alam Siddiqui must have been highly fatigues as every aviator or anyone for that matter knows that flying repeated missions is no easy task. A single mission is extremely exhausting and demanding. Regular military training missions alone are very tough. This was a real war mission in the face of great danger after intruding into Indian air space.
Sqn Ldr Shabbir Alam Siddiqui had just flown two repeated missions. And now he was ready and volunteering for a third mission right away after having an aircraft ready, refueled and armed for him to attack again.
This heroic Pakistan warrior of the skies was now about to fly on his 3rd mission within 9 hours. Which is not just a PAF record in war missions but even in regular training missions as well.
The B-57 Bomber with the two brave aviators, Alam Siddiqui the pilot in the front and Aslam Qureshi in the back as navigator flew off Pakistani soil at 0330 Hrs on the morning of 7 September once again. Volunteering for the dangerous mission. They felt that since they had been over the target multiple times they had better knowledge of the area than others who had not been there yet or those who had been there just once.
By all means this was a gesture of service beyond the call of duty, in the face of grave danger and with disregard for personal well being and safety, only out of love and devotion to the motherland and the service to which they belonged.
As they neared their target in the darkness the area was covered with low clouds as reported by pilots who had just returned from there while they were approaching.
Suddenly the aircraft lost control and crashed in a field around Jamnagar in Gujrat state.
A painting by Gp Capt Hussaini depicting a B-57 bomber crashing while attacking over an Indian air base
For many years it was believed that either out of fatigue, or due to being spatially disroiented due to lack of visibility and bad weather, the B-57 must have hit the ground while the pilot tried to descend very low to ensure bombing precision. And for years it was thought by PAF as well as the family of Sqn Ldr MS Alam Siddiqui that he must have ejected and would have been taken POW along with his companion Sqn Ldr Aslam Qureshi.
India however never claimed shooting down the bomber or having the crew as POW. Until 2006 that is!
In 2006 Mrs Alam Siddiqui and her long hope and love for her husband inspired an old friend of her husband who was also an ex PAF pilot Sqn Ldr later Air Cdre Najeeb Ahmed Khan to write to then Indian Air Force Chief ACM S P Tyagi, for some help and details about what really happened.
Surprisingly ACM Tyagi responded enthusiastically and welcomed the wife and friend of the lost warrior to India. There they showed them records, took them to the crash site and it was confirmed that the B-57 Bomber aircraft had indeed been shot down by Indian AAA fire and the bodies were buried near crash site and acknowledged the brave actions of the pilot and honoured his wife and friend.
A sad note remains that both heroes Sqn Ldr Alam Siddiqui as well as Sqn Ldr Aslam Qureshi remained undecorated and received no medals in recognition for their selfless devotion and ultimate sacrifice for the motherland. Their families and their children have prospered and have made a good name for themselves. Alam Siddiqui’s wife was 21 when he was martyred and his two sons were 13 months and 1 month old respectively. One is an airline pilot and the other a surgeon. Aslam Qurehi’s wife was 23 and their kids were a 2 year old daughter and a 1 month old son, a marketing executive and a lawyer respectively.
The service beyond the call of duty and ultimate sacrifice of their fathers in laying down their lives for their beloved Pakistan they embraced eternal glory and shall forever be remembered among the brightest of stars in the hall of fame of Pakistani war heroes and makes the entire nation and ever new generation proud of our valiant war heroes.