Air Commodore Tariq Mahmood

The 6th September is a day of Remembrance and solidarity with the martyrs and ghazis who laid down their “Today for our Tomorrow”. The defence day of Pakistan rekindles the memories of those great heroes and martyrs of 1965 war in our hearts. It is a day when the nation pays homage to our Shuhada and Ghazis who stood steadfast in the face of heavy odds to defeat an adversary that enjoyed overwhelming numerical and technological advantage. Right on the onset of 1965 war, the incredible standards of commitment and bravery were set by none other than Commander-in-Chief of Pakistan Air Force himself. The legendary Air Marshal Nur Khan, along with station commander PAF Base, Chaklala drove straight to the C-130 aircraft which was scheduled for night mission, to drop vital supplies for 12 Division, engaged against enemies in Kashmir.  Nur Khan stepped inside the cockpit and ordered the aircrew for startup. The aircrew was excited and in a state of disbelief that their Commander-in-Chief was flying with them on such a risky mission. The aircrew knew that a slight mistake while navigating through the treacherous mountainous valley during pitch dark night would be unforgiving, but Nur Khan had envisioned the impact of the success of this mission.

The news about Commander-in-Chief’s mission spread in the Air Force like wild fire. It electrified the passion of PAF personnel and sky rocketed their morale. The Commander-in-Chief had done his job by setting the tone of Air Operations. The charged Air Warriors of PAF were ready to charge.

On the adversary’s side, with the Indian Prime Minister Lal Bahadur Shastri’s announcement to “choose a front of our liking”, commenced the war, which made the nation and the defence forces of Pakistan came forward with the most definitive determination to protect their sacred homeland.

The Combat pilots of PAF were  all set to write new chapters of bravery and glories in the aviation history of air combat.

 On this day, 47 years back, Squadron Leader Sarfraz Ahmed Rafiqui (Shaheed), while leading a formation of three F-86 sabre aircraft on a strike mission against Halwara airfield, encountered a formation of Indian Air Force Hunter aircraft. One Hunter aircraft was instantly shot down by him but when he was about to shoot another enemy aircraft his aircraft guns jammed. His comrade urged him, (as per the SOPs) to extricate the combat area but the spirit of sacrifice and comradeship meant more to him.

Squadron Leader Rafiqui, thus provided exemplary leadership and displayed outstanding bravery in the face of exceptionally strong opposition. His inspiring leadership and selfless example significantly affected the subsequent course of air war, in which PAF never failed to dictate terms to an overwhelmingly large and better equipped enemy.

PAF history is studded with such glorious trails of bravery, and the world witnessed such daring exploits and great sacrifices, hitherto unknown to the annals of history. People like Sarfaraz Rafiqui, Younas, Munir Iqbal, Ahmed (to name a few), were to give a new meaning to courage and leadership. And not to forget agile M.M. Alam called “Peanut Alam” (due to his small body frame) by his comrades, who displayed what actual giants were made of, as he sliced into the enemy formations, dishing out physical as well as psychological destruction. How can we forget  Flt Lt Shams, a bomber pilot, an example of tenacity and determination, who flew missions after missions with an excruciating kidney pain, but did not report to the doctors, till the situation became unbearable and he nearly collapsed. The exploits of these valiant heroes were aptly summarized by M.M. Alam, when he said, “We were fighting with a passion founded on faith---- We fought as Muslims against a people who were trying to destroy our way of life. We went through great anxieties, great fear often. But we knew one thing, that faith in one’s destiny, faith in a cause, --- all this sustains a man, and faith sustained us.”

The events of September, 1965 remind us that major factor which led to our success was the fact that the nation and the armed forces fought as an epitome of a united and disciplined entity. These events of September, 1965 saw the principles of Unity, Faith and Discipline, given to us by the Father of the Nation, Quid-e-Azam, being personified in the actions and feelings of the entire nation. Defence Day of Pakistan holds a significant place in the history of our country, for it was on this day in 1965, when our valiant Armed Forces and the entire nation stood united to frustrate the inexcusable action of the adversary, which had dared to cast an evil eye on the territorial integrity and sovereignty of the nation.

PAF leadership starting from Air Marshal Asghar Khan to the present Chief of the Air Staff Air Chief Marshal Tahir Rafique Butt has always stressed upon the evolution process in PAF in terms of equipment and Human Resource. The voyage of progress that started with the independence of Pakistan has achieved many milestones so far, such as acquisition of state of the art fighter aircraft, production of indigenously manufactured JF-17 and induction of air to air refueling capability,   AEW&C aircraft, SPADA missiles etc.

As Pakistan Armed Forces are in a state of war with the extremist elements on our western borders particularly, PAF has yet again proved its metal in wiping out the terrorists safe havens in the mountainous region of FATA. The Pakistan Air Force Airmen and its leadership rose to every occasion when ever called upon by the Nation. May it be national calamities like earth quakes, floods in Baluchistan, or threats of the surgical strikes by our arch rival.  The Air warriors always faced the threats, head on to neutralize the enemy’s nefarious designs and are ever ready to sacrifice their lives for the motherland.