03 March 2019
Bhubaneswar: Even as Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman walked across the India-Pakistan border on March 1, a family in Pakistan is in mourning in silence, blacked out from the public view, their sacrifice unacknowledged.
Pakistan Air Force Wing Commander Shahaz-ud-Din, the F-16 pilot shot down over the Nowshera sector, is reported to have been lynched by a mob who mistook him for an Indian Air Force personnel.
Both Abhinandan and Shahaz come from similar backgrounds, both from families with military tradition. Both patriots and both Wing Commanders.
The two engaged in a duel on Wednesday morning when Pakistan Airforce attempted to intrude inside Indian Airspace and bomb on military facilities. Wing Commander Abhinandan who was flying a Mig 21 Bison, managed to shoot down Shahaz-ud-Din’s F16.
But soon-after his plane started showing glitches and crashed. Both the jets crashed on Pakistani side of the LoC.
Both men, in one of those strange twists history revels in, come from illustrious military families: Wing Commander Varthaman’s father, S Varthaman, as Air Marshal; Shahaz-ud-Din’s father, Waseem-ud-Din, is also an Air Marshal of the Pakistan Air Force, who has flown F-16 and Mirages.
The two sons engaged each other in the air; one was taken a prisoner of war and has returned home, while the other was killed by his own people.
The news that Shahaz-ud-Din's plane was shot down was first reported by London-based lawyer Khalid Umar, who says he received it privately, from individuals related to the F-16 pilot’s family.
Umar’s account says that Shahaz-ud-Din parachuted out of his aircraft safely, but was then attacked by a mob after the F-16 crash-landed — possibly in the Laam valley, stretching out westward from Naushehra into Pakistan-occupied Kashmir. Shahaz-ud-Din, Umar has claimed, was hospitalised, but succumbed to his injuries.
The PAF Wing Commander flew for the 19 Squadron, also known as the ‘Sher-Dils’, who served with distinction in the war of 1965 and 1971.
Pakistani military spokesperson Major-General Asif Ghafoor had asserted, on the morning of 28 February, that two Indian jets had been shot down and two Indian pilots injured — one of whom was in army custody, and the other in the hospital.
It was only by evening that Pakistan realised of having only one Indian in their custody, and that the other was their own man. But it was probably way too late, by then Shahaz-ud-din had succumbed to the injuries that were inflicted upon him by his own countrymen, the very people he fought for.
Abhinandan was released two days after on Friday night. He was given a hero’s welcome in India. The man has emerged as the latest war hero of an otherwise peace loving country. But on the other side of the border, a family is mourning in silence. Blacked-out by the Country’s media and Government, Shahaz-ud-din may never get the acknowledgement that he deserved.