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Tribute to the PAF Fighter Ace: M. M. Alam

This 'Land of the Pure' can never fall, and no one can undo it as long as the defenders of this nation follow the legacy left behind by the tales of dedication and sincerity of the likes of M. M. Alam.

During the month of September, tales of glory were written on the blue skies by the daring Shaheens of Pakistan Air Force in the 1965 Indo-Pak war. One of them was M. M. Alam, whose name shines amongst those of true legends and heroes; and what he did on 7 September, 1965, in the skies over Sargodha is unmatched, and very few have achieved such greatness in the history of air warfare. His name is emblazoned in the annals of Pakistan's history, which we proudly own; he carved his name with pride and gave us a reason to honour this day. The great man is no longer amongst us, and this is the first time the nation would honour "7th September" without its most beloved son. Though he is not alive, his legacy, his valor, his courage, his dreams and vision for the bright future of this nation will live forever.

The name "M. M. Alam" is enough to rejuvenate the spirit of the Defense Day, mainly because of his fearless demonstration of authority over his enemy during the 1965 Indo-Pak war, when his fighter jet roared the wild skies with one and only objective - to tell the enemy that his country might be short of war machines, but it was never short of men who would sacrifice their lives to defend it. Muhammad Mahmud Alam, better known as M. M. Alam, emerged as one of the most prominent heroes of the 1965 war. After the 1965 war, he emerged as Pakistan's top scoring fighter ace and also made a world record. He is one of the finest fighter pilots Pakistan has ever produced. The level of dedication, commitment and courage which he showed for Pakistan is unmatched.

During the 1965 air battles between Indian and Pakistani air forces, Alam ruled the fiery skies of war with his supreme tactics and evasive maneuvers. He showed marvels in the Adampur attack, and Alam claimed two enemy hunters and damaged three. The aerial battle of Sargodha on 7th September, 1965 was no doubt one of the greatest days in the history of Pakistan's Air Force. Three raids were conducted by the IAF on Sargodha air base, but during the second raid, under the command of M. M. Alam, the Indian jets faced a deadly retaliation. M. M. Alam shot down five IAF Hunters in a few minutes and made a world record.

His performance is still one of the most immaculate in the history of aerial combats. After 7 September, the PAF was in control of the skies over the battlefield, and the IAF dared not engage further in the combat with our daring eagles. The way he gunned down the IAF jets, one cannot doubt the precision and accuracy of M. M. Alam. He retired as an Air Commodore of Pakistan Air Force and was also awarded the military honor 'Sitara-e-Jurrat' for his brave and remarkable shows in the air combat of 1965. He also took part in the Arab-Israeli war for the Ummah's cause as a fighter pilot along with our other brave pilots who shot down Israeli jets. In 2001, there was an escalation from the Indian forces on the borders and war seemed inevitable between Pakistan and India, Alam volunteered for flying missions, though he had retired, but his age had not broken his spirits, motivation and courage to stand as a shield in the face of the enemy.

Before his death, when he was admitted in the hospital, my family went to meet him at the PAF Hospital at Faisal Base, Karachi. When they called him, he was delighted. He was adorned in a simple white dress (Shalwar Kameez), and he arranged for tea and greeted his guests with affection and humbleness.

During the meeting, with utmost concern, he conveyed his feelings that the Muslim Ummah, in this era, is confronted with many issues, amongst which disharmony amongst the different segments of society and dishonesty amongst people will make it difficult for us to face the growing challenges of the present world. Being one of the most influential air warriors who fought against India and Israel, he was of firm belief that unity and honesty should remain the hallmark of any future national cause, be it local or international. He was hopeful of Pakistan's bright future if we stand united and committed to the cause with utmost sincerity and honesty.

In the last days of his life, he had actually become physically very weak, but his voice was full of spiritual strength and his eyes were bright with conviction. He was of the view that the nation should not forget their heroes - the ones who have sacrificed their lives to make this journey possible. He had attained the highest level of simplicity and internal peace. He never wanted to be in the glamorous and materialist world, as he never wished to be publicized. He was a simple, humble, a God-fearing and a down-to-earth man, who at times would even avoid a single snap. His successful career and fame did not affect his personality; rather, it increased his humility and faith in Allah Almighty.

Considering his bravery and commitment to the cause and his professionalism, many respectable families had offered marriage proposals to him; some of these marriage proposals were from influential and reputable families from Syria and Afghanistan, but he was so committed in his cause that he preferred not to move ahead with them. Despite having all the best options, he chose his fighter jets when he was young and his books when he grew old as his lifelong partners, and dedicated his time to learning more and more. With the passage of time, he got more inclined towards religious knowledge and grooming, and in his later years, it was very visible in his manner and expression.

During the meeting, he praised the Pakistan Air Force and expressed his confidence that the PAF is one of the best air forces in the world, and emphasized that we just need to maintain discipline and order in our ranks. He also stressed that the resources in terms of equipment and finances should be used very diligently, so that in the future, we can be independent and able to face the odds.

I had quite a few conversations with M. M. Alam, and I can still recall the aura his powerful and energetic voice used to create around me. I was always on top of the moon when he used to say, "Mariam, how are you?" I can still recall his youthful voice; a voice of a hero, a gentlemen and a sober silent soul. One day, I received a call from him, saying, "For the last few days, I was waiting for your call". Instantly, I remembered that somehow, busy in my routine, I forgot to call him during the last few days. We had built a very subtle relationship, and most of our conversation was based on books, academics and wars. Reading books was his passion, and he guided me in my research topic and suggested a few more for my further study.

I had requested him to write his autobiography, because I wanted to know the stories from his past, which he agreed to. I offered myself as his assistant when he would be writing his book, and he happily agreed to my wish to assist him. I have an inscription signed by M. M. Alam, and it is one of those things which I will hold dear and with utmost respect throughout my life. We know him as Pakistan's ace fighter pilot, but probably not as a person, as a man. He is not here to write down his memoirs, and I missed the chance to explore his concealed persona.

Dear countrymen! He was very much concerned about Pakistan and the Muslim Ummah, and he was very hopeful about the future and youth of this country. He time and again stressed upon the unity of this nation, honesty and commitment to the cause. We can never pay back what he has done for our nation. He lived as a legend, a beacon of inspiration for the coming generations; similarly, he died as an honourable man and a true Pakistani. This 'Land of the Pure' can never fall, and no one can undo it as long as the defenders of this nation follow the legacy left behind by the tales of dedication and sincerity of the likes of M. M. Alam.

Sir! I am sure that today, the skies are going to miss the impressions and aura created decades back by the roars of your fighter jet. You dreamt and created a destiny of your own in the blue skies, far above the land. Rest in peace, Sir!

Note: The accounts mentioned above are from the conversations of the author and the meetings of the author's family with late M. M. Alam.

Mariam Shah is a Human Rights, Youth and a Peace Activist, doing MPhil in "Peace and Conflict Studies" from NDU. She is a regular contributor and affiliated with PKKH. She tweets at @battlehawk_ and can be reached at [email protected]


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