In an unusual heart-warming gesture, some five-decades after Pakistan Air Force shot down a civilian aircraft in Gujarat, the pilot sent a note of condolence to the daughter of the Indian pilot killed in the incident, and on Wednesday he received a response.
Connecting across the border courtesy e-mail, Qais Hussain, a Flying Officer during the 1965 India-Pakistan conflict, sent a quiet note after tracing Farida Singh, daughter of Jahangir ‘Jangoo’ Engineer, who was flying a State government plane, about the circumstances under which he brought it down.
“I have received an excellent response from Ms. Farida Singh. If I took one step, she has taken two, but I respect her privacy and would share the contents of her response only after receiving her consent,” the 70-year-old Mr. Hussain told The Hindu over telephone from Islamabad on Wednesday.
The story by well-known journalist Beena Sarwar appeared on Tuesday on a Pakistan website http://www.thenews.com.pk and was picked up by some Indian newspapers.
A resident of Lahore, Mr. Hussain said he wrote an email to Ms. Singh on August 5 with the note of condolence as well as details of the incident. He also thanked the people through whom he was able to reach her and convey what happened 46 years ago.
In his email, the former Pakistan Air Force Officer stated that he shot the Beechcraft aircraft that was being flown by her father — one of three famous Engineer brothers in the Indian Air Force — after it showed up on the Pakistan radars, having drifted by many miles and going up and down over the border area of Rann of Kutch for quite some time.
Having read accounts in the Indian media, which, he said, were not accurate, Mr. Hussain said he followed the orders of his controller and had a sense of achievement after completing the mission.
“Nonetheless, the unfortunate part in all this is that I had to execute the orders of my controller. 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 feel greatly grieved that you lost your brother Noshir recently.
If an opportunity ever arises that I could meet you face to face to condole the death of your father 46 years back I would grab it with both hands. I would highly appreciate if you please convey my feelings to the other members of your family, who were equally hurt by the untimely departure of Jungoo to the next world. I hope and pray that you and your family stay well. My best regards…Qais. Hindu