M.M. Alam: a fighter to the end
KARACHI:An old thin man with a spirit of a fighter is found spending hours at a local book store every Sunday. An avid reader since childhood, Air Commodore Mohammad Mahmood Alam, commonly known as M.M. Alam, the national hero of 1965 Indo-Pak Warfare, owns scores of books on multiple subjects at his residence at the PAF Faisal Base, apart from his valued collection of around 4,000 books at his original residence at Chakklala Base in Rawalpindi. The aged man gifts a book to everyone who visits him.
Many evidences were apparent to signal that this fighter was and is still a passionate reader which indeed is not the trend of his so-called post-retirement life. On the contrary, in 1981 this fighter was sent on pre-retirement leave as part of his original call of retirement in 1982 with the allegation that he was incapable of reading and writing and his services were no more required for the force. On this note, Air Commodore M.M. Alam bid farewell to Pakistan Air Force. “I was thrown out of the force with the allegation that I am not a learned man as I most of the times used to disagree and argue with other higher officials of the force,” he said.
Alam while recalling the time told, “For 10 seconds I felt that something has hit me badly when I got to know that I have been declared retired by the force. But then I took the name of Allah, recalled all my services, hard work and my love for the force. I then realised that this is what my fate is and I have to live with it.” If Alam had been allowed to continue serving he would have been the Chief of Air Staff (CAS) by now. “I was Air Commodore when I was retired. I would have surely made it to the highest ranking if I was given a chance,” he said.
Alam is living with the notion that a nation lives on wishes and values. “Unfortunately we have not grabbed the actual idea of freedom. I have learned a lot from life. I live in hope and this is how I live and I love it. And I don’t regret anything. At times I do feel down, depressed and upset but at the end of the day I know that I am a soldier and a fighter,” said he.
Alam served PAF for 30 years, and was the first in his family to join military service even though his father wanted him to be a CSP officer. “Since childhood I knew I had to be in one of the forces. I was very dedicated and keen to join one. I trained myself to fight and to kill enemies.”
He recalled that he was brought up in an era when the freedom struggle was in the works. The freedom fight was all we could think and talk about, he said. “When I used to see Muslims being killed around I wanted to do the same and I still remember I was a very young kid when I picked up a knife with the intention of doing so.” While sharing more memories from his childhood he said that always wanted to be a soldier serving his homeland. “I was an adventurous child. I remember my maternal uncle presented me a gun and my father bought a bicycle which I pretended was a fighter aircraft. I had grown with the idea that India had to be divided.”
While debating on the current situation of the country, the retired Air Commodore regrets the situation of Pakistan which is labeled as ‘miserable and critical’. He still hopes for a bright future for Pakistan and believes all that is needed was good leadership. Air Cdre Alam declared the current leadership a true failure yet he believes that no sole entity could be held responsible. He said, “The blame cannot be put on one authority. All are accountable for this. Civilians, Islamic scholars, students, all are equally responsible.” It is the ill-destiny of the Muslim world which is suffering dearth of knowledge, he said.
While discussing the role of Army, he justified the military intervention saying if he had been a general he would have taken over the country too, but would have sorted out the issues in a better way. “I am not a radical but I am a real thinker.
I look for new answers to the old problems,” said he. He said that the Pakistan Army has always done a great job and is the strongest institution but has failed to deliver when it came to provide leadership. “This nation is waiting for another Jinnah. Someone has to wake up to save the country. We cannot move on like this,” he shared his heart out with an apparent pain in his voice.
As the discussion prolonged Air Cdre Alam with a bold expression on his face highlighted his thought of making Pakistan one of the powers too. “Afghanistan and Pakistan should work together to become one strong power to confront conflicting forces,” he remarked. He believes that if Bangladesh was still part of Pakistan its strategic location would have been an asset. He said that it is a matter of time people of Pakistan would boost up their courage and rise. But to his dismay most of the institutions in the country have become the victims of politics.
Replying to a question on the type of system that could work well for Pakistan, he said Pakistanis have a bad habit of demanding for a system different from the existing one. “We have a propensity to forget our past easily and don’t want to stumble upon the harsh facts. We are comparable to that small kid who if beaten by his mother rushes to dad to seek refuge and vice-versa.”
Being as outspoken as he is Alam has received a lot threats.
But still breathing with the courage to fight, the retired Air Cdre believes that one has to find a meaning to one’s own life. “If I could, I will surely do something for my country and for that I am preparing myself spiritually and intellectually,” he stated.
Profile of the September 6 hero
Born in the cultural capital of India, Kolkata (formerly Calcutta), for MM Alam there is no looking back. Being the eldest among 11 siblings, he took care of this entire family after his father’s death. For that reason he never even considered the thought of starting his own life and family. “I was engaged when my father expired,” he spoke with an innocent smile on his face “but then I had to decide what is more important, my current family or my family-to-be and I chose the former and thus ended my engagement on that note.”
He took up a course at the Royal college of Defence Studies in London in 1980 where officials issued a report that compared him with the Field Marshal Viscount Slim, a known British military commander, which Alam affirmed was a big honour for him.
While sharing his memories about his record of destroying five Indian Hunters of Indian Air Force (IAF) on September 6, 1965 within a few minutes, he told that he spotted two aircrafts and chased them while flying low. In continuation to that he then found four Hunters flying together. Instead of moving to the opposite direction in their defense, they all moved in the same direction which made them the victim of missiles fired for the F-86 under the commandment of Squadron Leader M.M. Alam. Later in his life he also served the Syrian forces for about five years.