ISLAMABAD: The government on Wednesday for the first time named the pilots who shot down two Indian warplanes last week as they intruded Pakistan’s airspace.
Pakistan and India rare were involved in a rare aerial engagement which had ignited fears of an all-out conflict. The dogfight on February 27 ended with Pakistan shooting down two Indian warplanes and capturing an Indian pilot, who was returned to New Delhi on Friday.
“Two Indian planes were shot down by Pakistan Air Force (PAF) on February 27,” Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi told Parliament on Wednesday.
He named them as Squadron Leader Hassan Siddiqui and Wing Commander Nauman Ali Khan, saying he wanted to “pay tribute” to them both.
Squadron Leader Siddiqui had been widely named on social media soon after Pakistan’s retaliation to India.
Siddiqui, who hails from Karachi, received a hero’s welcome as soon as his plane touched down. According to a video circulating on social media, PAF officials surrounded his aircraft as soon as he landed after successfully engaging the Indian planes. Three years ago, squadron leader Hasan Siddiqui featured in a video paying tribute to the bravery and professionalism of the PAF.
Tensions escalated between the two countries as India without any evidence blamed Pakistan for the Pulwama attack in which at least 40 Indian paramilitary soldiers were killed.
Indian Air Force jets on February 26 violated Pakistani’s airspace and were forced to return owing to the “timely response” of the PAF. On February 27, PAF shot down two Indian warplanes in Pakistan’s airspace and captured Indian pilot Abhinandan Varthaman who was released on March 1 as a “peace getsure”.