Today is the day when we remember our heroes, the heroes who fought for the independence of Pakistan, the heroes who saved Pakistan from the evil cravings of our enemies and the heroes who played or are playing their role in building a strong nation. But, in this fast moving world, we may have forgotten a few of our heroes; the layers of time have rendered them our unsung or unknown heroes. It is not that we don’t accept them as our heroes; but sometimes, their heroic efforts are overshadowed by the heroes who have performed acts of greatest heroism or bravery of the highest order and sacrificed their lives. Today is a day to will remember a few of the unsung heroes of Pakistan and will know about them.
These two are our special unsung heroes, because these two were the names from the list of “Missing in Action” of Pakistan Air Force (PAF).
According to Shehnaz Haider (wife of Sqn. Ldr. Shabbir Alam), when the war started, Shabbir Alam came home and informed her that a war broke out between India and Pakistan, and that he was going to perform his duties, . Shehnaz Haider, then at the age of 21, didn’t know that Shabbir Alam would never return, and proudly saw him off with prayers of success.
On 6th of September at 1800 hours, Squadron Leader Shabbir Alam Siddiqui was sent on a mission to bomb Jamnagar with five other B-57 bombers from Mauripur base. Their planes took off one after another at 1805, and within minutes, they were leaving Karachi behind. After reaching the target, they released 4x1000lbs bombs on the airfield from the height of nearly 4000 feet and headed back to Mauripur. The six B-57 bombers reached back from enemy airspace after the completion of their dangerous deep-strike operation.
After the first successful bombing of Jamnagar, it was decided to continue this service throughout the night. It was decided that instead of group bombing mission, this time there will be single aircraft sorties, following each other with regular intervals till dawn. Sqdn Ldr Alam Siddiqui was the first to strike again, and this time, he was accompanied by Sqn Ldr Aslam Qureshi in a rear-seat as navigator. He had earlier been among the crews reserved for Peshawar when the dusk strike went ahead. But since the move to Peshawar with No. 7 Squadron had been called off at the last moment, he had remained unable to fly a mission and was by now keenly looking forward to getting a chance to fly. Since he had the authority, he availed the opportunity to fly his first war mission by removing Flt Lt Taufique from the second mission, thus accompanying Sqn Ldr Alam Siddiqui. This mission was also successful, and their B-57 landed back at Mauripur at 0025 on 7th Sep after bombing the targets.
Sqn Ldr Alam Siddiqui played his role on the very first day of the war, that too without any mishap. Now he had the option to take a break and take some rest at home with his anxiously awaiting wife and two babies, but he refused to do so and chose to fly a third mission after taking a little break.
Same was the case of Sqdn Ldr Aslam Qureshi, the courageous navigator had decided to fly again and used his authority to assign himself the navigation slot on the upcoming mission accompanying Wing Cdr. Hameed Qureshi. But when he came to know about the initiative by Sqn Ldr Alam Siddiqui, he just went ahead for the briefings of the mission. He could have avoided going on another mission on the basis that he had already participated in one mission, but using his authority he chose to assign himself the last sortie to fly as navigator with Sqn Ldr Alam Siddiqui.
Sqn Ldr Alam Siddiqui and Sqdn Ldr Aslam Qureshi reached their target safely in their B-57, they made the first bombing run and dropped two bombs, but when they dove again to drop the remaining two bombs, their aircraft suffered direct hits from Indian AAA gunners on the ground. The B-57 No. 33-941 eventually crashed in the open agricultural ground 10 miles East of the Jamnagar airfield, bestowing martyrdom to both the courageous heroes of 6th Sep.
Because no prompt news about the bomber and its crew was officially received from the Indian side, these heroes remained declared as ‘missing in action’ for decades. In 2006, the Indian Air Force carried out exclusive research on this B-57 on the request of Shahnaz Alam (wife of Sqn Ldr Alam Siddiqui), and officially informed that as per historic records, eyewitness accounts of locals, images and material attributed to the wreckage and the the crew, it was certain that B-57 No. 33-941 had indeed made it right over Jamnagar Airfield, dropped two bombs, was making a second circuit to drop the two remaining bombs, and was caught up in AAA, was inevitably hit, and minutes later crashed a few miles across the airfield, martyring the crew.