On 7th September 2020, the Pakistani nation glued to their TV screens as the much-awaited PAF’s annual program “Mujahideen-e-Aflaak Ko Salaam” was aired. As PAF has always held a special place in the hearts of Pakistani people due to its professionalism, all the national news channels considered airing the program during prime time. As always the theme of the program mostly revolved around PAF’s stellar performance during the 1965 war, paying tributes to its Shuhada and Ghazis besides acknowledging its role during present times. The program also highlighted the contributions made by PAF in various nation-building efforts over the years. The star-studded arena at Convention Centre Islamabad was graced by Air Chief Marshal Mujahid Anwar Khan, Chief of the Air Staff PAF, former Air Chiefs and senior serving and retired officers, war veterans of PAF, families of PAF Shuhada, senior Army and Navy officers, civilian leadership and children from PAF Fazaia Schools. The event was opened by veteran artists of the television industry, Ms. Bushra Ansari and Mr. Bahroz Sabzwari. In the first offering, a well-placed and crafted documentary tribute to PAF’s finest, Sqn Ldr Sarfaraz Rafiqui (Shaheed), Air Commodore (R) Syed Sajjad Haider, and Air Commodore M M Alam (deceased) was presented to the audience. The video highlighted the illustrious contributions made by this legendary trio during the 1965 war. These brave men fought valiantly against an enemy five times greater in number and equipment thus setting an example for the generations to come. The tribute was followed by a segment in the honor of Ace of Aces, Group Captain Saif Ul Azam, SJ. Gp Capt Saif Ul Azam would be remembered in history as the one who while remaining in four different air forces shot down aircraft of two different countries. For his gallantry in the 1965 war he was awarded Sitara-e-Jurat by the Government of Pakistan while for downing two Israeli aircraft in the Arab Israel War, he was awarded Wissam-al-Istaqlal and Nawt-al-Shuja’a. Sqn Ldr Ghani Akbar SJ, a veteran of the 1965 war graced the stage and spoke at length about his friend and comrade, Group Captain Saif Ul Azam. Next in line was the segment in the honor of war veteran, Air Vice Marshal Akhtar Saeed Ansari (Retd) whose gallantry led to the destruction of IAF’s Jam Nagar airbase in 1965. The veteran graced the podium amidst applause where he spoke about the grit, gut, and greatness of the men that protected Pakistan 55 years ago.
In the Shuhada segment, Flt Lt Samad Ali Changezi (Shaheed) SJ, a dauntless son of the soil hailing from Quetta, was honored at the ceremony. His shahadat during the 1971 war is a shining example of courage, honor, and beyond the call of duty. During the segment, Ms. Nargis Ali, niece of the Shaheed, was requested to come upon the stage to talk about the national hero. Later, anchorpersons Farooq Hassan and Shiffa Yousafzai took the stage and introduced a heart-wrenching memoir of the Shuhada of the fateful PAF bus attack in 2007, which claimed 11 innocent lives including 7 officers. The memoir reminded the audience of the sacrifices made by the resilient Pakistani people and its armed forces to bring peace and stability to the country. Over the years, PAF played a key role in Ops Zarb-e-Azb in eradicating the menace of terrorism from the country. PAF airstrikes against terrorists, without any collateral damage, proved to be the turning point in the war against terrorism in the country. To talk about the success of these operations, Gp Capt Umer Rasheed was called on the stage. In continuation of PAF’s operations against the terrorists, a heartwarming story of brave PAF airmen came up last year. Chief Technician Sajjad Afridi, being heavily wounded and despite all odds never gave-in to attacking terrorists and safeguarded the post till the very last. To talk about this heroic act, the airmen himself appeared on the stage amidst warm applause. Next up, famous celebrity Mikaal Zulfiqar, who had enthralled audiences in PAF movie “Sherdil” along with actress Hareem Farooq took over and introduced a breathtaking tribute to Pakistan’s rock star-turned religious scholar, the late Junaid Jamshaid. Being an aviation enthusiast, Junaid Jamshaid had a lifelong association with the PAF, having been the son of an Air Commodore. Junaid Jamshaid’s Dil Dil Pakistan is considered to be a parallel national anthem for Pakistan, warming hearts and boosting morale in every dark hour. He had also produced various songs for PAF which became a huge success during the 90s. To acknowledge the great contributions made to the nation and PAF, by the legend the Chief of the Air Staff, ACM Mujahid Anwar Khan presented a lifetime achievement award to his family. His brother and son received the coveted award amidst applause that hopefully reached our fallen hero. Next in the show was the segment on ‘Operation Swift Retort’. PAF’s quick and precise response to the enemy’s so-called and false surgical strike on the morning of 27 Feb 2019 was shown to the audience through a documentary. The video reminded the nation that the defense of the aerial frontiers of Pakistan is in safe hands and whenever the situation arises again, PAF is ever ready to take on the challenge. During this segment, Sqn Ldr Sibtain came up on the stage and gave the details of the airstrike against the enemy on the morning of 27 February 2019. It is considered in PAF that the aircraft belongs to its technicians/ airmen, the pilots only lend it from them to perform their duties.
These men are the backbone of PAF operations and the leadership has always valued their great contributions in this regard. The next segment was in the honor of these unsung heroes. Chief Technician Mudassar Iqbal, was asked to come upon the stage to shed light on his role and to represent these great men that enable our birds to fly safely. Pakistan Air Force has always played an integral role in nation-building: the men in blue have rubbed shoulders with their Pakistani brethren in every catastrophe and developmental strife. The PAF’s response and efforts in the aftermath of Covid-19 were acknowledged at the national level as the PAF flew day in and day out to provide medical aid/supplies to Pakistan as well as abroad. PAF’s measures to protect its personnel and the logistical support provided to the government of Pakistan during these testing times were also displayed through a video documentary. Towards the finale of the show, artists Sahir Ali Bagga, Shabana Banjamin, and Shabnam Majeed enthralled the audience with ever-green patriotic songs, which in words of the CAS, added to the beauty and character of this auspicious event. The last segment of the show was kept for the address by Air Chief Marshal Mujahid Anwar Khan, Chief of the Air Staff, PAF. CAS opened his address with the acknowledgment of the great purpose behind the event: honoring the sacrifice of PAF’s Shuhada and crediting the contributions of its veterans. The CAS told the nation that Quaid-e-Azam’s Air Force upheld its values on the 27th of February 2019, and will continue to defend its skies with the same vigilance and duty. He further said that PAF was always ready to respond to any misadventure perpetrated by the enemy. The CAS also acknowledged the PAF’s steadfast efforts against Covid-19 and contributions made by its personnel in nation-building efforts. In his closing remarks, the CAS expressed his gratitude for the untiring efforts made by the team, spearheaded by Air Marshal Ahmer Shehzad Leghari, Vice Chief of Air Staff, for orchestrating this grand event. In the finale of the event, students from various Fazaia institutions came up on the stage along with Air Chief, artists, and guests to participate in the national song which concluded this mega event.
Talha ul Huda