Air Commodore M.M.Alam (1935-2013)

Tribute by Brig. (Retd) Usman Khalid

Air Commodore M.M.Alam with F-86 Sabre fighter that shot down five Indian aircraft in one sortie.

This is the third time I am writing a tribute for a departed friend. The first time it was the death of an icon Mr Justice Safdar Shah when I wrote under the title of Death of Hope. The legal fraternity did not rise up against General Zia ul Haq at that time in response to the call of Mr Justice Safdar Shah. But it did rise to the occasion in 2007-2009 when General Musharraf dismissed the Chief Justice and many more judges of the Supreme and High Court. It would be no exaggeration to say the defiance of Mr Justice Safdar Shah set the stage for defiance of Musharraf by the legal profession. Today, hopelessness has given way to hope and Mr Justice Safdar Shah has emerged as an icon of standing up for justice and rule of law.

The second time it was the death of my dear friend Major General M. Imtiaz Ali, Defence Advisor (Minister) in the first cabinet of Benazir Bhutto, who is an unsung hero who very few people know as the real father of the missile programme of Pakistan. But he also played an important role as Military Secretary to Prime Minister Bhutto in doing the right thing in the face of diverse political pressures. Most of what he did will for ever remain outside public gaze but there is one thing of importance that I will reveal now as it concerns Air Commodore M.M.Alam who died on 17 March 2013. Alam was my course mate (6TH JSPCTS) and a life long friend. He is more than an icon; he became a legend in his life time a symbol of fearless valour. He shot down five Indian aircraft in one sortie in less than a minute a world record. If I remember correctly the total number of Indian aircraft he shot down during the 1965 Indo-Pakistan War was fourteen (14).

Air Commodore M.M.Alam hailed from East Pakistan. His family migrated from West Bengal in 1947. He would often tell his friends that when travelling from Calcutta to Dhaka, young boys took great pride in overwriting the names of cities on milestones in Urdu. It was taken for granted, he would tell, that Urdu would be the common language of both East and West Pakistan. But then politics came in the way. It was considered prudent by Bengali politicians most of who spoke Urdu at home and could not read or write Bengali, to demand that Bengali be a state language. He was one Bengali who was Pakistani first and was completely at home in West Pakistan among brother officers. He always stressed that it was the need of Bengali Muslims more than West Pakistanis to be accepted as a part of the mainstream. He has since been proved right. Separated from West Pakistan Bangladesh is being Hinduised and is in danger of becoming absorbed by India.

Recognising the foreign enemy is an essential part of crystallising national personality. Some times, recognising the internal enemy is even more important in order to preclude subversion. In East Pakistan, the Hindu minority were the obvious potential fifth column but because of the practice of caste apartheid by them its role was confined and limited. But in West Pakistan that minority was the Qadiani community which had supported the PPP led by Mr Bhutto in 1971 Elections. Upon assumption of office Prime Minister Bhutto had appointed a Qadiani as the Naval and Air Force Chief. General Tikka was the Army Chief but the next senior most General in the Army was a Qadiani. I remember that we often used to joke that the country was one heartbeat away from being taken over by the Qadianis. M.M.Alam had a direct and personal experience of what that meant. There was an attempted coup détat by middle rank officers against Bhutto Administration in 1972. Air Marshal Zafar Chaudhry, the Air Force Chief at the time, felt so threatened by the widely revered, popular and outspoken M.M.Alam that he included his name among those involved in the Rawalpindi Conspiracy Case. Alam was arrested and put behind bars in an Air Force cell. There was an outcry in disbelief and Alam had to be released.

I had met M.M.Alam again in Ankara (Turkey) where I was the Principal Staff Officer to General Akhtar Malik in CENTO and he was commanding the first Mirage Squadron which was being ferried from France to Pakistan via Turkey. I had remained in touch with Alam ever since. When he got on the wrong side of the Air Chief he came to see me at my house in Gulistan Colony in Rawalpindi. I went with him to General Imtiaz who was then MS to the Prime Minister. He listened attentively to Alam, asked us to wait in his office and went to see the Prime Minister. He came back after several minutes and asked who would be a good Chief of the Air Force. Alam named Air Commodore Zulfikar who was the senior most but was on leave pending retirement, (LPR). We left not knowing what might be the decision. The next day the news was splashed all over that the Air Marshal Zafar Chaudhry had been relieved and Air Marshal Zulfikar promoted and appointed Air Chief. Clearly, General Imtiaz had tied all the loose ends.

There were four witnesses of that event. Prime Minister Bhutto, General Imtiaz and Air Commodore Alam are all dead. I am the only one alive. If I do not tell the story the truth would never become known. I have to tell this story because M.M.Alam was much more than just brave. He was a true Mujahid who stood up against the internal as well as the external enemy. He never married and his legacy is not children or property. In his later years he was a true Muallim, who never tired of speaking what others are afraid to speak about. Sheikh Mujib was a traitor who was an enemy collaborator as bad as Mir Jaffer of Bengal and Sadiq of Deccan. We secured our freedom from British rule because we called Mir Jaffer and Sadiq as traitors. Bangladesh would get deeper into the clutches of India if its people did not put Sheikh Mujib alongside Mir Jaffer and Sadiq. More important, if Sheikh Mujib continues to be celebrated as a hero and liberator, there will be more of them in Baluchistan, Sindh and elsewhere in Pakistan.

How to Encounter Terrorism?

By Sajjad Shaukat

Despite the fact that Pakistans law-enforcing agencies and intelligence agencies have thwarted many terror attempts of the militants through pre-arrests, discovery of weapons and huge explosive material, suicide jackets etc., but terrorists keeps on targeting the installations of security forces, intelligence agencies and police including government buildings through bomb blasts, suicide attacks and targeting killings. They are also murdering political and religious leaders in order to fuel ethnic and sectarian violence.

In the recent months, militants high profile subversive activities include attacks on Peshawar Airport, Kamra Air Force Base, the assassination of leader of the Awami National Party (ANP) Bashir Ahmad Bilour, attempt on the life of Malala Yousafzai, blast in Hangu. Besides, they are conducting terror attacks in various cities of the country, especially in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Balochistan and city of Karachi. In this regard, on February 2, this year, militants martyred 15 soldiers including 25 people at a military camp in Serai Naurang Lakki Marwat, while Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) has owned responsibility. Similarly, on January 10, more than 100 people, a majority of whom belonged to the Hazara community lost their lives in the twin bombings in Quetta. The militant group, Lashkar-i-Janghvi claimed responsibility for this deadly attack. In the recent past, sectarian violence erupted in different parts of Karachi, killing more than 30 people after a terror assault on a leader of the Ahle Sunnat Wal Jamaat and the killing of four men of the group believed to be the banned Sipah-i-Sahaba Pakistan. A perennial wave of these acts indicates that terrorism has increased in Pakistan.

It is a challenge for the whole nation that various terrorist organisations like Balochistan Liberation Army (BLA), Jundollah (Gods soldiers), Lashkar-i-Janghvi, Lashkar-e-Islam,
Sipah-i-Sahaba and some other militant outfits, especially the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) feel pride in murdering the innocent people and killing the personnel of the security forces, while claiming responsibility for their heinous terror assaults. These culprits are free to move inside the country.

Media reported on January 2, this year that while changing professional priorities, Pakistan Army has declared the internal threats such as anti-state terrorist groups as major challenge to the country.

Every Pakistani must understand that unlike the conventional war which was being waged between two sovereign belligerents through traditional armies and intelligence agencies, the arena of aggression has changed. In the present era, non-state actors like terrorists have made it difficult for the security forces to serve alone as the dominant sphere in this different war.

Complex phenomenon of terrorism cannot be left on the security forces and law-enforcing agencies alone, as it is everyones war. There are a number of impediments in fighting war against terrorism, and these must be overcome to encounter terrorists.

No doubt, Pakistans law-enforcing agencies and intelligence organisations which are well-prepared in coping with terrorism are engaged in identifying and locating the terrorist networks and their support bases including informers and accomplices. While remaining vigilant, these agencies have thwarted many terror attempts of the militants through pre-arrests, but were discouraged as their actions were being challenged through courts of law regarding the validity and legality of their decisions. The insurgents lawyers availed the opportunity by indicating procedural penal flaws. Thus many terrorists were freed by the courts due to lack of solid evidence in legal terms, though reality of their subversive activities existed. Due to this practice, efficiency of law-enforcing agencies drops to zero level, giving a greater setback to war against terrorism and making the concerned official insecure in face of judicial grilling.

Terrorist presently under custody, if released by the court due to judicial discourse will certainly join their main terrorist networks, thereby strengthening terrorist groups. Consequently, this new style war will turn in favor of terrorists instead of law-enforcing agencies and intelligence agencies which may suffer more in the hands of terrorists.

In this respect, Pakistans media must recommend to the legislative and law-making authorities to change the complex procedures and evidence-related issues, and to make new laws against terrorists in order to provide the legal cover to law-enforcing and intelligence agencies which are fighting the menace of terrorism. For this purpose, the concerned agencies should be allowed to detain the certain suspected individuals so that the intensity and frequency of occurrence of terrorist activities could be reduced.

While fighting against the militants, Pakistans security forces and intelligence agencies require maintaining high degree of morale and confidence. In this context, our media should appreciate the sacrifices and services of countrys security forces and agencies in their fight against terrorism.

Meanwhile, it is a good move that the National Assembly on December 20, last year passed the Investigation for Fair Trial Bill-2012 so as to provide legal cover to the concerned law-enforcing agencies and intelligence outfits to tape the phone calls and watch the e-mails. The bill envisages that electronic material would now be permissible in the court of law as evidence.

Another impediment in war against terrorism is that by misconception of Islam, terrorist groups manipulate the feelings of innocent Muslims who are naturally prone to favor the cause of Muslims. Hence, they become targets of terrorists propaganda who project their unfair designs in the name of Jihad, and undertake criminal activities of terrorism, inflicting serious loss of innocent lives and damaging property. The militant outfits also recruit very young boys, and after their brainwashing through indoctrination, they train them for suicide bombings. The planners misguide these Muslims by convincing that they will have a noble place in the Heavens in exchange of suicide attacks.

However, Islam considers killing one innocent person equal to murdering the entire humanity, while jihad is a sacred obligation, but its real spirit needs to be understood clearly, as targeting innocent women and children is not jihad. These Taliban and their banned affiliated groups are defaming Islam which is the religion of peace, democracy, moderation and human rights.

In this connection, 50 Islamic scholars and muftis of the Sunni Ittehad Council have issued a joint fatwa (edict) on February 7, 2013, and unanimously declared killing of innocent people, target killings and suicide bombingsin Karachi and Balochistan, along with sectarianism as against the spirit of Islam. They added that those involved in the killing of innocent people are condemned to hell. Their Fatwa also declared, The suicides attacks and related violence smeared the name of Islam and weakened Pakistan.

Earlier, these Islamic scholars had said in their joint Fatwa, the terrorists self-adopted interpretation of Islam was nothing but ignorance and digression from the actual teachings of the religion. Besides, Shia religious scholars also condemned terror attacks.

Although our rulers, leaders of political and religious parties have repeatedly condemned the terror attacks of the Taliban and other extremist groups, yet instead of verbal statements, they must show practical unity against these elements which seek to create anarchic situation in the country to accomplish their self-motivated power designs.

While indicating internal threats of terrorists, recently, Chief of the Army Staff Gen. Ashfaq Parvez Kayani also said that the country was pitched against the faceless enemy. He explained that the present spectrum of threats could be defeated through collective national efforts in which the armed forces had a pivotal role to play.

Now, people from all segment of life and majority of politicians including general masses want that a handful of terrorist elements must not be allowed to dictate their agenda and to impose their self-created ideology in the country.

In these terms, it is war of entire nation against terrorism. But such a war needs better intelligence-gathering which is possible, if people provide information to the law-enforcing and secret agencies about the presence and covert activities of the Taliban and other militants. People must also point out foreign agents who have joined the ranks and files of these terrorists or are backing the latter.

Nevertheless, this is the right hour for the nation to practically cooperate with the security agencies to encounter terrorism.

Sajjad Shaukat writes on international affairs and is author of the book: US vs Islamic Militants, Invisible Balance of Power: Dangerous Shift in International Relations.

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