Amazing Story. Absolutely Amazing.

by Daniel Russ on October 15, 2011

Qais Hussain In His F-86 During The Indian-Pakistani War

“….The man who had shot down her father’s civilian plane at the height of the 1965 India-Pakistan war was writing to her, almost half a century later, to set the record straight. And to apologize.


The subject line said: “Condolence.”


In his August 5 e-mail, Qais Hussain expressed regret that he had been responsible for the death of Singh’s father, Jahangir Engineer, one of four brothers famed in the Indian air force.


“I did not play foul and went by the rules of business but the unfortunate loss of precious lives, no matter how it happens, hurts each human and I am no exception,” he wrote.


“I feel sorry for you, your family and the other seven families who lost their dearest ones. If an opportunity ever arises that I could meet you face to face to condole the death of your father 46 years back I would grab it with both hands.”


If there was ever a time when the clichéd word “closure” had true meaning, this might have been it.


Singh was a teenager when her father was killed. After all this time, she felt the weight of loss lift.


She admired Hussain’s gesture; thought it was noble. She wrote back to him Thursday, reaching out to him with her father’s memory.


“It took courage for you to write this. And for me, too, (I say this humbly) it takes the same to write back. But my father was courage and grace at their finest….


“Yes, this was the one incident which defined our lives henceforth. But in all the struggles that followed, we never, not for one moment, bore bitterness or hatred for the person who actually pulled the trigger and caused my father’s death. The fact that this all happened in the confusion of a tragic war was never lost to us. We are all pawns in this terrible game of war and peace.”


The exchange between the two set the Indian subcontinent abuzz. There have been cross-border romances and sporting teams. But this was an extraordinary tale of compassion between a former Pakistani pilot and the daughter of an Indian one. Two military families living in nations that have pointed guns at each other several times since their independence in 1947…


…”I caught sight of him at 3,000 feet and made a pass so close that I could read his markings and the number of the aircraft,” Hussain wrote to Singh.


Engineer began climbing and dipping his wings to signal that it was a civilian aircraft. Also on that twin-engine, twin-tail Beechcraft were seven other Indians, one of them the chief minister of Gujarat.


“Instead of firing at him at first sight, I relayed to my controller that I had intercepted an eight-seat transport aircraft (guessing by the four side windows) and wanted further instructions to deal with it,” Hussein wrote. “At the same time, I was hoping that I would be called back without firing a shot.”


But after about four minutes, the orders to shoot down the Indian plane crackled on the radio…”



Read it here


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