Written by Capt. Syed Ahmed Mortada (Retd)
Chill spills down the spine and life hangs on a fragile string suddenly becoming culpable to the inevitable ferocity of death and demon. That demon- an aerial avenger is the de facto emperor of sky calling high decibel alarm bell declaring the supremacy of his majesty... ...
Was it unexpected? The oil rich Arab world had come in close contact with the pomp and prosperity of life. The rulers and the ruled, became accustomed to comfort, luxury and wasting. Neither the administration nor the Armed Forces had any planning, training, preparation, morale, esprit de corps leave alone the sacrifice and the martyrdom. Vile, corrupt and spend-thrift.
The whole Muslim world was awestricken and was bewildered at the enormous scale of defeat and defamation.
Is this the descendant of Salah Din who recovered Jerusalem and Baitul Mukkadas from the Zionist. Where is the follower of General Tariq Ibn Ziad who burnt all his ships after landing at Gibraltar proclaiming a declaration to his men: Either embrace death or inflict defeat on the enemies but no retreat.
both Hilal-I-Jurat and Sitara-I-Jurat. He embraced martyrdom in 1965 war. 3rd biggest Air Base of Pakistan at Shorkot has been named after him “Rafiqui Air Base”. Few other heavy weight fighter pilots fromEast Pakistanin 1965 war were Sqn. Ldr. Alamgir, Flt. Lt Shawkatul Islam, Flying Officer Ahsan.
Saiful Azam is possibly the only fighter pilot in the world bestowed with glittering gallantry medals from three different states for outstanding feats in the aeronautical warfare.. Sitara-I-Jurat fromPakistan in 1965 Indo-Pak war, Hussam-e-Isteqlal byJordan, Noth-e-Shuja byIraqfor 1967 Arab-Israeli war. He is also the only fighter pilot displaying his combat craftsmanship against two different air forces while operating under three countries. Singularly he enjoys the unique status vanquishing highest number of Israeli fighter planes .In Jordan Flt. Lt . Azam commanded a fighter squadron which was usually commanded by a wing commander.
An hour later after the dog fight in Jordan’s first major aerial combat, King Hussein appeared amongst the pilots. He had come to boost up their morale. In that glum pal the king was the symbol of power house of forbearance, fortitude and courage. PAF Asstt. Chief of Staff(operation) Air Cdre. A Rahim Khan also chaperoned the king. What was surprising that the king paid a second visit to them same day in the evening. Turning to Saif, the king asked him to get into his car. Such a gesture of honor, overwhelmed Flt.Lt. Saiful Azam who had just made a dent on the pride ofIsrael’s invincibility. They drove toJordan main hospital to call on a PAF Flt.Lt. Shad who was in a critical condition following a complication of appendicitis. After that they went to Mafraq the damaged Jordanian air base 40 miles fromAmman. Throughout the drive, the king like a captain, kept on reassuring Azam that it was not a defeat and that they could stage a comeback since the operation was not over specially with young fighter like Saiful Azam around, the duel could go on. Azam climbed the Zenith of his martial life when the king continued “ after all Saif had been literally a sword for the king. Thus armed, King Hussein was unwilling to give up so easily”.
dream which he saw the previous night with 1st Lt. Ihsan Shurdom of Jordanian air force that he had shot down an Israeli Mirage to which Shurdom declared that he would present any gift to Saiful Azam whatever he wanted should that come true. On June 5,1967 when Azam shot down one Israeli Mystere, his formation mate and buddy 1st lieutenant Shurdom congratulated him for the dream becoming true. But even on a sortie Azam corrected him- that was not a Mirage. However two days later on 7th June during a dogfight against the Israeli formation over an Iraqi base Azam indeed turned the dream true by shooting down a Vautour bomber and also a Mirage. This time Azam could not turn down the message of congratulation from Shurdom. Later on the same Shurdom became the Air Chief Of Jordan.
After Azam’s successful offensive against the Israeli air force over the H-3 base in Iraq when he killed a Vautour and a Mirage, Maj. Gen. Mordechai Hod, the commander of Israeli Air Force is said to have commented “The critique of H-3 fiasco, made me feel almost as if I had lost the war. Whatever factors may have been discussed during the H-3 rout being hard work of a determined team under the able leadership of a first class PAF pilot. That Mossad was ignorant of this fact would be under-rating the capabilities of a notoriously efficient outfit.”
About the future strategy of Bangladesh Air Force, Azam aligned with the vision of President General Ziaur Rahman who himself was a paratrooper “Is the formation of guerilla air force of helicopter squadron in addition to conventional air force”. During 1971 liberation war the role of Mukti Bahini was that of a guerilla warfare which was closing down the noose around the lifeline of Niazi’s frustrated forces and the final thrust of India was like a straw that broke the camel’s back.
The ethos of patriotism and faith galvanized in the gene of Saiful Azam. Born in Pabna fathered by Nurul Amin, Azam was a diehard nationalist. In 1965 he exulted in the air as a Pakistani, in 1967 he belligerently protected the skies of Arabs as a Muslim. In 1966 he volunteered to join the Saracens out of his strong faith. In 1971 grounded by Pakistanis (an eagle caged) he was burning with the zeal of Bengali esprit de corps. Long before Bir Shresto Matiur Rahman executed the hijacking of a Pakistani fighter jet T-33, Azam was organizing with his other Bengali cohorts from PIA and PAF to skyjack a PIA jet fromKarachi and to that end, he even sent his wife and son toDhaka on March 6’71. Why he had to abandon that clandestine mission and why he had to call back his wife toKarachi-is a long story. However it would be worthwhile to bring the facts to limelight that he was the mentor and confidante of Matiur Rahman in his foiled skyjacking of T-33 jet in which Matiur embraced martyrdom. Following that T-33 crash , Pakistani intelligence took Azam for remand and interrogated him for 21 days. He survived that ordeal by the interception of Pakistan Air Chief, Air Marshal A Rahim Khan, possibly also by the request of King Hussein.
Though Azam couldn’t defect toIndia, but right under the nose of Pakistani military- every second, every minute, every hour of his day was occupied with the thought of contributing his legacy to the fastest course of liberation of his motherland at the peril of his life. For that he was apprehended by the authority and how he was set free had just been mentioned.
That Gr. Capt. Saiful Azam is notoriously nationalist, that he is the son of Bangladesh and let history be a witness that he is a freedom fighter.