Flight of the Falcon is about the spectacular episodes, trials and tribulations I had to face during my 28 years in the Pakistan Air Force. There is more in my story as it traverses through Pakistan's misfortunes soon after the death of Quaid-e-Azam Mohammad Au Jinnah. It begins with my encounter with the father of the nation, his unceremonious death followed by the murder of his legacy of unity. Ayub Khan's mid-night coup was a violation of the role the Quaid-e-Azam had bequeathed on the armed forces. The domino effect of dictatorial rule by unprofessional generals with unflattering soldiering history and self seeking corrupt politicians has finally brought Pakistan to its knees. No lessons were learnt and history keeps punishing us. What a legacy for our children to inherit, for which the nation continues to pay a price. What will it take to change our course?
Every year the 1965 war is celebrated remorselessly to keep under wraps the failures of our leadership at the time. I feel cheated and enraged at the loss of the many gallant men who were martyred believing they were fighting for a sacred cause. The 1971 war was a corollary to the 1965 war and the Kargil conflict followed in the same vein. Shallow personal interests were projected as national interests by dictators. All these wars and conflicts proved to be catastrophic for the economy and security of Pakistan. Were these conflicts avoidable? If not, why were they not planned and directed with professional dexterity? Why were no lessons learnt from each disaster? Such questions have hardly been addressed candidly from fear of retribution by the powers that be.
Unfortunately, the armed forces have become punching bags for all the ills of the country. These are deceptive tactics to deflect our top leadership's failures and corruption. The combat crews from the army, navy and especially the PAF have always fought with indomitable courage and sacrificed lives to save what was and is left of Pakistan. They continue to perform their duty to the nation every minute of the day and night as you and go about our daily lives.Who pushed us into the devastation of wars and what was the outcome is a moot point and will be the focus of my book. It is time that the history of our wars is re-written and the truth is told. The lessons need to be brought out for Pakistan's survival. I feel it should be my legacy to leave behind a detailed account of not just the battles in which I fought, but the circumstances which led to these senseless conflicts and the leaders responsible for perpetrating them. In the end, the truth shall prevail.
S Sajad Haider is a decorated fighter pilot (recipient of the Gallantry Award of Sitara-e-Jurat, equivalent of the Distinguished Flying Cross) and a veteran of the 1965 and 1971 air wars with India. In the 1965 war he was in command of the No 19 Squadron which blunted the Indian attack across the Wagha border on the 6th of September, saving Lahore. The author also led the destructive lightening strike against Pathankot that same afternoon (depicted on the book cover in a painting by Group Captain SMH Hussaini). In 1971 he was the commander of the PAF's biggest tactical fighter wing at Sargodha. He attended the Joint Services Staff College at Latimer, England and the National Defence College in Rawalpindi. He holds a Master's degree in Strategy and International Affairs. In 1979, his career in the Pakistan Air Force came to an abrupt end when he stood up to Zia-ul-Haq for brutalizing dissenting voices and reneging on his promise to hold elections. The author went on to become a successful businessman and currently resides in Islamabad.