‘Sleep tight Pakistan, we are awake’: PAF pilots who downed Indian jets receive gallantry awards

Wing Commanders Hassan Siddiqui and Nauman Ali Khan of Pakistan Air Force (PAF) were honored with gallantry awards on Sunday for their skill and bravery during Operation Swift Retort in 2019.

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Wing Commanders Hassan Siddiqui and Nauman Ali Khan of Pakistan Air Force (PAF) were honored with gallantry awards on Sunday for their skill and bravery during Operation Swift Retort in 2019. The PAF pilots had downed two Indian jets that led to the arrest of Indian Air Force pilot Abhinandan Varthaman, earning the pilots widespread fame.

Wing Commander Siddiqui received Tamgha-e-Jurat whereas Wing Commander Khan received Sitara-e-Jurat for successfully leading Operation Swift Retort against the intrusion of Indian jets in the airspace of Pakistan. The Indians had crossed into Pakistan with the intent to bomb civilians, according to reports.

Moreover, Wing Commander Faheem Ahmed, who also participated in the operation, received Tamgha-e-Jurat from Pakistan’s President Arif Alvi in a ceremony held at the Presidential House on Sunday, 6th September. The brave PAF pilots were awarded gallantry awards in recognition of their invincible spirit to protect Pakistan.

 

Operation Swift Retort was a response to the Indian’s intrusion into the airspace of Pakistan in late February 2019 that escalated tensions between the two countries after the Pulwama terror attack on Indian forces in January 2019.

Wing Commander Nauman Ali Khan shot down the Indian jet of his counterpart Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman during Operation Swift Retort. Varthaman survived the crash but was arrested by Pakistan Armed Forces. He was later returned to India as a peace gesture.

Read more: Operation Swift Retort: PAF heroes, Hassan & Noman recall events of 27th Feb

His arrest made international headlines, and despite the obvious embarrassment for New Delhi, in an ironic twist of events, Varthaman was presented with the Vir Chakra gallantry award for his “bravery” against the Pakistan Air Force.

‘Sleep tight Pakistan, we are awake’

Earlier, the courageous PAF pilots sent a strong message to their nation. “Sleep tight Pakistan, we are awake”. They sent out a passionate message to their fellow Pakistanis at a stage show event organized by Pakistan Air Force last year on Defence Day.

They assured the nation that they would stand guard against the enemies, and were fully equipped to eliminate all threats to the territorial sovereignty of Pakistan.

Addressing the ceremony of the Defence and Martyrs Day on 6th September, the pilots received a standing ovation for their bravery. They said they were only thinking about  “the enemy, the safety of the motherland, and the image of Pakistan,” throughout the operation.

Read more: History of PAF’s role in counterinsurgency operations

Wing Commander Khan said that the IAF launched a cowardly attack on Pakistan and returned unsuccessfully and that the PAF launched a counter-attack. He stressed sarcastically the two attacks were “two different scenarios”.

 

Narrating the events of the attack, the pilots shared that the Indian army had attempted to launch a cowardly attack in the dark of the night, and managed to miss all their targets. The next day, when they failed again, it became evident that the enemy state was leading an unprofessional force.

The duo said, “They attack us at night, missed their targets and returned, but we fulfilled our mission by hitting our targets.”

Khan added, “We showed them the capacity of the Pakistan Air Force and the Pakistani nation with a swift response. During my formation, my mind was concentrating on Allama Iqbal’s verses, and when they crossed the Line of Control (LoC), I targeted the MiG 21, resulting in its destruction.”

Squadron Leader Siddiqui recalled the words of Air Commodore Muhammad Mahmood Alam, Pakistan Air Force’s hero of the 1965 war, “My emotions and fears were nonexistent as my mind was focused on the safety and protection of the motherland. If anyone even dares to look at the motherland, he will be destroyed because we serve with passion, zeal, and honor.”

 

He added, “We will never let them in. The enemy made several miscalculations as they did not identify their weaknesses and our strengths. They paid a terrible cost for this mistake.”

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