Every person who lives in Lahore is familiar with the M M Alam Road - the road which is famous for its high-end stores, eateries and beauty salons. However, not many, particularly the teenagers, know much, or anything in some cases, about M M Alam, the person after whom the road is named.
It was Sept 7, 1965 and the war between India and Pakistan, which had broken out a day earlier, was in full swing. While the Pakistan Army was fighting to protect the country’s borders, the PAF was on high alert to defend its airspace.
That day, four fighter planes of the PAF took off from the PAF’s base in Sargodha to counter an approaching raid by the Indian fighter planes. When they went airborne little did the pilots know that one of them would create history that day.
M Arif Iqbal, who was one of the four pilots and saw his fellow pilot Squadron Leader Muhammad Mahmood Alam shooting down one Indian fighter plane after another, recounts, “Like me, Alam had also spotted the four Hunter aircraft. He decided to engage the one on the extreme right first. It was then that he spotted a fifth Hunter further to the right. He changed his mind and switched his attack to this new find. Barely a couple of seconds must have lapsed before Alam’s six guns were spitting fire and fury at this Hunter and I saw a ball of fire hit the ground.
“Alam pulled his guns on to the next Hunter. A few seconds later, another ball of fire hit the ground. Then the Indians tried a half-hearted defensive manoeuvre. Alam was almost overshooting an enemy aircraft but by then he had destroyed it - a third ball of fire and the pilot of this Hunter managed to eject from his aircraft before it crashed. Alam was once again in a better position to tackle the two remaining Hunters. It was only a matter of moments before these two also turned into balls of fire and crashed into the ground. Alam had tackled them all, giving me no chance to bear my guns on to any one of them.”
While a number of soldiers and officers emerged as heroes after the 1965 War, it wouldn’t be wrong to say that if there was one true star who came out shining after the 1965 War, it was Muhammad Mahmood Alam, commonly known as M M Alam.
The record he made on September 7, 1965 when he shot down five Indian jets in less than a minute earned him the title ‘jet-ace’. His total kills in the war were said to be nine.
When the war was over Alam was awarded the Sitara-e-Jurrat to honour his truly remarkable achievement. He continued to serve the PAF and retired from service as an air commodore. He served the PAF for 30 years.
Alam was born in Calcutta and was the eldest among 11 siblings. He was the first one in his family to join military service and to do so he had to go against his father’s wishes who wanted him to become a CSP officer.
Though he was rewarded well for his services towards the motherland, Alam’s journey in the air force after the 1965 War wasn’t a smooth one. He was supposed to retire in 1982 but was sent on pre-retirement leave in 1981 on allegations that he was not capable of “reading and writing”. He was told by his higher-ups that his services were no more required by the PAF.
But that was not the only humiliation the ‘jet-ace’ faced in the line of duty. What was more demeaning was the treatment allegedly meted out to him on the basis of his ethnicity.
Hence the only flying-ace in the history of PAF left the service he had given so much with a heavy heart. In his own words, he felt as if “something hit him badly” when he learned that he was being sent on early retirement. M M Alam now lives in Karachi and spends most of his time in reading.
- Compiled by SK