The gracious response by the daughter of an Indian Air Force pilot who was killed during the 1965 war has taken to a new level the moving saga initiated by an ex-Pakistan Air Force (PAF) Flying Officer's letter of condolence.
The former PAF Flying Officer Qais Hussain on Aug 5, 2011 emailed a letter of condolence to Farida Singh, the daughter of an ex-Indian Air Force (IAF) pilot Jahangir "Jangoo" Engineer whose aircraft he had shot down under orders during the 1965 war. Although the ill-fated plane was a civil aircraft, Pakistani ground controllers and officers suspected it of being on a recce mission and directed the rookie flight officer to bring down the aircraft.
The story caught the people's imagination in an unprecedented manner after Mr Hussain's email, which also set the record straight regarding the circumstances of the incident, was first made public by The News and Aman ki Asha on Aug 9.
Now, this "profoundly humane episode," as Lahore-based aviation enthusiast Naveed Riaz puts it, continues to move ahead with Indian, Pakistani and international news channels and newspapers continuing to bring it to the fore.
Naveed Riaz, who had initially forwarded Mr Hussain's email to this writer, has now also made available Farida Singh's response of Aug 10, 2011. Acknowledging the courage it must have taken Qais Hussain to write the letter, she says: "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 and I now speak on behalf of him, my extraordinary, gracious mother (who survived my father by just 16 years), my late brother Noshir and my elder sister in Canada who is unfortunately legally blind.
"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."
She goes on to write that her father's "generosity of spirit, and his intuitive understanding of the pain of others" had made it easy for her "to reach out my hand to receive your message. This incident is indeed a prime example of what damage strife and mindless battles can drive even good men to do.
"Thank you again for your gesture. I know it was not an easy thing for you to do." Saying that she only checked her email inbox after seeing news about the message in the papers, she is "glad that it is now public as it can do nothing but heal wounds, not just on a personal scale but in a much wider arena."
Farida SIngh concludes by saying that "most of all, my father would have liked that it goes towards bringing a spark of forgiveness between our two peoples, who after all were one."
That night (Aug 10, 2011), Qais Hussain and Farida Singh came into audio contact for the first time on Indian journalist Barkha Dutt's popular TV show 'The Buck Stops Here', on NDTV. Also participating from Mumbai were the daughter-in-law and granddaughter of the late Gujarat Chief Minister Balwantrai Mehta and his wife Sarojben who were also passengers on the aircraft, and died when it was shot down by Mr Hussain.
Continuing in this remarkable spirit of forgiveness, compassion and humanity, all the bereaved family members stressed they harboured no ill-will or bitterness towards the pilot who had shot down the plane that killed their loved ones. "It was war," said Farida Singh. "It happened in the heat of war. If something good can come out of it now, we must welcome that.... We must continue this very important dialogue, and take forward this big step."
The bereaved families also acknowledged the courage displayed by Mr Hussain in writing his letter of condolence and setting the record straight regarding the circumstances in which he took the action. The youngest participant, Mr Mehta's granddaughter, added that her generation bore no ill will to Pakistan, and that people-to-people contacts between the two countries were essential.
Agreeing with her, Qais Hussain said that both countries must "talk, talk and talk, all the time."
Friday, August 12, 2011
Congratulating Nawaz Sharif on the electoral win of his political party, Aman ki Asha's plea to both governments continues to be: "Stay the course". Let the people re .....more
JATTI UMRA: As Nawaz Sharif's Pakistan Muslim League - Nawaz (PML-N) emerged as the largest
party in the recently held elections in Pak .....more
Imagine the heavenly smell of stable peace
"Pakistan and India must focus on culture exchange initiatives, especially for the youth, who play an instrumen .....more
A peace museum celebrating divided Punjab's shared architectural, cultural and culinary heritage is coming up at Attari near the India-Pakis .....more
The murderous attacks on an Indian prisoner in Pakistan and a Pakistani prisoner in India highlight the urgency of developing long term, humane policies to protect th .....more
On April 20, peace activist and educationist Ashfaq Fateh, 41, passed away in hospital after doctors unsuccessfully operated on a liver tumo .....more
Page 1 of 174
The News on Sunday Special Report: India Pakistan prisoners more editions
We probably didn't need to do this Special Report. Newspaper stories don't matter when it comes to Indians in Pakistani jails and vice versa. In fact, 'vice versa' sums it up. We do to them what they do to us.
Except when the two countries decide to begin talking, yet again! This time a little before the foreign secretary level talks, some Pakistani prisoners were released by India (and vice versa must have happened) and some more were release....read more
For the past 2 years the Jang Group and Geo have been working on a project of great national interest; one that we hope will help usher in an era of peace and prosperity in the country and indeed, in the region. And one that hopefully all Pakistanis can be proud of. more
The Jang Group has entered into an agreement with the Times of India Group, the largest media group of India, to campaign for peace betw