Pak pilot says sorry for 1965 downing of plane



Islamabad: Almost half-a-century after he shot down an Indian civilian aircraft carrying the then Chief Minister of Gujarat, a Pakistan Air Force pilot has apologised to the daughter of the pilot of the downed plane, saying he was "not a trigger-happy person" and this happened in the line of duty during the 1965 war.

Qais Hussain was a rookie Flying Officer during the 1965 war when he shot down the Beechcraft piloted by distinguished ex-Indian Air Force pilot Jehangir Engineer.

Besides Engineer and the then Gujarat Chief Minister Balwantrai Mehta, the Chief Minister's wife Sarojben Mehta, three members of his personal staff, a crew member and a reporter of the Gujarat Samachar were killed in the incident.

Hussain, who wrote an e-mail to Engineer's daughter, decided to explain his side of the story after PAF officer-turned-blogger Kaiser Tufail researched the incident and concluded that Pakistani officials had wrongly surmised that the Indian aircraft was on a surveillance mission.

"We were at war at the time and the initial impression after I shot down the aircraft was that we had been able to eliminate a new front. We were all very happy and I got a pat on the back from my colleagues," Hussain, 70 said.

Referring to the incident of September 19, 1965, Hussain said: "This happened at about 4 pm. At 7 pm, All India Radio announced the aircraft that was shot down was carrying the Chief Minister and our mood became very sombre. We all repented what had happened but the event fell by the wayside."

PTI