NEW DELHI: The dogfight on the morning of February 27 took down two fighter jets – one an IAF plane and another PAF jet. While the pilots of both aircraft ejected and landed in Pakistan territory, their fates were drastically different.
According to journalist Aditya Raj Kaul, the pilot of the crashed PAF F-16 was Wing Commander Shahzaz-ud-Din of the No 19 Squadron (sherdils). Russian TV channel RT news also quoted another journalist Ajay Jandyal confirming that the pilot was Shahzaz.
Ironically, both pilots, India’s Abhinandan Varthaman and Pakistan’s Shahzaz-Ud-Din were apprehended by a mob of locals. While Abhinandan was rescued by the Pakistan army and taken into custody, Shahzaz was not so lucky.
According to a report, Shahzaz was already injured when he ejected and his uniform was partially torn thereby not showing his rank insignia. The report also adds that Shazaz is the son of former Air Marshal Waseem ud din. Though, Shahzaz was picked up by the Pakistan armed forces and admitted to CMS hospital, he succumbed to his injuries.
During a media briefing on February 27, Major General Asif Ghafoor claimed that the Pakistan armed forces had picked up two Indian pilots. Later, Ghafoor retracted his statement and claimed that only one Indian pilot was in custody.
The similarities in the case of Abhinandan and Shazaz are astounding. Both pilots belong to decorated families that have multiple members serving in the armed forces of their respective countries. Abhinandan’s father Retd Air Marshal Simhakutty Varthaman was also a MIG pilot and helped upgrade the firepower of the IAF.
Shazaz’s father, also an Air Marshal headed the DCAS (Operations), and was an accomplished fighter pilot. Simhakutty, who was commissioned into the IAF in 1974, retired as Commanding-in-chief of the Eastern Air Command in 2012.
Air Marshal Waseem, who was commissioned in 1977 in the Pakistan Air Force ended his career as Officer Commanding Air Defence Command.