Squadron Leader M M Alam left us a few years ago. We always attempt to commemorate our heroes by paying humble tributes and writing memoirs for them, and I am doing no exception.

Speaking of the Air Force hero’s endeavors, I must pay my respects to the great man whose bravery was unmatchable. During 1965 war, he courageously shot down four enemy aircrafts in a span of 30 seconds, making a world record and in turn making the Pakistan Air Force even more proud. Much to everyone’s surprise, the record was broken in next 30 seconds by the Squadron Leader himself when he shot down another aircraft, making a score of five in one minute, leaving us all wondering about his extraordinary capabilities. At that time he was a Squadron Leader and so the recognition and fame that came to this rank makes me even more proud to have the same rank.

Apart from being an ardent Air Force officer, he was also a great scholar who stocked around 4,000 books at his personal library at his residence.

Sadly, in 1981, Squadron Leader M M Alam was sent on LPR (Leave Pending Retirement) and in 1982 he was retired with the allegation that he was incapable of reading and writing and his services were no longer required. On such a decision, he commented, “I was thrown out of the force with the allegation that I am not a learned man as I most of the times used to disagree and argue with other officials of the force.” He further added, “For 10 seconds I felt that something has hit me badly when I got to know that I have been declared retired by the force. But then I took the name of Allah, recalled all my services, hard work and my love for the force. I then realized that this is what my fate is and I have to live with it.”

I believe that if a chance was given to him to continue his service, his performance and efforts would have brought the Pakistan Air Force even more glory.

I usually delve into my memories of the few instances of interactions with the great Squadron Leader. Now, I am able to present my feelings after his demise. My words are nothing more than a personal memoir for him. I am writing these few lines to share the pride that I have felt in having met him a few times.

Luckily, I had quite a few auspicious moments of interacting with this ardent hero. I would like to recall my first ever interaction with him. Years ago, I was performing my duty as DSO (Duty Staff Officer) at Air Headquarters (then in Peshawar). A smart Air Force Officer entered in my office and after an exchange of greetings, he introduced himself by saying “I am M M Alam.”

I was pleasantly surprised but failed to fathom the enormity of the occasion. And so, being a young and excited Air Force Officer, I proceeded by confirming, “Sir, are you Squadron Leader M M Alam?” He replied with a sweet smile, “Yes, I am Squadron Leader M M Alam,” as he wore the ranks of an Air Commodore on his shoulders.

We chatted for some time and then I was to arrange a vehicle for him to get him dropped at the officer’s mess. Squadron Leader M M Alam, being humble as ever, assured that he doesn’t need a staff car: “I don’t need a staff car, just ask the driver to drop me in DSO’s Jeep.” I replied: “Sir, it is an open and old jeep.” He said it was fine for him and proceeded to get dropped off in that jeep.

At that moment I thought humble is a word too small to describe him. After my first interaction in my capacity as his junior, I felt so elevated and inspired. I kept thinking how I should have made the most out of this interaction and probably would have offered him a cup of tea and maybe could have chatted with him for some more time.

Another moment that I would like to recall is that of during my posting at PAF Faisal Base, Karachi. I remember as I ran into him while walking from the officer’s mess towards the exit gate. Soon after an exchange of greetings, we had one of the most remarkable conversations of my life. M M Alam guided and advised me on various aspects of life. I felt that I had met a mentor who was mentoring me on diverse aspects. At that point, I was so inspired that the only words that came out of my mouth were “Jee sir. Yes sir. Right sir.” To this day, I feel so proud of having met and interacted with a great hero M M Alam. Now, as I sit here and recall this memory, I feel awe, while simultaneously feeling a void in my heart, which is to remain forever and never to be fulfilled.

Today, at the occasion of commemorating the heroes of 1965 war, I feel that any tribute paid to them including Squadron Leader M M Alam is not sufficient. But we shall, nevertheless, continue to honor and remember the great heroes of our nation.

Sir M M Alam, I salute you on your great endeavors and efforts for our beloved country, Pakistan.