New Delhi: While on March 1, IAF Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman walked across the India-Pakistan border, a family in Pakistan is still mourning, unacknowledged. Wing Commander Shahaz-ud-Din, a F-16 pilot of the PAF, was shot down over the Nowshera sector and is reported to have been attacked by a mob, mistaken as an Indian airman.

Both the Indian and Pakistani pilots come from illustrious military families - Varthaman’s father, S Varthaman is an Air Marshal and Shahaz-ud-Din’s father, Waseem-ud-Din, is also an Air Marshal, who has flown F-16 and Mirages.

While the two sons engaged each other in the air, one was taken into custody as a prisoner of war, but has returned home, the other was killed by his own people.

As it is said, the goddess of war is fickle with her favours and twists of fate exist in history like this  one.
London-based lawyer Khalid Umar first reported the news of Shahaz-ud-Din's plane being shot down. Umar claims to have received the information privately from individuals related to the F-16 pilot’s family.

According to Kahlid Umar’s account, Shahaz-ud-Din parachuted out of his aircraft safely, but a mob attacked him after the F-16 crash-landed, possibly in the Lam valley, westward from Naushehra into Pakistan-occupied Kashmir. Umar has claimed that Shahaz-ud-Din, who flew for the 19 Squadron (also known as the ‘Sher-Dils’, who served with distinction in the war of 1965 and 1971), was hospitalised, but he succumbed to injuries.

On February 28, Major-General Asif Ghafoor had asserted that two Indian pilots were captured by Pakistan. One of the Indian pilots was kept in the Army’s custody and the other in the hospital. But later, Ghafoor stated that only one Indian pilot was in the custody of the Pakistan Army, without explaining his last statements.

An Indian military source said, “It’s extremely improbable the Pakistan Army just made up the second plane and pilot. The more likely explanation is that troops were unable to identify the destroyed aircraft or the battered, broken body to be their own. There was probably miscommunication up the chain of command.”

Pakistan had denied the involvement of its troops even in the 1999 Kargil War. It had led to protests in Pakistan’s northern areas, from where the Northern Light Infantry is drawn.

However, eleven years after the Kargil War, Pakistan’s Army officially acknowledged its role in the war of 1999. It named 453 soldiers and officers m, who were killed in the conflict. Pakistan’s highest award of honour, the Nishan-e-Haider, was given to Captain Karnal Sher and Havildar Lalak Jan, who were both killed on 7 July, 1999, but were not acknowledged till November 2010 as Kargil war casualties.