Air Commodore Muhammad Ali
IN the beginning of 1971, Ishfaq got release from PAF and joined PIA as pilot. As the clouds of war gathered in late 1971, his conscience did not allow him to continue with commercial flying and he volunteered to return to PAF. Since he had left recently and was still current to fly, his request was honoured by the AHQ. Receiving clearance, eager and passionate Ishfaq joined the Bomber wing at Mauripur in the last week of Nov 1971. By the time he flew his first check mission on B-57, the war had become imminent.
As the war broke out in the first week of Dec, the war plans were activated. As per the war plan, the B-57 force was divided into two groups. The larger group operated from Mianwali with Wg Cdr Yunus as the commander. The smaller group operated from Masroor with Wg Cdr Akhtar as the Officer Commanding. Sqn Ldr Ishfaq remained at Masroor. On the night of 3 Dec, he was tasked to fly a bombing mission to Jamnagar. He successfully accomplished the mission and produced outstanding results.
On the night of 4/5 December, Ishfaq along with his able navigator, Flt Lt Zulfiqar, was detailed to carry out a bombing mission against Jamnagar airfield. The resilient crew prepared the mission well. They studied the route, weather, terrain and most importantly, the defences employed at the Base. Jamnagar had some formidable defence systems supported by heavy ack ack guns and a battery of newly inducted Russian origin SAMs. Undaunted, the courageous crew took off around midnight. Zulfiqar navigated the aircraft to target with pinpoint accuracy. Initially they flew at high level and later descended to deck level while entering the Indian Territory. The courageous duo carried out the mission but never returned. They were probably shot down by the anti-aircraft guns deployed at the target, and were declared missing in action. Later after the war, when all the efforts to locate them were exhausted, they were declared ‘Presumed Dead’ and were awarded with prestigious Sitara-e-Jurat for their extreme courage and bravery. The sons of Pakistan embraced shahadat for the honour of their beloved country.
Citation of Gallantry Award: “Sqn Ldr I H Qureshi was recalled from PIA for operational flying with a B-57 Squadron. From the onset of hostilities, he displayed distinct qualities of patriotism and aggressiveness to achieve positive results. This was a source of inspiration to other aircrew. Unfortunately, he was unable to return from his second mission of the war on 5 Dec 1971. Ishfaq displayed exceptional determination and tenacity under very adverse conditions that existed at his Base from 4th morning of Dec till the night he went for his last mission. For his dedication, courage and display of excellent fighting spirit he has been awarded SJ.”