Sayed Sajad Haider born Sayed Sajjad Haider
In 1976 someone suggested I knock off one "J" and that would change my life. I did that quite against my own convention of never believing in such superstitions. Well, I am glad I did and life did change for me dramatically!
The following is an introduction to my past, my present and my future. I hope in this you will find my transparency and humble presentation enticing enough to read “Flight of the Falcon”, an autobiography about my experiences and choices.
I was born in Sargodha to my noble parents; Sayed Fazal Shah, a respected doctor and Rashida Begum, a full time mother, disciplinarian and utterly dedicated to our good heeling. She found time to do quite bit of social work for the poor and suffering, especially Tuberculosis patients.
I grew up in Quetta, amongst the fierce tribal culture of the Baluch and Pashtoons tribes, such as the Bugtis, Marris, Kansis, Jogezais and Durranis. My friends comprised of the tribal chief’s children and a smattering of Sikhs and Hindus. There was incredible cross-cultural harmony; no one tried intimidation as a manifestation of religious diversity.
Like any young growing boy, I had a dream; to grow up and make my parents' life comfortable after the WW II depression because of which there was a scarcity of essential products and necessities of life. We lived off ration cards with which we were able to get sugar, flour, tea, eggs, cooking oil, petrol, Kerosene you name it. We didn't really feel the cold drift of War as mother made many sacrifices to keep us warm and well fed.
Once the WW II catastrophe was behind, my dream started taking shape. This dream found an expression when I first saw the Quaid-e-Azam, my idol. I sat in awe of him 6 feet away from his feet at my old school at Quetta. I had carried the sofa on which the Quaid had sat along with another scrawny friend like me. That is when the seed of becoming the defender of the nation became my obsession. The uniform I would attempt to acquire was also resolved when I saw some polished pilots at Café Stanley, a famous elitist café in Quetta. With their hot rod, maverick attitude on their sleeves, there was something awesome about their demeanor. The very next day I saw three Spitfires (WW11 Fighter aircraft) over head conducting a mock dog-fight. Now my dream had reached for the sky and I wanted nothing else in life than to become a pilot. The problem was that my father wanted me to become an engineer, somewhat Utopian considering my mediocre performance in studies. The other was a serious emotional issue of my mother who absolutely refused to let me go for a perilous profession like flying. For her that was like courting death and disaster. It was a hard long battle till she let me go, not willingly but surely tearfully.
Between the ages of 14 and 18, I was a very mischievous kid, a constant worry for my anxious mother. I would try every trick, game and ruse to try my endurance to the limit. That meant many small injuries and the attending parental retribution, which came swiftly and was, at times, brutal. I didn't cower down after the searing pain from the punishments. Ostensibly, I had a nature and personality that sought constant challenge, fully cognizant of the consequences if caught.
I took a trip to Makran state to visit Pasni with a few friends who didn’t tell me how far and arduous the journey would be. That was to be my first night out of my home in my life and nearly cost me my life. I was rescued after 13 days. That story will be separately chronicled in my blog under “Death in the Makran Desert”.
Soon after, my quest to join the Air Force began in earnest. I was finally selected to join the 13th General Duties Pilot Course at the Royal Pakistan Academy. The prefix ‘Royal’ denoted Pakistan's dominion status as a former Colony. I was an average student and scraped through the course of one and a half year, commencing January 1952. But within months after getting my pilot's wings I blossomed to the top of my course where I had barely made the middle during the training period.
Posted to No.14 Squadron, I discovered that my flying talent was not short lived and confined to the Fighter Conversion school where I had suddenly catapulted to the top, only second to Sarfraz Rafiqui, a comrade who was an outstanding fighter pilot and was senselessly killed in 1965 war by an inexperienced Indian Air force (IAF) pilot, in a manner resembled by the death of German Red Baron, Major Richthofen during the World War.
While at the No.14 squadron, I acquired tremendous experience of operating from Miramshah, now the battle ground of the renegade pre-Islamic Taliban and Al-Qaeda. In 1953-54 we were operating against the renegade zealot Faqir of Ipi, who was a Pakistan hater and had turned his guns against Pakistan from the retreating British, declaring Pakistan as a country of non-believers and heretics. Don't be surprised that CDA board at Islamabad Capitol Territory, in shear ignorance of history and the odious role of Ipi, have honoured his name by naming a mega avenue in Islamabad after him.
I was soon posted to the first Jet Squadron of RPAF. This was a great honour to fly the “Super-marine Attacker", a euphemism for a flying coffin, which proved a great asset when the PAF switched to the USAF Saber jet.
The F-86 was like a piece of cake to fly after the attacker. My life with the No.11 Attacker squadron will be elaborated in my book, “Flight of the Falcon”, which is due for release in the spring of ’09.
Currently, I am retired and living in Islamabad with my children and grand-children by my side who are all left with my history to carry forth.